Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The "no-meddling in Iranian affairs" imperative

Power Line Blog: John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson, Paul Mirengoff

June 16, 2009 Posted by Paul at 3:25 PM

Seth Leibsohn challenges President Obama's view that the U.S. should not be seen as "meddling" in Iranian affairs. It does seem odd that Obama is willing to tell certain Israelis that they cannot build homes for their families, even as his respect for Iranian sovereignty makes him too bashful to talk about basic questions of human rights except in the most general terms.

It has been suggested that Obama is well-advised not to speak up in favor of the dissidents because taking their side would enable the regime to de-legitimize the opposition as tools of evil America. Some have even speculated that the Iranian opposition has asked the U.S. to remain largely silent.

The former claim is extremely difficult to assess; the latter is probably impossible. But we can note the tension between these claims and the view that Obama has made major inroads in influencing Muslim public opinion. For if Obama's popularity extends beyond Iran's student activists and intellectuals, a group that traditionally is pro-American or has no serious quarrel with the U.S., then his support should not be a liability for the opposition. And if his broader popularity is somehow contingent on not criticizing repressive dictators, then that popularity doesn't seem worth cultivating except for egotistical reasons.

I suspect the real reason why Obama can't get off the fence is that he is convinced the regime will survive and thus will be the party he deals with if-and-when negotiations take place. Obama is probably correct that the regime will survive. But even accepting his imperative that we negotiate without pre-conditions with Iran's leaders, I question whether Obama strengthens his hand by refusing to criticize the regime.

It's difficult to imagine what Obama has to offer the regime that would be more valuable to it than an arsenal of nuclear weapons and the ability to extend its influence throughout the region via Hezbollah. But if Obama has identified such a thing, then the regime can be expected to grab it regardless of what Obama has said about other matters. Unless Obama's sheer existence has changed the laws of diplomacy, the course of negotations will be determined by the perceived interests of the parties, not past rhetoric.

For example, no American president made more progress in negotiating with the Soviet Union than President Reagan did. And no American president was as aggressive in his criticism of the Soviet regime.

In other words, interests matter, not atmospherics. But if atmospherics did matter, it seems unlikely that craven disregard of the abuses of the Iranian regime would create an atmosphere helpful to the promotion of U.S. interests during negotiations with that regime.

UPDATE: In the comments, Ed Zuckerbrod observes:

A few weeks back, when Chrysler bondholders refused to endorse a deal that they felt was disproportionately onerous to their interests, not to mention contrary to bankruptcy law and many years of common business practice, President Obama had no difficulty declaring, "I do not stand with these people."

I may be mistaken, but I believe those were the most direct, clearest, and unequivocal words uttered by Mr. Obama on any issue since the day he was sworn into office.

Of course, he was not talking about any mullah dictators, or terrorists, or even white-collar swindlers, but many ordinary Americans like teachers and policemen. Their union pension funds had invested in Chrysler debt, and their retirements were now threatened by the valuations placed on their bonds by the proposed deal.

Contrast that statement with his kid glove handling of Ahmadinejad and the rest of the mullahocracy, and you have to really wonder about this man's character. Here is an issue that has possible implications for world peace for many years to come, and he is fence straddling.

With whom do we stand, Mr. President?


Lee said...

BO can't offer even minimal token support for those seeking liberty and freedom from one of the worst regimes on the planet. We won't "meddle" in their affairs? What the heck? They meddle in ours at every opportunity. Frankly, I think BO hasn't much sympathy for the protesting crowds. Contrast BO to RR who offered solidarity with the Polish when they were throwing off the yoke of oppression back in the 80s. What are for if not for liberty?

VoteNovember2008 said...

Preach it Brother Lee. Give me Liberty or give me death! I think someone famous said that before I did. VN8

Anonymous said...

Yep ... the hate-moslems want what we, at least for now, have here in the U.S. Trouble comes when the totalitarian fist they find themselves squeezed within won't let them see the incredible amount of work required to to gain such liberties. I don't think the conservative bloc is so much "meddling" as they are being curious. Most don't think they can pull it off. Liberals otoh, think we can just water ourselves down and it'll look like the bar got lowered for them. Neither approach is good, but if I had my druthers, I'd like to keep the U.S. strong.

VoteNovember2008 said...

Winger, think the people in Bosnia regret our meddling? Keep the faith! VN8

Lee said...

No people on the globe, to include Muslims, have done more than Americans in defense of Muslims and to free them from the clutches of tyranny. Just how is it that we're blamed for their sorry plight?

VoteNovember2008 said...

Lee, didn't you know we are responsible for everything and everybody! Sheesh, can't you get with the program. If they need saving we are the ones to save them. Everyone screams for us to save them and then when we try to save them they scream we shouldn't be involved or shouldn't have gotten involved, it's like you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. Reminds me of jumping in to save someone who is drowning, if you aren't careful that drowning person will kill themselves and you! VN8

Anonymous said...

...And you can't tune a channel on the TV without seeing the chanters "Down, down, USA!!" Of course it's the liberal-owned cameras and that "stir the pot" mentality. Still, it really is effective! There is more American blood in that sand than moslem in the modern era. Liberal media would lead us to believe otherwise, but look where believing it got us?

VoteNovember2008 said...

Winger, if I've said it once, I've said it a million times, thank God Al Gore invented the internet. It's kind of hard to keep us all in the complete dark at this point! Kind of like a baby, we ate that crap as long as we weren't given options but as soon as we got a voice and could say, nope, I don't like green peas, well, I'm just saying . . . VN8