President Obama’s balancing act
Despite receiving a thumbs up from a number of conservative foreign policy observers, and the public at large, for his handling of the current Iranian domestic turmoil, the wingers seem to have settled on a narrative that President Obama has been too timid in his response to same.
It was a theme dutifully picked up by the MSM at Tuesday’s presser at the White House. Asked by CBS’ Chip Reed about John Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran McCain‘s criticisms, Obama swatted him down, reminding him about who is president. When pressed by MSNB’s Chuck Todd about why he wouldn’t identify specific consequences, Obama replied that unlike the reporters, he’s not lashed to the wheel of a 24 hour news cycle. (Snap!) And when Fux News reporter Major Garret rudely demanded to know why it took him so long to ratchet up his condemnation of violence against protesters, O pointed out that his rhetoric has evolved in phase with– “tracked”– unfolding events.
After eight years of self-defeating Dick swinging, cowboy diplomacy, it’s obviously going to take some time to re-introduce the press to the idea of a measured, tempered response to international events. Events over which the US, despite all its military might and self-importance, has little, if any, ability to influence; and can make a whole lot worse by indulging the kind of rhetoric that flows unhindered from the McCaniac id.
Noted Middle East scholar Professor Juan Cole in his blog yesterday reminds us how the Rethugs responded to US protesters when they were running things and the legacy they left behind:
At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, ‘protest zones’ were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated ‘protest zones’ would be illegal in New York City, apparently. In fact, the Republican National Committee has undertaken to pay for the cost of any lawsuits by wronged protesters, which many observers fear will make the police more aggressive, since they will know that their municipal authorities will not have to pay for civil damages.
The number of demonstrators arrested in Tehran on Saturday is estimated at 550 or so, which is less than those arrested by the NYPD for protesting Bush policies in 2004.
I applaud the Iranian public’s protests against a clearly fraudulent election, and deplore the jackboot tactics that the regime is using to quell them. But it is important to remember that the US itself was moved by Bush and McCain toward a ‘Homeland Security’ national security state that is intolerant of public protest and throws the word ‘terrorist’ around about dissidents. Obama and the Democrats have not addressed this creeping desecration of the Bill of Rights, and until they do, the pronouncements of self-righteous US senators and congressmen on the travesty in Tehran will be nothing more that imperialist hypocrisy of the most abject sort.
Cole recommends the following:
American politicians should keep their hands off Iran and let the Iranians work this out. If the reformers have enough widespread public support, they will develop tactics that will change the situation. If they do not, then they will have to regroup and work toward future change. US covert operations and military interventions have caused enough bloodshed and chaos. If the US had left Mosaddegh alone in 1953, Iran might now be a flourishing democracy and no Green Movement would have been necessary.
Bombing Iran back into the stone age has been a longtime dream of the warmongering denizens of the wingnut universe. Naturally, they have seized on the current turmoil inside the country as a means of pushing that agenda forward.
While the increasingly brutal repression of the Iranian people is something the whole world should condemn (and is), Obama has additional concerns– preventing a war between Israel and Iran, the closing of the Persian Gulf to 25% of the world’s oil supplies, stopping nuclear weapons proliferation throughout the Middle East, and (per Bob Baer) preventing a new cold war that would pit the US against an anti-US Russo-China-Iran coalition.
When walking a tightrope, sometimes you have to lean a little one way or the other. Right now the president is striking the proper balance between confrontation and cooperation.