Thursday, June 25, 2009

Karl's Weekend Reading

Iran, and Neda Agha Soltan were in the news this week. Here are some comments on our Dear Leader's reaction to a fraudulent election and subsequent crack-down, abuse and murder of freedom-loving people.

Mark Steyn, Neutrality Isn't an Option:

...when the analysts had finished combing [Obama's] speech, they would have concluded that the meta-message of his “equidistance” was a prostration before “stability” — an acceptance of the region’s worst pathologies as a permanent feature of life.

The mullahs stole this election on a grander scale than ever before primarily for reasons of internal security and regional strategy. But Obama’s speech told them that, in the “post-American world,” they could do so with impunity. Blaming his “agents” for the protests is merely a bonus: Offered the world’s biggest carrot, Khamenei took it and used it as a stick.

Alexander Benard, How to Handle a Tyrant:

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

These words, spoken by President Obama in his inaugural address, marked the beginning of what has been a concerted effort to reach out to tyrants from Pyongyang to Tehran. A dozen missile launches, a nuclear detonation, a rigged election, and countless crackdowns on individual liberties later, it is safe to say this effort has had the opposite of its intended effect.

Victor Davis Hanson, Obama's New Liberal Realism:

Then, of course, there is Obama and his quest for a global messianic rather than an American presidential role. So far it pays to be Hamas and the Palestine Authority rather than Israel, Ch├ívez rather than Uribe, Ahmadinejad rather than Maliki, Putin rather than an Eastern European elected prime minister, a Turkish Islamist rather than a Greek elected prime minister. The former all gain attention by their hostility, the latter earn neglect by their moderation and generally pro-American views. Praising Islam abroad is a lot more catchy than praising democracy — one boldly inspires Bush’s critics, the other sheepishly dovetails with Bush’s agenda. All that, in varying degrees, also explains the troubling neglect of the Iranians in the street.

One mystery remains: Does Obama do this because the squeaky problem gets the attention, or does he really empathize with the tired anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist refrain of those who used to be considered hostile?

Rich Lowry, Obama's Fantastical Realism:

If only the Obama administration considered motorcycle-riding thugs beating demonstrators in Iran an offense on par with Israel’s West Bank settlements.

Then it could speak with moral passion. It could unmistakably denounce the killings, and relieve its State Department spokesman of the trouble of dancing around the word “condemn.” It could say that our relationship with the Iranian government depends on the unconditional end of its thuggery. It could explain that only if Iran stops the crackdown can we “move forward” in the Middle East.

But Iran is not an ally of the United States. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gets a rhetorical pass that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t. As hundreds of thousands of Iranian protesters march for democracy, in defiance of a government that is our committed enemy, Pres. Barack Obama resorts to lawyerly equivocations. He labors to avoid saying anything denoting untoward disapproval of the baton-wielding shock troops of Iran’s theocracy.

James Taranto, Their Name is Basij:

The Iranian regime is using nonuniformed thugs to impose its will on the population. These are the tactics of a terrorist organization, not a legitimate government.
During his press conference today, President Obama declared that "we have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms":

"It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path. What we've been saying over the last several days, the last couple of weeks, obviously is not encouraging in terms of the path that this regime may choose to take."

The truth is, what we've seen over the past 30 years is not encouraging. A regime that takes foreign diplomats hostage, uses children in combat, threatens to wipe another country off the map, and uses terrorist tactics against its countrymen has shown its determination to flout international norms.

"We must . . . bear witness," says Obama. This entails acknowledging evil as well as celebrating the courage of genuine martyrs like Neda. Obama could do a lot of good simply by giving a speech describing the Iranian regime's departures from international norms starting in 1979. In the process, he might even learn something himself.

Michael Barone, The Adolescent Angst of Barack Obama:

Back in July 2007, Obama said that he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other tyrants without preconditions. Grownup squares like George W. Bush wouldn't talk to these guys, so as the avatar of the generation of hope and change, Obama would. Obama figured he was cool enough to get the mullahs to agree to renounce nuclear weapons and all that hate stuff.

Obama has held to this ever since. Before June 12, he said he would give the Iranian leaders till the end of the year to be enchanted. When millions of Iranians started demonstrating in the streets, denouncing the obvious election fraud and in some cases calling for an end to the regime, his initial responses verged on stony indifference.

He expressed "deep concern" but said he didn't want to "meddle." He issued a statement on June 20 calling on the Iranian government "to stop all violent and unjust actions." Finally, in a hastily called news conference Tuesday, he for the first time uttered the verb "condemn"
and said he was moved by the video of YouTube martyr Neda Soltan being shot down by the mullahs' gunmen.

But he clearly hasn't abandoned his policy of seeking the good opinion of tyrants.

Jonah Goldberg, Obama's Iran Policy Is a Bomb:

Here is the one immutable fact of Barack Obama’s foreign-policy agenda as it relates to Iran: It’s over. The rule book he came in with is as irrelevant as a tourist guide to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

If the forces of reform and democracy win, Obama’s plan to negotiate with the regime is moot, for the regime will be gone. And if the forces of reform are crushed into submission by the regime, Obama’s plan is moot, because the regime will still be there.
In his press conference Tuesday, the president finally condemned the outrages in Iran in terms he should have used a week ago. But he also kept alive the idea that the current Iranian regime could be a fruitful negotiation partner, despite what has already happened in that country. “It’s not too late,” Obama explained, for the regime to negotiate with the international community. He wouldn’t even cancel plans to invite Iranian officials to Fourth of July barbecues at American embassies.

That amounts to tacit approval of the bloodshed and fraud that we’ve already seen and acceptance of the ultimate triumph of the regime. And it won’t work.

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