Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 15, 2009

Fascism at Home Means Fascism Abroad

Christopher Hitchens wrote his recent column for Slate with a blowtorch.

Iran and its citizens are considered by the Shiite theocracy to be the private property of the anointed mullahs. This totalitarian idea was originally based on a piece of religious quackery promulgated by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and known as velayat-e faqui. Under the terms of this edict—which originally placed the clerics in charge of the lives and property of orphans, the indigent, and the insane—the entire population is now declared to be a childlike ward of the black-robed state. Thus any voting exercise is, by definition, over before it has begun, because the all-powerful Islamic Guardian Council determines well in advance who may or may not “run.” Any newspaper referring to the subsequent proceedings as an election, sometimes complete with rallies, polls, counts, and all the rest of it, is the cause of helpless laughter among the ayatollahs. (“They fell for it? But it’s too easy!”) Shame on all those media outlets that have been complicit in this dirty lie all last week. And shame also on our pathetic secretary of state, who said that she hoped that “the genuine will and desire” of the people of Iran would be reflected in the outcome. Surely she knows that any such contingency was deliberately forestalled to begin with.

Earlier this year, I spent a week with Hitchens in Lebanon, and at one point he wandered off to attend a Hezbollah rally in the suburbs south of Beirut. I thought I had seen enough Hezbollah rallies over the last couple of years and could hardly stand the thought of sitting through yet another one of those bigoted scream fests. I wish now that I had gone, though, because Hitchens witnessed an alarming escalation.

In a large hall that featured the official attendance of a delegation from the Iranian Embassy, the most luridly displayed poster of the pro-Iranian party was a nuclear mushroom cloud! Underneath this telling symbol was a caption warning the “Zionists” of what lay in store. We sometimes forget that Iran still officially denies any intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet Ahmadinejad recently hailed an Iranian missile launch as a counterpart to Iran’s success with nuclear centrifuges, and Hezbollah has certainly been allowed to form the idea that the Iranian reactors may have nonpeaceful applications. This means, among other things, that the vicious manipulation by which the mullahs control Iran can no longer be considered their “internal affair.” Fascism at home sooner or later means fascism abroad. Face it now or fight it later. Meanwhile, give it its right name.

Christopher Hitchens wrote his recent column for Slate with a blowtorch.

Iran and its citizens are considered by the Shiite theocracy to be the private property of the anointed mullahs. This totalitarian idea was originally based on a piece of religious quackery promulgated by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and known as velayat-e faqui. Under the terms of this edict—which originally placed the clerics in charge of the lives and property of orphans, the indigent, and the insane—the entire population is now declared to be a childlike ward of the black-robed state. Thus any voting exercise is, by definition, over before it has begun, because the all-powerful Islamic Guardian Council determines well in advance who may or may not “run.” Any newspaper referring to the subsequent proceedings as an election, sometimes complete with rallies, polls, counts, and all the rest of it, is the cause of helpless laughter among the ayatollahs. (“They fell for it? But it’s too easy!”) Shame on all those media outlets that have been complicit in this dirty lie all last week. And shame also on our pathetic secretary of state, who said that she hoped that “the genuine will and desire” of the people of Iran would be reflected in the outcome. Surely she knows that any such contingency was deliberately forestalled to begin with.

Earlier this year, I spent a week with Hitchens in Lebanon, and at one point he wandered off to attend a Hezbollah rally in the suburbs south of Beirut. I thought I had seen enough Hezbollah rallies over the last couple of years and could hardly stand the thought of sitting through yet another one of those bigoted scream fests. I wish now that I had gone, though, because Hitchens witnessed an alarming escalation.

In a large hall that featured the official attendance of a delegation from the Iranian Embassy, the most luridly displayed poster of the pro-Iranian party was a nuclear mushroom cloud! Underneath this telling symbol was a caption warning the “Zionists” of what lay in store. We sometimes forget that Iran still officially denies any intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet Ahmadinejad recently hailed an Iranian missile launch as a counterpart to Iran’s success with nuclear centrifuges, and Hezbollah has certainly been allowed to form the idea that the Iranian reactors may have nonpeaceful applications. This means, among other things, that the vicious manipulation by which the mullahs control Iran can no longer be considered their “internal affair.” Fascism at home sooner or later means fascism abroad. Face it now or fight it later. Meanwhile, give it its right name.

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Yes, Obama Is Going to Accept This Result

Barack Obama has weighed in on the protests in Iran. He told reporters at the White House, “It would be wrong for me to be silent on what we’ve seen on the television the last few days,” and so declared, “I am deeply troubled by the violence I’ve been seeing on TV.”

“The violence.” That free-floating  phenomenon that seems to exist, for Obama, as something quite apart from human volition. Like a spontaneous state of affairs that is not only disconnected from national fanaticism or abusive governance, but in which there is scarcely a designation between the assailant and the assaulted.

Is it too much to say, “I call on the leadership of Iran to refrain from visiting violence upon that country’s citizens”? Apparently so. Obama declined from criticizing the regime because “sometimes, the United States can be a handy political football.” Sure, but sometimes the United States can be an extraordinary beacon for those fighting for liberty — starting with the French Revolution and leading up to the Iranian student who said yesterday, “Is [Obama] going to accept this result? Because if he does we are doomed.” What does that student mean? He’s not  expecting the U.S. to send troops to Persia where they’ll make officials count ballots at gunpoint; he’s hoping that America is really what it says it is — an ongoing revolution built on the very idea of freedom and consensual government. If it’s not, and it’s just another well-off behemoth that can’t be bothered to oppose the mullahs, then what hope is there for Iran itself?

And, in the end, there’s no “political football” to worry about because the Iranian leadership cannot be negotiated with regardless of what Obama says or fails to say.

Here’s more from Obama’s statement to the press:

He said it’s up to Iran to determine its own leaders but that the country must respect voters’ choice.

However, Obama praised protesters and the nation’s youth who question results that showed Ahmadinejad winning a second term in a landslide.

He respects both the courage of the protesters and the authority of the bullies trying to stifle them. Not the most American of sentiments, is it?

UPDATE: Here’s the video of Obama’s statement. It’s significantly worse without the generous paraphrasing of news services. He opens with, “I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty,” moves on to praising the use of “hard-headed diplomacy” in maintaining a “peaceful world in general,” and winds down with a lukewarm compliment for the “voices” of the Iranian youth. It sounds exactly like what it is: a purely utilitarian, and ultimately ambivalent, statement about political oppression and liberty.

Barack Obama has weighed in on the protests in Iran. He told reporters at the White House, “It would be wrong for me to be silent on what we’ve seen on the television the last few days,” and so declared, “I am deeply troubled by the violence I’ve been seeing on TV.”

“The violence.” That free-floating  phenomenon that seems to exist, for Obama, as something quite apart from human volition. Like a spontaneous state of affairs that is not only disconnected from national fanaticism or abusive governance, but in which there is scarcely a designation between the assailant and the assaulted.

Is it too much to say, “I call on the leadership of Iran to refrain from visiting violence upon that country’s citizens”? Apparently so. Obama declined from criticizing the regime because “sometimes, the United States can be a handy political football.” Sure, but sometimes the United States can be an extraordinary beacon for those fighting for liberty — starting with the French Revolution and leading up to the Iranian student who said yesterday, “Is [Obama] going to accept this result? Because if he does we are doomed.” What does that student mean? He’s not  expecting the U.S. to send troops to Persia where they’ll make officials count ballots at gunpoint; he’s hoping that America is really what it says it is — an ongoing revolution built on the very idea of freedom and consensual government. If it’s not, and it’s just another well-off behemoth that can’t be bothered to oppose the mullahs, then what hope is there for Iran itself?

And, in the end, there’s no “political football” to worry about because the Iranian leadership cannot be negotiated with regardless of what Obama says or fails to say.

Here’s more from Obama’s statement to the press:

He said it’s up to Iran to determine its own leaders but that the country must respect voters’ choice.

However, Obama praised protesters and the nation’s youth who question results that showed Ahmadinejad winning a second term in a landslide.

He respects both the courage of the protesters and the authority of the bullies trying to stifle them. Not the most American of sentiments, is it?

UPDATE: Here’s the video of Obama’s statement. It’s significantly worse without the generous paraphrasing of news services. He opens with, “I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty,” moves on to praising the use of “hard-headed diplomacy” in maintaining a “peaceful world in general,” and winds down with a lukewarm compliment for the “voices” of the Iranian youth. It sounds exactly like what it is: a purely utilitarian, and ultimately ambivalent, statement about political oppression and liberty.

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Yglesias Hits Bottom

Writing on the website of the American Prospect magazine, Matthew Yglesias writes:

Ahmadinejad is in most ways a classic right-winger, a demagogic nationalist and cultural conservative. In a manner somewhat reminiscent of a Sarah Palin, however, he clothes this right-wing politics in a language of class resentment, painting his more pragmatic and reformist opponents as decadent elites out of touch with ordinary people. Unlike the populists of the American right, however, he merges this rhetoric with something resembling an actual populist economic agenda. The main element has been the use of oil revenue to expand the state sector of the economy in an attempt to distribute wealth more broadly throughout the country. This approach has gained Ahmadinejad a loyal following among the rural poor and public employees, but Iran’s objective economic performance has been disappointing, even during the great oil boom years.

Yes, Yglesias is referring to the same Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, who denies the existence of the Holocaust, who calls Jews (whoops, Zionists) the “true manifestation of Satan,” and so on. But the main distinction between Ahmadinejad from Palin? The former is in favor of redistributing the wealth, which automatically makes him better than Palin in Yglesias’s mind.

Writing on the website of the American Prospect magazine, Matthew Yglesias writes:

Ahmadinejad is in most ways a classic right-winger, a demagogic nationalist and cultural conservative. In a manner somewhat reminiscent of a Sarah Palin, however, he clothes this right-wing politics in a language of class resentment, painting his more pragmatic and reformist opponents as decadent elites out of touch with ordinary people. Unlike the populists of the American right, however, he merges this rhetoric with something resembling an actual populist economic agenda. The main element has been the use of oil revenue to expand the state sector of the economy in an attempt to distribute wealth more broadly throughout the country. This approach has gained Ahmadinejad a loyal following among the rural poor and public employees, but Iran’s objective economic performance has been disappointing, even during the great oil boom years.

Yes, Yglesias is referring to the same Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, who denies the existence of the Holocaust, who calls Jews (whoops, Zionists) the “true manifestation of Satan,” and so on. But the main distinction between Ahmadinejad from Palin? The former is in favor of redistributing the wealth, which automatically makes him better than Palin in Yglesias’s mind.

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A New Consensus?

A refreshing bipartisan consensus is emerging in the liberal and conservative halves of the blogosphere and the media in general. Visceral detestation of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran is all but universal.

Michael Goldfarb in the Weekly Standard notices, too.

The left, which may have reviled Ahmadinejad but was willing to do business with him anyway, seems to have become deeply hostile to any kind of diplomacy that could be seen as legitimizing this election result. The administration hasn’t quite caught up to this reality, offering weak statements about “irregularities” in the voting but no real sign that it will stand up and support the Iranian kids who are pleading for help as they’re beaten in the streets. I suspect it will soon.

I suspect it will, too.

A refreshing bipartisan consensus is emerging in the liberal and conservative halves of the blogosphere and the media in general. Visceral detestation of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran is all but universal.

Michael Goldfarb in the Weekly Standard notices, too.

The left, which may have reviled Ahmadinejad but was willing to do business with him anyway, seems to have become deeply hostile to any kind of diplomacy that could be seen as legitimizing this election result. The administration hasn’t quite caught up to this reality, offering weak statements about “irregularities” in the voting but no real sign that it will stand up and support the Iranian kids who are pleading for help as they’re beaten in the streets. I suspect it will soon.

I suspect it will, too.

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Commentary of the Day

Altalena, on Jennifer Rubin:

Drudge is now reporting that Egypt’s president Mubarak has declared, “Not Egypt nor any other Arab country would accept Israel as a Jewish state.” This is further proof, if any were needed, that the Arab world is gripped by fear. Even if Mubarak were disposed to accept Israel as a Jewish state (a huge “if”), he’s constrained from doing so by his memory of what happened to Anwar Sadat when Sadat made nice with Israel. The threat of Muslim Brotherhood reprisal hangs heavy over Egyptian society, just as the threat of reprisal by other jihadi groups hangs heavy over other Arab countries. The threat of violence, reinforced by an occasional assassination, is all it takes to keep Arabs from even thinking about making peace.

Depressing, huh?

Altalena, on Jennifer Rubin:

Drudge is now reporting that Egypt’s president Mubarak has declared, “Not Egypt nor any other Arab country would accept Israel as a Jewish state.” This is further proof, if any were needed, that the Arab world is gripped by fear. Even if Mubarak were disposed to accept Israel as a Jewish state (a huge “if”), he’s constrained from doing so by his memory of what happened to Anwar Sadat when Sadat made nice with Israel. The threat of Muslim Brotherhood reprisal hangs heavy over Egyptian society, just as the threat of reprisal by other jihadi groups hangs heavy over other Arab countries. The threat of violence, reinforced by an occasional assassination, is all it takes to keep Arabs from even thinking about making peace.

Depressing, huh?

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Iran and the Lebanon Precedent

It’s rapidly becoming conventional wisdom in certain quarters that the United States dare not come out in support for democracy activists in Iran. I’m not convinced.

When a million or so Lebanese took to the streets in Beirut on March 14, 2005 to demand the ousting of the occupying Syrian military regime in Lebanon, many feared overt American support would backfire against the demonstrators. President Bush vocally backed the dissidents anyway.

The “March 14” activists were, in fact, denounced as stooges of the Americans by Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian parties in Lebanon, but it didn’t matter. I met anti-Americans among the demonstrators, but none were mad that the Bush Administration supported them. His support actually eased their anti-American sentiment somewhat. “You are new friends of ours here in Lebanon,” one conservative Sunni Lebanese told me.

Nor did the president’s support make the Syrian military any more likely to beat civilians into submission. Nobody was killed, and the “March 14” movement won. “I am not Saddam Hussein,” Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad said. “I want to cooperate.” The Syrian military left Lebanon shortly thereafter.

Whether or not President Bush’s support for the “March 14” revolution helped very much, it certainly didn’t hurt.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is more dangerous than the occupying Syrian military, to be sure. It cannot survive by leaving Iran. There is nowhere else it can go. But that doesn’t mean it will be more likely to massacre Iranian civilians if the White House makes a firm statement. Iran is hemmed in on two sides by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strong support from the United States for the dissidents is just as likely, if not more likely, to make the Revolutionary Guard think twice before escalating.

And it’s frankly inconceivable that anti-Americans among the Iranian opposition will be angry at President Obama if he takes their side. It should and likely will anger them if he refuses and tacitly recognizes the legitimacy of the hated dictatorship they wish to replace.

It’s rapidly becoming conventional wisdom in certain quarters that the United States dare not come out in support for democracy activists in Iran. I’m not convinced.

When a million or so Lebanese took to the streets in Beirut on March 14, 2005 to demand the ousting of the occupying Syrian military regime in Lebanon, many feared overt American support would backfire against the demonstrators. President Bush vocally backed the dissidents anyway.

The “March 14” activists were, in fact, denounced as stooges of the Americans by Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian parties in Lebanon, but it didn’t matter. I met anti-Americans among the demonstrators, but none were mad that the Bush Administration supported them. His support actually eased their anti-American sentiment somewhat. “You are new friends of ours here in Lebanon,” one conservative Sunni Lebanese told me.

Nor did the president’s support make the Syrian military any more likely to beat civilians into submission. Nobody was killed, and the “March 14” movement won. “I am not Saddam Hussein,” Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad said. “I want to cooperate.” The Syrian military left Lebanon shortly thereafter.

Whether or not President Bush’s support for the “March 14” revolution helped very much, it certainly didn’t hurt.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is more dangerous than the occupying Syrian military, to be sure. It cannot survive by leaving Iran. There is nowhere else it can go. But that doesn’t mean it will be more likely to massacre Iranian civilians if the White House makes a firm statement. Iran is hemmed in on two sides by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strong support from the United States for the dissidents is just as likely, if not more likely, to make the Revolutionary Guard think twice before escalating.

And it’s frankly inconceivable that anti-Americans among the Iranian opposition will be angry at President Obama if he takes their side. It should and likely will anger them if he refuses and tacitly recognizes the legitimacy of the hated dictatorship they wish to replace.

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It Doesn’t Pay to Be Weak — Even with Democrats

This poll was taken before the outbreak of violence and the brutal scenes of repression in Iran:

[M]ore than two-thirds of Americans say Obama has not been tough enough on North Korea (69 percent), while some 15 percent think his actions have been “about right” and 3 percent think he has been too tough.

Sizable majorities of Democrats (65 percent), Republicans (78 percent) and independents (61 percent) agree Obama should be tougher on North Korea. Among those voters who backed Obama in the 2008 presidential election, 59 percent say he has not been tough enough.

[...]

On Iran, the findings are almost identical: 66 percent overall say Obama has not been tough enough, including 57 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents.

And on Guantanamo the president’s numbers are worse:

Fully 77 percent of Americans think the president made a mistake, including almost all Republicans (94 percent) and independents (81 percent), as well as a majority of Democrats (61 percent).

A growing majority of Americans think the military prison at Guantanamo Bay should stay open. Some 60 percent say they think Gitmo should not be closed, up from 53 percent in April and 45 percent in January.

Republicans (82 percent) are more than twice as likely as Democrats (40 percent) to say the prison should stay open. Among independents, 62 percent think it should stay open.

The only politician with worse numbers is Nancy Pelos, who loses the “Did the CIA lie?” credibility battle with the CIA. (Pelosi 22% vs. CIA 56%).

This suggests that the president’s engagement policy is failing on two fronts. Overseas we have seen that despotic regimes are acting out like never before, apparently without fear of any adverse consequences from the U.S. And domestically, it is proving to be unpopular — in strikingly bipartisan fashion.

This poll was taken before the outbreak of violence and the brutal scenes of repression in Iran:

[M]ore than two-thirds of Americans say Obama has not been tough enough on North Korea (69 percent), while some 15 percent think his actions have been “about right” and 3 percent think he has been too tough.

Sizable majorities of Democrats (65 percent), Republicans (78 percent) and independents (61 percent) agree Obama should be tougher on North Korea. Among those voters who backed Obama in the 2008 presidential election, 59 percent say he has not been tough enough.

[...]

On Iran, the findings are almost identical: 66 percent overall say Obama has not been tough enough, including 57 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents.

And on Guantanamo the president’s numbers are worse:

Fully 77 percent of Americans think the president made a mistake, including almost all Republicans (94 percent) and independents (81 percent), as well as a majority of Democrats (61 percent).

A growing majority of Americans think the military prison at Guantanamo Bay should stay open. Some 60 percent say they think Gitmo should not be closed, up from 53 percent in April and 45 percent in January.

Republicans (82 percent) are more than twice as likely as Democrats (40 percent) to say the prison should stay open. Among independents, 62 percent think it should stay open.

The only politician with worse numbers is Nancy Pelos, who loses the “Did the CIA lie?” credibility battle with the CIA. (Pelosi 22% vs. CIA 56%).

This suggests that the president’s engagement policy is failing on two fronts. Overseas we have seen that despotic regimes are acting out like never before, apparently without fear of any adverse consequences from the U.S. And domestically, it is proving to be unpopular — in strikingly bipartisan fashion.

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“That File is Shut”

The Obama Administration wants to negotiate with whomever emerges the winner in Iran’s tumultuous internal struggle. I frankly doubt anything good will come from such talks, but I certainly understand why confrontation makes the president flinch. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps may very well retaliate against Americans inside Iraq. Hezbollah in Lebanon could easily open a new front with Israel if its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah feels his patron and armorer is under assault. Thousands would likely be killed in Iran alone. No decent person wants to see civilian casualties in Iran – especially now that these very same civilians are bravely facing down their own oppressive regime.

Confrontation of some kind, though, is looking more likely no matter what the administration may wish. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in his “victory” speech over the weekend that he will never negotiate with anyone over his regime’s nuclear weapons. “That file is shut forever,” he said.

It takes two to negotiate, and not once since the 1979 revolution has the Iranian regime been willing to begin serious negotiations with the United States. The Obama Administration might want to consider a backup plan right about now.

The Obama Administration wants to negotiate with whomever emerges the winner in Iran’s tumultuous internal struggle. I frankly doubt anything good will come from such talks, but I certainly understand why confrontation makes the president flinch. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps may very well retaliate against Americans inside Iraq. Hezbollah in Lebanon could easily open a new front with Israel if its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah feels his patron and armorer is under assault. Thousands would likely be killed in Iran alone. No decent person wants to see civilian casualties in Iran – especially now that these very same civilians are bravely facing down their own oppressive regime.

Confrontation of some kind, though, is looking more likely no matter what the administration may wish. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in his “victory” speech over the weekend that he will never negotiate with anyone over his regime’s nuclear weapons. “That file is shut forever,” he said.

It takes two to negotiate, and not once since the 1979 revolution has the Iranian regime been willing to begin serious negotiations with the United States. The Obama Administration might want to consider a backup plan right about now.

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Re: To Speak Out or Not to Speak Out

Over the weekend it was Sen. Joe Lieberman, today it is Sen. John McCain, on the events in Iran:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday called the recent reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “sham” and criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for not voicing strong opposition to the election’s result.

“The reaction of the Iranian people shows their discontent with this regime,” McCain said during an interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

“It’s really a sham that they’ve pulled off and I hope that we will act,” he said.

[. . .]

McCain chided the administration for not coming out more forcefully against Ahmadinejad’s reelection, voicing disappointment in administration officials who have been quoted in some news reports indicating that “they’re not going to change their policy of dialogue.”“I think they should be condemned, and it’s obvious that this was a rigged election and depriving the people of their democratic rights,” the Arizona senator said. “We are for human rights all over the world.”

And from Eric Cantor’s office, this statement:

“We stand with the people of Iran in their struggle to participate in a democratic election and who deserve the right to freely assemble and voice their opposition to its questionable outcome.

“The Administration’s silence in the face of Iran’s brutal suppression of democratic rights represents a step backwards for homegrown democracy in the Middle East.  President Obama must take a strong public position in the face of violence and human rights abuses.  We have a moral responsibility to lead the world in opposition to Iran’s extreme response to peaceful protests.

“In addition, Iran’s clerical regime has made clear that its nuclear program will move forward.  The United States cannot trust the aspirations of a nation that is a state-sponsor of terrorism, and the Administration must work with Congress to do everything in its power to deny Iran nuclear weapons.”

The president who appeared today to give another platitudinous speech on healthcare has been mute on Iran. But how long can the administration simply have “doubts” or continue to study the matter? If Congressmen and Senators come forward individually or collectively to issue words of condemnation, won’t the administration look rather hapless for having failed at least rhetorically to establish its position? One is reminded of the Russian invasion of Georgia, when candidate Obama took days to figure out his position after calling for “calm” from both sides. But now he’s president — and it’s time to lead.

Over the weekend it was Sen. Joe Lieberman, today it is Sen. John McCain, on the events in Iran:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday called the recent reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “sham” and criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for not voicing strong opposition to the election’s result.

“The reaction of the Iranian people shows their discontent with this regime,” McCain said during an interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

“It’s really a sham that they’ve pulled off and I hope that we will act,” he said.

[. . .]

McCain chided the administration for not coming out more forcefully against Ahmadinejad’s reelection, voicing disappointment in administration officials who have been quoted in some news reports indicating that “they’re not going to change their policy of dialogue.”“I think they should be condemned, and it’s obvious that this was a rigged election and depriving the people of their democratic rights,” the Arizona senator said. “We are for human rights all over the world.”

And from Eric Cantor’s office, this statement:

“We stand with the people of Iran in their struggle to participate in a democratic election and who deserve the right to freely assemble and voice their opposition to its questionable outcome.

“The Administration’s silence in the face of Iran’s brutal suppression of democratic rights represents a step backwards for homegrown democracy in the Middle East.  President Obama must take a strong public position in the face of violence and human rights abuses.  We have a moral responsibility to lead the world in opposition to Iran’s extreme response to peaceful protests.

“In addition, Iran’s clerical regime has made clear that its nuclear program will move forward.  The United States cannot trust the aspirations of a nation that is a state-sponsor of terrorism, and the Administration must work with Congress to do everything in its power to deny Iran nuclear weapons.”

The president who appeared today to give another platitudinous speech on healthcare has been mute on Iran. But how long can the administration simply have “doubts” or continue to study the matter? If Congressmen and Senators come forward individually or collectively to issue words of condemnation, won’t the administration look rather hapless for having failed at least rhetorically to establish its position? One is reminded of the Russian invasion of Georgia, when candidate Obama took days to figure out his position after calling for “calm” from both sides. But now he’s president — and it’s time to lead.

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Codepink Aligned Against Iran’s Green

When we last checked in with Codepink, the group was swooning over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian president was in New York to speak at the UN, and the “women for peace” organization got an audience with him in order to condemn American aggression and to praise Iranian goodwill. A convivial time was had by all:

The CODEPINK women proposed inviting American and Iranian artists to build a “peace park” in Tehran, a memorial dedicated to people-to-people commitment to peace and diplomacy between our two countries.

They also proposed a plan to invest funds in an Iranian business, one that produces green and sustainable products, such as bicycles. This grassroots investment would be the opposite of efforts by the Bush administration and Congress to tighten sanctions, a move which CODEPINK thinks would only hurt ordinary, everyday Iranians. Such a symbolic CODEPINK investment in a green, sustainable business would challenge U.S. regulations blocking trade with Iran and would show how diplomacy and trade are preferable to war and sanctions.

Speaking of green and (one hopes) sustainability, Codepink’s flattery of Ahmadinejad renders the group diametric enemies of the Iranian protesters now challenging that peaceful fellow’s reelection. Interesting that a group of peace-loving American women now find themselves standing foursquare with the mullahcrocy and riot police trying to beat down the internal forces of reform. This wholesale embrace of tyranny and oppression, however, does explain why the lead headline under “breaking news” at the group’s website is “Israeli Police and Military Brutalize Peaceful Protesters at Netanyahu’s Speech,” and why not a word about unrest in Iran is to be found.

When we last checked in with Codepink, the group was swooning over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian president was in New York to speak at the UN, and the “women for peace” organization got an audience with him in order to condemn American aggression and to praise Iranian goodwill. A convivial time was had by all:

The CODEPINK women proposed inviting American and Iranian artists to build a “peace park” in Tehran, a memorial dedicated to people-to-people commitment to peace and diplomacy between our two countries.

They also proposed a plan to invest funds in an Iranian business, one that produces green and sustainable products, such as bicycles. This grassroots investment would be the opposite of efforts by the Bush administration and Congress to tighten sanctions, a move which CODEPINK thinks would only hurt ordinary, everyday Iranians. Such a symbolic CODEPINK investment in a green, sustainable business would challenge U.S. regulations blocking trade with Iran and would show how diplomacy and trade are preferable to war and sanctions.

Speaking of green and (one hopes) sustainability, Codepink’s flattery of Ahmadinejad renders the group diametric enemies of the Iranian protesters now challenging that peaceful fellow’s reelection. Interesting that a group of peace-loving American women now find themselves standing foursquare with the mullahcrocy and riot police trying to beat down the internal forces of reform. This wholesale embrace of tyranny and oppression, however, does explain why the lead headline under “breaking news” at the group’s website is “Israeli Police and Military Brutalize Peaceful Protesters at Netanyahu’s Speech,” and why not a word about unrest in Iran is to be found.

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Re: They Can’t Even Tolerate Dennis Ross

Michael says, “Military action against Iran should be the very last option and used only if everything short of it fails.”

But if Marty Peretz is right, the administration has taken that “last option” off the table. As Jennifer pointed out, he seconded a report that Dennis Ross is apparently out as special envoy on Iran. I found this detail particularly interesting:

I had an inkling of trouble a few weeks ago when The New Republic was negotiating to publish a small part of a new book, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, which Ross co-wrote with David Makovsky. Yes, the text of the book raises the possibility of a strike of last resort against Iran’s nuclear installations. In any event, the State Department wouldn’t give its approval. And you now know why. Or do you? I believe it’s because the administration has given up the military option.

By the way, Peretz sort of speeds past this, but it would have been bad enough had Ross been removed because the Iranians demanded it.

Michael says, “Military action against Iran should be the very last option and used only if everything short of it fails.”

But if Marty Peretz is right, the administration has taken that “last option” off the table. As Jennifer pointed out, he seconded a report that Dennis Ross is apparently out as special envoy on Iran. I found this detail particularly interesting:

I had an inkling of trouble a few weeks ago when The New Republic was negotiating to publish a small part of a new book, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, which Ross co-wrote with David Makovsky. Yes, the text of the book raises the possibility of a strike of last resort against Iran’s nuclear installations. In any event, the State Department wouldn’t give its approval. And you now know why. Or do you? I believe it’s because the administration has given up the military option.

By the way, Peretz sort of speeds past this, but it would have been bad enough had Ross been removed because the Iranians demanded it.

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To Speak Out or Not to Speak Out

The folks at niacINsight are doing an absolutely spectacular job covering the uprising in Iran. Everyone should bookmark the site as an indispensable source. I’d like to quibble, though, with something I’ve read there and elsewhere a couple of times over the weekend.

U.S. Representative Mike Pence from Indiana said on CNN that he hopes President Obama offers a word of support for the dissidents in Iran. “This is absolutely the wrong thing to do,” wrote a contributor to the niac site. “Iran has a long history of rejecting foreign meddling in its internal affairs, and even the most prominent human rights activists have told US lawmakers the best thing they can do is stop trying to get involved.”

It’s certainly possible that Khamenei and his security forces would seize on open American support for the demonstrators, declare them stooges of the “Great Satan,” and crack down even more viciously.

However, there’s another possibility that few seem to have thought of. Right now the regime may be sticking its proverbial finger in the wind to sense what a foreign reaction to a more ferocious domestic response might look like. It’s somewhat surprising that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps hasn’t already gunned down a substantial number of people. Surely its commanders have at least considered massacring dissidents as in Tienanmen Square. If they feel they might get away with it because no one outside Iran is willing to stop them – which is exactly what happened in Burma last year – silence from the White House might actually increase the likelihood of something monstrous happening.

The folks at niacINsight are doing an absolutely spectacular job covering the uprising in Iran. Everyone should bookmark the site as an indispensable source. I’d like to quibble, though, with something I’ve read there and elsewhere a couple of times over the weekend.

U.S. Representative Mike Pence from Indiana said on CNN that he hopes President Obama offers a word of support for the dissidents in Iran. “This is absolutely the wrong thing to do,” wrote a contributor to the niac site. “Iran has a long history of rejecting foreign meddling in its internal affairs, and even the most prominent human rights activists have told US lawmakers the best thing they can do is stop trying to get involved.”

It’s certainly possible that Khamenei and his security forces would seize on open American support for the demonstrators, declare them stooges of the “Great Satan,” and crack down even more viciously.

However, there’s another possibility that few seem to have thought of. Right now the regime may be sticking its proverbial finger in the wind to sense what a foreign reaction to a more ferocious domestic response might look like. It’s somewhat surprising that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps hasn’t already gunned down a substantial number of people. Surely its commanders have at least considered massacring dissidents as in Tienanmen Square. If they feel they might get away with it because no one outside Iran is willing to stop them – which is exactly what happened in Burma last year – silence from the White House might actually increase the likelihood of something monstrous happening.

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The Devil Is in the Details

Obama is encountering difficulty with his own party on the “public option” for healthcare. But that’s nothing compared to what’s going on with cap-and-trade. It seems Democrats have figured out (more or less) what’s in the legislation and there is something for everyone to dislike:

Democratic allies remain at odds over provisions of a House climate bill and a Senate energy bill, even as congressional leaders and Obama administration officials are pressing to complete work on the legislation.

The latest rough patch came late Thursday afternoon when House Agriculture Committee Chairman  Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) met with the two chief sponsors of a climate bill to hash out differences in the office of  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). After more than an hour, they emerged without an agreement, gave reporters curt expressions of optimism and left without taking questions.

[. . .]

The differences over touchstone issues in the bill could jeopardize its chances of passage by the full Senate, where  Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is threatening to filibuster it over the provisions for drilling off the Florida coast. Major environmental organizations are also leaning toward opposing the bill. In addition, executives from companies in the wind turbine business are lobbying hard for stiffer renewable energy requirements, arguing that they would be better off with requirements that have already been enacted by 28 states.

And there are fights over the bill’s impact on agriculture as well as provisions on nuclear power, the renewable electricity standard, and coal. Then there are the Republicans who don’t like any of it — the mind-numbing regulation, the taxes or the compliance costs on state and local government and private industry.

That leaves an open question: who is for this other than Rep. Henry Waxman and environmentalists from non-energy producing states? Come to think of it, I haven’t heard Obama give a speech in favor of it. Perhaps its only utility was as a funding mechanism for healthcare. Which raises yet another question: if cap-and-trade crashes and burns won’t they still need hundreds of billions of dollars in additional revenue to pay for healthcare?

Obama is encountering difficulty with his own party on the “public option” for healthcare. But that’s nothing compared to what’s going on with cap-and-trade. It seems Democrats have figured out (more or less) what’s in the legislation and there is something for everyone to dislike:

Democratic allies remain at odds over provisions of a House climate bill and a Senate energy bill, even as congressional leaders and Obama administration officials are pressing to complete work on the legislation.

The latest rough patch came late Thursday afternoon when House Agriculture Committee Chairman  Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) met with the two chief sponsors of a climate bill to hash out differences in the office of  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). After more than an hour, they emerged without an agreement, gave reporters curt expressions of optimism and left without taking questions.

[. . .]

The differences over touchstone issues in the bill could jeopardize its chances of passage by the full Senate, where  Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is threatening to filibuster it over the provisions for drilling off the Florida coast. Major environmental organizations are also leaning toward opposing the bill. In addition, executives from companies in the wind turbine business are lobbying hard for stiffer renewable energy requirements, arguing that they would be better off with requirements that have already been enacted by 28 states.

And there are fights over the bill’s impact on agriculture as well as provisions on nuclear power, the renewable electricity standard, and coal. Then there are the Republicans who don’t like any of it — the mind-numbing regulation, the taxes or the compliance costs on state and local government and private industry.

That leaves an open question: who is for this other than Rep. Henry Waxman and environmentalists from non-energy producing states? Come to think of it, I haven’t heard Obama give a speech in favor of it. Perhaps its only utility was as a funding mechanism for healthcare. Which raises yet another question: if cap-and-trade crashes and burns won’t they still need hundreds of billions of dollars in additional revenue to pay for healthcare?

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Is Obama as Unstoppable as He Seems?

I wanted to dilate on my earlier analysis of President Obama and his standing with the public so far.

Almost five months after taking office, Barack Obama remains an extremely popular personality, with 67 percent favorability ratings, according to a Gallup Poll. His overall approval rating is below his personal popularity but, at 62 percent, is also quite strong. Obama’s policies are generally less popular than his approval ratings; the popularity of the most important policies — those related to the economy — is nearly lowest of all. (Since February his approval rating has dropped from 59 percent to 55 percent, while his disapproval rating has increased by 12 points, from 30 percent to 42 percent.) On a sub-set of economic issues — the federal budget deficit and controlling federal spending — Obama’s approval rating is in the mid-40s. And the news in this arena may well get worse rather than better for Obama going forward.

To be fair to Obama, he inherited a large deficit and debt upon taking office, triggered by the financial and credit crisis of 2008. But in the face of that, Obama, rather than focusing his attention on restraining federal spending, did the opposite. He passed a hugely expensive ($787 billion) stimulus package. Then came the $410 billion omnibus spending bill, complete with more than 8,500 earmarks. He followed that up with a record-setting, $3.6 trillion budget. And now Obama is attempting to nationalize health care, which would translate into the most expensive social program in history.

The president has thrown his hat over the fiscal wall. He is committed to spending unprecedented sums of money; what we are finding is that he doesn’t have a serious plan to pay for it (think of it as the economic equivalent of Guantanamo Bay; he announced he would close it without having prepared a plan to close it, and an idea that used to seem like a winner is looking more and more problematic). The concern for Obama is that the consequences of his actions, which we have barely begun to feel, may badly damage his presidency.

The debt and deficit Obama has helped create is simply unsustainable; even his OBM director has said as much. If it continues to go unchecked, other things will begin to happen. Even the Obama of Newsweek mythology — the Obama of Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe, of Howard Fineman and Jon Meacham, of Fareed Zakaria and Jonathan Alter — cannot suspend the laws of economics. What may well lie in our economic future, thanks to the path Obama has chosen, is a significant rise in interest rates and inflation, or tax increases. In the Washington Post this morning we read, “The White House is caught in a battle within its own party over how to finance a comprehensive overhaul of America’s health-care system, as key Democrats advocate a tax plan that could require President Obama to break his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.” If some combination of these things comes to pass, Obama’s support will drop, perhaps substantially.

Right now Obama looks unstoppable to many, especially with the GOP at low ebb. Obama supporters are cocky, while some Obama critics are cranky. Democrats like James Carville are predicting multi-decade domination by their party.

We’ll see. We are still in the early months of the Age of Obama. He has laid a huge bet — and maybe wagered his presidency — on the proposition that his administration can spend like a fleet of drunken sailors and figure out how to pay for it later; or hope that if they can’t pay for it, the problems will evaporate. That strikes me as wishful thinking. Ominous fiscal clouds are amassing on the horizon; what is a sunny day in the morn can give way to thunderstorms late in the day.

I wanted to dilate on my earlier analysis of President Obama and his standing with the public so far.

Almost five months after taking office, Barack Obama remains an extremely popular personality, with 67 percent favorability ratings, according to a Gallup Poll. His overall approval rating is below his personal popularity but, at 62 percent, is also quite strong. Obama’s policies are generally less popular than his approval ratings; the popularity of the most important policies — those related to the economy — is nearly lowest of all. (Since February his approval rating has dropped from 59 percent to 55 percent, while his disapproval rating has increased by 12 points, from 30 percent to 42 percent.) On a sub-set of economic issues — the federal budget deficit and controlling federal spending — Obama’s approval rating is in the mid-40s. And the news in this arena may well get worse rather than better for Obama going forward.

To be fair to Obama, he inherited a large deficit and debt upon taking office, triggered by the financial and credit crisis of 2008. But in the face of that, Obama, rather than focusing his attention on restraining federal spending, did the opposite. He passed a hugely expensive ($787 billion) stimulus package. Then came the $410 billion omnibus spending bill, complete with more than 8,500 earmarks. He followed that up with a record-setting, $3.6 trillion budget. And now Obama is attempting to nationalize health care, which would translate into the most expensive social program in history.

The president has thrown his hat over the fiscal wall. He is committed to spending unprecedented sums of money; what we are finding is that he doesn’t have a serious plan to pay for it (think of it as the economic equivalent of Guantanamo Bay; he announced he would close it without having prepared a plan to close it, and an idea that used to seem like a winner is looking more and more problematic). The concern for Obama is that the consequences of his actions, which we have barely begun to feel, may badly damage his presidency.

The debt and deficit Obama has helped create is simply unsustainable; even his OBM director has said as much. If it continues to go unchecked, other things will begin to happen. Even the Obama of Newsweek mythology — the Obama of Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe, of Howard Fineman and Jon Meacham, of Fareed Zakaria and Jonathan Alter — cannot suspend the laws of economics. What may well lie in our economic future, thanks to the path Obama has chosen, is a significant rise in interest rates and inflation, or tax increases. In the Washington Post this morning we read, “The White House is caught in a battle within its own party over how to finance a comprehensive overhaul of America’s health-care system, as key Democrats advocate a tax plan that could require President Obama to break his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.” If some combination of these things comes to pass, Obama’s support will drop, perhaps substantially.

Right now Obama looks unstoppable to many, especially with the GOP at low ebb. Obama supporters are cocky, while some Obama critics are cranky. Democrats like James Carville are predicting multi-decade domination by their party.

We’ll see. We are still in the early months of the Age of Obama. He has laid a huge bet — and maybe wagered his presidency — on the proposition that his administration can spend like a fleet of drunken sailors and figure out how to pay for it later; or hope that if they can’t pay for it, the problems will evaporate. That strikes me as wishful thinking. Ominous fiscal clouds are amassing on the horizon; what is a sunny day in the morn can give way to thunderstorms late in the day.

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They Can’t Even Tolerate Dennis Ross?

Word has been bubbling from a Ha’aretz story that Dennis Ross may be on the way out as special envoy to Iran. Marty Peretz (who finds Bibi Netanyahu’s speech as compelling as I do and who seems to have figured out the administration wasn’t what he imagined it would be) writes:

The story seems to assume that Ross was declared persona non grata by Tehran either because he was a Jew or because he believes that Iran should not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. If the Obama administration so readily capitulated to Dr. Ahmadinejad’s masters or minions, there’s another reason to be worried about its seriousness in this very serious encounter between antagonists. No, we are actually enemies.

To have crumbled precisely while the regime of the ayatollahs is facing a real crisis of confidence at home and something of a challenge to its legitimacy abroad is, well, just that: crumbling. It certainly does not testify to American resilience, even diplomatically. My instinct here is that the president and Mrs. Clinton are so eager to engage–engage even for its own sake–that they’ll do anything to please the other. This does not come as a result of analysis. It is, I am sorry to say, a predicated formula.

Well, yes, that was the concern in conservative quarters since Obama started running for office. And his persona since taking office as the Great Mediator between U.S. interests and those of our enemies suggests he really isn’t very comfortable in the role as U.S. advocate, which necessitates, when appropriate, confronting our adversaries. At times like this you wish the desperation were not so apparent and there were more willingness to, if not stand tall, at least not give away all pretense that you might do so.

This is in many respects a defining moment for the Obama presidency. As they used to say, the whole world is watching — both events in Iran and the reaction in Washington. Let’s hope we see not a crumbling, but a restoration of American will, determination, and renewed understanding that evil can not be engaged, only opposed.

Word has been bubbling from a Ha’aretz story that Dennis Ross may be on the way out as special envoy to Iran. Marty Peretz (who finds Bibi Netanyahu’s speech as compelling as I do and who seems to have figured out the administration wasn’t what he imagined it would be) writes:

The story seems to assume that Ross was declared persona non grata by Tehran either because he was a Jew or because he believes that Iran should not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. If the Obama administration so readily capitulated to Dr. Ahmadinejad’s masters or minions, there’s another reason to be worried about its seriousness in this very serious encounter between antagonists. No, we are actually enemies.

To have crumbled precisely while the regime of the ayatollahs is facing a real crisis of confidence at home and something of a challenge to its legitimacy abroad is, well, just that: crumbling. It certainly does not testify to American resilience, even diplomatically. My instinct here is that the president and Mrs. Clinton are so eager to engage–engage even for its own sake–that they’ll do anything to please the other. This does not come as a result of analysis. It is, I am sorry to say, a predicated formula.

Well, yes, that was the concern in conservative quarters since Obama started running for office. And his persona since taking office as the Great Mediator between U.S. interests and those of our enemies suggests he really isn’t very comfortable in the role as U.S. advocate, which necessitates, when appropriate, confronting our adversaries. At times like this you wish the desperation were not so apparent and there were more willingness to, if not stand tall, at least not give away all pretense that you might do so.

This is in many respects a defining moment for the Obama presidency. As they used to say, the whole world is watching — both events in Iran and the reaction in Washington. Let’s hope we see not a crumbling, but a restoration of American will, determination, and renewed understanding that evil can not be engaged, only opposed.

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Re: Re: The Bright Side of Ahmadinejad’s “Win.”

I had a chuckle this morning reading the faux outrage on Daily Koz in reaction to my posting yesterday, “The Bright Side of Ahmadinejad’s ‘Win.’” I had suggested that this blatant act of election theft would undermine the fading credibility of the Iranian regime and thereby make more likely a robust response from the West to its attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. The Kossacks, who normally condemn any attempt to pressure the Iranian regime (or any other member of the “Axis of Evil”), much less to overthrow it, as “neocon warmongering,” now shed crocodile tears over my analysis:

Boot shows no concern for the people of Iran who went and voted and saw their vote discarded.  The people who are being beaten like dogs tonight by Ansar-e Hezbollah’s thugs at Iran’s universities and on Iran’s city streets.  … But Max Boot doesn’t care about them.  He blithely assumes that Ahmadinejad will succeed in his coup d’etat, and he’s damn happy about it because he thinks it will give Israel the right to bomb these democrats.

Imagine if Max Boot had decided it was a bad thing for Poland to earn their freedom from Soviet domination because it would make it harder to sustain our immense defense budgets.  That’s the kind of cynical callousness Mr. Boot is displaying…

Suffice it to say, I am not applauding the repressive character of the Iranian regime. I have always abhorred the theocracy in Tehran and have always believed the U.S. should do more to try to bring about peaceful regime change. I continue to believe and hope that the Iranian people will be so enraged by this stolen election that they will overthrow their dictators. That is, admittedly, unlikely, but certainly president Obama should do everything possible — overtly and covertly — to aid the demonstrators. My point was simply that, even if the Iranian theocrats outlast the current protests (as seems likely but not certain), they will be in a  weaker position to continue their campaign of terror and their attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon: weakened both externally and internally. And that’s not a bad thing.

Likewise, the imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981, while a short-term tragedy for the people of Poland, brought about their long-term liberation by undermining the legitimacy of the communist regime. Of course if the Kossacks had been around in the 1980s they would have been arguing that it would be “destabilizing” to support Solidarity and that instead we should reach an accommodation with the communist world, that only simpletons like Ronald Reagan could imagine that we could consign the Soviet Empire to the ash-heap of history. Just as today the Kossacks argue — at least they do in other contexts — that any attempts to undermine the Iranian regime are misguided and that we should reach an accommodation with the mullahs at any cost.

Personally I’m against accommodation with evil unless it’s absolutely unavoidable — and in this case I don’t believe it is. My concern was that Moussavi’s election would not have changed the fundamentals of the Iranian regime but would have added a veneer of “reasonableness” that would have allowed the world to pretend that “moderates” were finally in control. What is good about the last few days — the only good development — is that the theocratic bullies of Tehran are showing their true face to the world. Now even the most dovish leftists have to condemn the government of Iran. That may be faint progress but progress it is.

I had a chuckle this morning reading the faux outrage on Daily Koz in reaction to my posting yesterday, “The Bright Side of Ahmadinejad’s ‘Win.’” I had suggested that this blatant act of election theft would undermine the fading credibility of the Iranian regime and thereby make more likely a robust response from the West to its attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. The Kossacks, who normally condemn any attempt to pressure the Iranian regime (or any other member of the “Axis of Evil”), much less to overthrow it, as “neocon warmongering,” now shed crocodile tears over my analysis:

Boot shows no concern for the people of Iran who went and voted and saw their vote discarded.  The people who are being beaten like dogs tonight by Ansar-e Hezbollah’s thugs at Iran’s universities and on Iran’s city streets.  … But Max Boot doesn’t care about them.  He blithely assumes that Ahmadinejad will succeed in his coup d’etat, and he’s damn happy about it because he thinks it will give Israel the right to bomb these democrats.

Imagine if Max Boot had decided it was a bad thing for Poland to earn their freedom from Soviet domination because it would make it harder to sustain our immense defense budgets.  That’s the kind of cynical callousness Mr. Boot is displaying…

Suffice it to say, I am not applauding the repressive character of the Iranian regime. I have always abhorred the theocracy in Tehran and have always believed the U.S. should do more to try to bring about peaceful regime change. I continue to believe and hope that the Iranian people will be so enraged by this stolen election that they will overthrow their dictators. That is, admittedly, unlikely, but certainly president Obama should do everything possible — overtly and covertly — to aid the demonstrators. My point was simply that, even if the Iranian theocrats outlast the current protests (as seems likely but not certain), they will be in a  weaker position to continue their campaign of terror and their attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon: weakened both externally and internally. And that’s not a bad thing.

Likewise, the imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981, while a short-term tragedy for the people of Poland, brought about their long-term liberation by undermining the legitimacy of the communist regime. Of course if the Kossacks had been around in the 1980s they would have been arguing that it would be “destabilizing” to support Solidarity and that instead we should reach an accommodation with the communist world, that only simpletons like Ronald Reagan could imagine that we could consign the Soviet Empire to the ash-heap of history. Just as today the Kossacks argue — at least they do in other contexts — that any attempts to undermine the Iranian regime are misguided and that we should reach an accommodation with the mullahs at any cost.

Personally I’m against accommodation with evil unless it’s absolutely unavoidable — and in this case I don’t believe it is. My concern was that Moussavi’s election would not have changed the fundamentals of the Iranian regime but would have added a veneer of “reasonableness” that would have allowed the world to pretend that “moderates” were finally in control. What is good about the last few days — the only good development — is that the theocratic bullies of Tehran are showing their true face to the world. Now even the most dovish leftists have to condemn the government of Iran. That may be faint progress but progress it is.

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Wuz They Robbed?

One of the interesting sidelights of the reaction to the Iranian election is the debate here over whether the announced landslide re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is legitimate or not. The vast majority of those opining on the subject have assumed that Ahmadinejad’s victory by an astonishingly high margin over Mir Hussein Moussavi had to be a fraud. But not everyone is buying it and those who are saying that Ahmadinejad’s win actually does reflect the will of the people are not all on one side of the spectrum when it comes to what to do about Iran.

Over at the New Republic, Martin Peretz, who has not let his cheerleading for Obama’s election last year prevent him from pointing out the fecklessness of our current policy on Iran, writes:

My impression is that the incumbent’s margin of victory was too big to have been fraudulent and the loser’s numbers also too big. Tyrannies don’t play around with the numbers like this. A dictator usually wants 99% of the voters to have been for him. But in Iran we were seeing the remnants of a true civil society, the last expressions of which were during the time of the Shah. It would be a blessing if this were to be the beginnings of a renaissance.

Maybe the regime fiddled around a bit with the numbers at the polls and after the polling. Still, the outcome had a sense of authenticity.  A vast majority in the country is poor, and there is where the backing for Ahmadinejad and his ayatollah patrons is deepest.

Equally skeptical about the charges of fraud but more sympathetic to Tehran (and still supportive of engagement with the Islamic regime) are Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, a staffer at the left-wing New America Foundation. They write in today’s Washington Post that the polls they have conducted in Iran prior to the election back up the regime’s claim of an Ahmadinejad landslide. Inexplicably, their survey results show support for “a more democratic system, with normal relations with the United States, as consonant with their support for Ahmadinejad.”

Make of that what you will, but as much as I believe the United States ought to speak up strongly about the possibility of fraud and against the suppression of street protests and the arrest of opposition leaders, it is still possible that Ahmadinejad is actually the choice of a majority of Iranians. The idea that the Iranian people would willingly choose to be led by a man who seems to speak and act irrationally goes against every instinct of the Western mind. The people crying out for justice and change in the streets of Tehran seem to be like us in their disdain for an odious clerical dictatorship. Surely, we think, these protesters are representative of the majority of Iranians.

But what if they are in the minority? What does it say about the prospects of any diplomatic engagement with Iran if a Holocaust denier and a man bent on the annihilation of Israel and confrontation with the West has won again? It is one thing to think of that country as being ruled against the will of its people, by a repressive Islamist regime. But the notion that such a government could actually represent the will of the people there is probably too frightening for most of us to contemplate.

But fraud or not, the event of the past few days ought to disillusion even those most dedicated to appeasement of Iran. Obama may have been counting on Ahmadinejad’s defeat to justify his administration’s decision to punt on the nuclear issue. But whether Iran is ruled by a popular man who is nevertheless a threat to the West or by a regime that is repressing its people in order to stick to Ahmadinejad’s mad policies, any Obama determination to pursue a policy of engagement represents sheer folly.

One of the interesting sidelights of the reaction to the Iranian election is the debate here over whether the announced landslide re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is legitimate or not. The vast majority of those opining on the subject have assumed that Ahmadinejad’s victory by an astonishingly high margin over Mir Hussein Moussavi had to be a fraud. But not everyone is buying it and those who are saying that Ahmadinejad’s win actually does reflect the will of the people are not all on one side of the spectrum when it comes to what to do about Iran.

Over at the New Republic, Martin Peretz, who has not let his cheerleading for Obama’s election last year prevent him from pointing out the fecklessness of our current policy on Iran, writes:

My impression is that the incumbent’s margin of victory was too big to have been fraudulent and the loser’s numbers also too big. Tyrannies don’t play around with the numbers like this. A dictator usually wants 99% of the voters to have been for him. But in Iran we were seeing the remnants of a true civil society, the last expressions of which were during the time of the Shah. It would be a blessing if this were to be the beginnings of a renaissance.

Maybe the regime fiddled around a bit with the numbers at the polls and after the polling. Still, the outcome had a sense of authenticity.  A vast majority in the country is poor, and there is where the backing for Ahmadinejad and his ayatollah patrons is deepest.

Equally skeptical about the charges of fraud but more sympathetic to Tehran (and still supportive of engagement with the Islamic regime) are Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, a staffer at the left-wing New America Foundation. They write in today’s Washington Post that the polls they have conducted in Iran prior to the election back up the regime’s claim of an Ahmadinejad landslide. Inexplicably, their survey results show support for “a more democratic system, with normal relations with the United States, as consonant with their support for Ahmadinejad.”

Make of that what you will, but as much as I believe the United States ought to speak up strongly about the possibility of fraud and against the suppression of street protests and the arrest of opposition leaders, it is still possible that Ahmadinejad is actually the choice of a majority of Iranians. The idea that the Iranian people would willingly choose to be led by a man who seems to speak and act irrationally goes against every instinct of the Western mind. The people crying out for justice and change in the streets of Tehran seem to be like us in their disdain for an odious clerical dictatorship. Surely, we think, these protesters are representative of the majority of Iranians.

But what if they are in the minority? What does it say about the prospects of any diplomatic engagement with Iran if a Holocaust denier and a man bent on the annihilation of Israel and confrontation with the West has won again? It is one thing to think of that country as being ruled against the will of its people, by a repressive Islamist regime. But the notion that such a government could actually represent the will of the people there is probably too frightening for most of us to contemplate.

But fraud or not, the event of the past few days ought to disillusion even those most dedicated to appeasement of Iran. Obama may have been counting on Ahmadinejad’s defeat to justify his administration’s decision to punt on the nuclear issue. But whether Iran is ruled by a popular man who is nevertheless a threat to the West or by a regime that is repressing its people in order to stick to Ahmadinejad’s mad policies, any Obama determination to pursue a policy of engagement represents sheer folly.

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Cool to Brittania

During the campaign, President Obama made his foreign policy goals clear. Among them was to put our relationships with traditional allies on new footings.

It now appears that he is doing just that — but in ways no one envisioned.

The “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom has existed for well over a hundred years. We have been allies to various degrees in wars, diplomatic colleagues, trading partners, technological and military collaborators, and in general pretty much “the bestest of buds.”

But Obama seems to have his heart set on “restoring” the relationship we enjoyed with the British up through the American Civil War, when they were supportive of the Confederacy.

First up, Obama packed up and shipped back a bronze bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office for nearly a decade.

Then, during a state visit from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama set aside the tradition of meaningful, thoughtful, symbolic gifts and gave Brown a set of great American movies on DVD — in a format incompatible with British DVD players. Along with those coasters, Obama tossed in some stuff for Brown’s kids — a couple of models from the White House gift shop.

Then later, when Obama visited England, he presented Queen Elizabeth with her very own iPod. Fortunately, it was preloaded with show tunes, making it an appropriate accompaniment for the more substantial gift, a coffee table book of songs by Rodgers and Hart and autographed by Rodgers.

Earlier this month, during the observation of the anniversary of D-Day, all the Allied nations gathered to pay their respects to that momentous effort. Oddly enough, the one current head of state who actually served in uniform during World War II — the selfsame Elizabeth II, who was a truck driver and mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, entering as the equivalent of a 2nd Lieutenant and ending her career as the equivalent of a Captain — was left off the guest list. Obama and the French each blamed one another, with Obama insisting on her being invited. In the end, she stayed home and sent Prince Charles.

Then this past week, the Obama administration finally figured out what to do with the Chinese Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay: pay Bermuda to take a bunch of them off our hands.

Of course, it might have been nice if someone had remembered — or cared — that Bermuda is a British colony, and its foreign relations are handled out of London. London is not amused. Playing ball with Obama might cost the Bermudan governor his job.

The United States was born out of bloody rebellion from England, and we had to reassert our independence at the dawn of the 19th century, in a conflict that saw England seize and burn the White House. It took about a century after the American Revolution for relations between us and England to grow cordial, and well over another century for the relationship to become one of the greatest friendships in history.

And it seems that Obama is set on restoring our prior relations with England.

Well, that is pretty much what he promised us…

During the campaign, President Obama made his foreign policy goals clear. Among them was to put our relationships with traditional allies on new footings.

It now appears that he is doing just that — but in ways no one envisioned.

The “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom has existed for well over a hundred years. We have been allies to various degrees in wars, diplomatic colleagues, trading partners, technological and military collaborators, and in general pretty much “the bestest of buds.”

But Obama seems to have his heart set on “restoring” the relationship we enjoyed with the British up through the American Civil War, when they were supportive of the Confederacy.

First up, Obama packed up and shipped back a bronze bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office for nearly a decade.

Then, during a state visit from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama set aside the tradition of meaningful, thoughtful, symbolic gifts and gave Brown a set of great American movies on DVD — in a format incompatible with British DVD players. Along with those coasters, Obama tossed in some stuff for Brown’s kids — a couple of models from the White House gift shop.

Then later, when Obama visited England, he presented Queen Elizabeth with her very own iPod. Fortunately, it was preloaded with show tunes, making it an appropriate accompaniment for the more substantial gift, a coffee table book of songs by Rodgers and Hart and autographed by Rodgers.

Earlier this month, during the observation of the anniversary of D-Day, all the Allied nations gathered to pay their respects to that momentous effort. Oddly enough, the one current head of state who actually served in uniform during World War II — the selfsame Elizabeth II, who was a truck driver and mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, entering as the equivalent of a 2nd Lieutenant and ending her career as the equivalent of a Captain — was left off the guest list. Obama and the French each blamed one another, with Obama insisting on her being invited. In the end, she stayed home and sent Prince Charles.

Then this past week, the Obama administration finally figured out what to do with the Chinese Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay: pay Bermuda to take a bunch of them off our hands.

Of course, it might have been nice if someone had remembered — or cared — that Bermuda is a British colony, and its foreign relations are handled out of London. London is not amused. Playing ball with Obama might cost the Bermudan governor his job.

The United States was born out of bloody rebellion from England, and we had to reassert our independence at the dawn of the 19th century, in a conflict that saw England seize and burn the White House. It took about a century after the American Revolution for relations between us and England to grow cordial, and well over another century for the relationship to become one of the greatest friendships in history.

And it seems that Obama is set on restoring our prior relations with England.

Well, that is pretty much what he promised us…

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Bibi and Obama Get Their Answer

In response to Netanyahu’s speech, the Palestinians have made Bibi’s point for him (i.e. we don’t have peace because the Palestinians reject the Jewish state) by rolling out the same rhetoric we have heard for sixty years:

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Israeli leader’s speech “torpedoes all peace initiatives in the region”.

Another Abbas aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told the AFP news agency that recognition of Israel’s Jewish character was a demand for Palestinians “to become part of the global Zionist movement”.

The militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, said the speech reflected Mr Netanyahu’s “racist and extremist ideology”.

I suppose that counts for a “no” on whether they will recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state with secure borders. So can we move on? No, no the peace-processors will say. They didn’t mean it! This is just talk. They really, really deep down do want peace. What evidence is there for this? Hmmm. Perhaps we are not privy to the secret signals they have been sending out to convince us that they don’t mean what they say.

But back in the real world, it is a good time to take stock. Unless and until the Palestinians give up this all-too-familiar repudiation of the Jewish state there’s really nothing to talk about. Only the most deluded would think that telling bubbe she can’t have the extra bedroom in her East Jerusalem townhouse would make any difference.

You can see why Obama’s attempt to move the “peace process” forward with a distorted telling of history was so misguided. You can’t simply leave out the Zionism part. You can’t ignore the Palestinian rejectionism part. it suits the Palestinians just fine, but it’s no basis for progress and only reinforces the Palestinians’ worst instincts. And goodness knows they need little encouragement to say “no.”

In response to Netanyahu’s speech, the Palestinians have made Bibi’s point for him (i.e. we don’t have peace because the Palestinians reject the Jewish state) by rolling out the same rhetoric we have heard for sixty years:

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Israeli leader’s speech “torpedoes all peace initiatives in the region”.

Another Abbas aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told the AFP news agency that recognition of Israel’s Jewish character was a demand for Palestinians “to become part of the global Zionist movement”.

The militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, said the speech reflected Mr Netanyahu’s “racist and extremist ideology”.

I suppose that counts for a “no” on whether they will recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state with secure borders. So can we move on? No, no the peace-processors will say. They didn’t mean it! This is just talk. They really, really deep down do want peace. What evidence is there for this? Hmmm. Perhaps we are not privy to the secret signals they have been sending out to convince us that they don’t mean what they say.

But back in the real world, it is a good time to take stock. Unless and until the Palestinians give up this all-too-familiar repudiation of the Jewish state there’s really nothing to talk about. Only the most deluded would think that telling bubbe she can’t have the extra bedroom in her East Jerusalem townhouse would make any difference.

You can see why Obama’s attempt to move the “peace process” forward with a distorted telling of history was so misguided. You can’t simply leave out the Zionism part. You can’t ignore the Palestinian rejectionism part. it suits the Palestinians just fine, but it’s no basis for progress and only reinforces the Palestinians’ worst instincts. And goodness knows they need little encouragement to say “no.”

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A Principled Peace Process

The principles in Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar-Illan University were not new — they were the formal reservations in Israel’s 2003 acceptance of the Roadmap:  the goal of a Palestinian state depends on it being demilitarized, unable to sign treaties with hostile powers, with effective security measures along its borders and strategic airspace in Israeli control; Arab states need to re-settle any refugees from the 1948 war, in the same way Israel resettled Jewish refugees; and there will be no Palestinian state if it is not prepared simultaneously to recognize a Jewish one with defensible borders.

None of these conditions are problematical if a peaceful Palestinian state is the goal of the process; all are problematical if the goal is to obtain land to launch the next effort to recover “Palestine” – as happened when Gaza was transferred in 2005 to a Palestinian Authority that trumpeted its readiness to receive it.  The Gaza experiment demonstrated Israel was prepared to dismantle settlements, and the aftermath in Gaza demonstrated that settlements were not the problem.

The peace process is currently less a diplomatic effort than a bankruptcy proceeding for a failed enterprise that continues only because it is too big to fail.  Israel thought it would be a secured creditor in the proceeding, since it holds written promises from the U.S. (issued in 1997, 2004 and 2009) that the process must result in defensible borders for Israel.  But the Palestinians are the UAW of the peace process, making extraordinary demands because they believe the new U.S. government will ultimately hand them ownership of the enterprise.

They demand that Israel affirm a two-state solution while they simultaneously refuse to recognize that one of the states must be Jewish.  They demand Israel meet a Phase I obligation to stop settlement activity, without regard for the manner in which that obligation previously has been interpreted, while they are themselves totally unable to undertake their own Phase I obligation to dismantle Hamas.  They reject Phase II of the Roadmap (a state with provisional sovereignty), but their powerless president — now in the 54th month of his 48-month term of office — nevertheless says they are “fully committed to all of our obligations under the road map, from A to Z.”  They are in fact still working on “A.”

The Palestinians seek U.S. support for the creation of a Judenrein state, with every Jew sent to a state the Palestinians refuse to recognize as Jewish, to live side by side with indefensible borders.  It is, as George Will noted, unworthy of America to play an “even-handed” role in such a process.  Netanyahu has reiterated the principles that formed the basis of Israel’s acceptance of the “peace process” and has insisted that it must achieve what Israel has been formally promised on multiple occasions would result from it.

The principles in Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar-Illan University were not new — they were the formal reservations in Israel’s 2003 acceptance of the Roadmap:  the goal of a Palestinian state depends on it being demilitarized, unable to sign treaties with hostile powers, with effective security measures along its borders and strategic airspace in Israeli control; Arab states need to re-settle any refugees from the 1948 war, in the same way Israel resettled Jewish refugees; and there will be no Palestinian state if it is not prepared simultaneously to recognize a Jewish one with defensible borders.

None of these conditions are problematical if a peaceful Palestinian state is the goal of the process; all are problematical if the goal is to obtain land to launch the next effort to recover “Palestine” – as happened when Gaza was transferred in 2005 to a Palestinian Authority that trumpeted its readiness to receive it.  The Gaza experiment demonstrated Israel was prepared to dismantle settlements, and the aftermath in Gaza demonstrated that settlements were not the problem.

The peace process is currently less a diplomatic effort than a bankruptcy proceeding for a failed enterprise that continues only because it is too big to fail.  Israel thought it would be a secured creditor in the proceeding, since it holds written promises from the U.S. (issued in 1997, 2004 and 2009) that the process must result in defensible borders for Israel.  But the Palestinians are the UAW of the peace process, making extraordinary demands because they believe the new U.S. government will ultimately hand them ownership of the enterprise.

They demand that Israel affirm a two-state solution while they simultaneously refuse to recognize that one of the states must be Jewish.  They demand Israel meet a Phase I obligation to stop settlement activity, without regard for the manner in which that obligation previously has been interpreted, while they are themselves totally unable to undertake their own Phase I obligation to dismantle Hamas.  They reject Phase II of the Roadmap (a state with provisional sovereignty), but their powerless president — now in the 54th month of his 48-month term of office — nevertheless says they are “fully committed to all of our obligations under the road map, from A to Z.”  They are in fact still working on “A.”

The Palestinians seek U.S. support for the creation of a Judenrein state, with every Jew sent to a state the Palestinians refuse to recognize as Jewish, to live side by side with indefensible borders.  It is, as George Will noted, unworthy of America to play an “even-handed” role in such a process.  Netanyahu has reiterated the principles that formed the basis of Israel’s acceptance of the “peace process” and has insisted that it must achieve what Israel has been formally promised on multiple occasions would result from it.

Read Less




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