Commentary Magazine


Why Should the World Listen to Obama Anymore?

As Stephen Hayes relates, Mousavi’s spokesman has taken a whack at Obama for suggesting there is not much difference between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad and at those like Sen. John Kerry who say this is purely an internal matter for Iran. It is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to justify the president’s passivity as some crafty calibration meant quietly to aid the protesters. There simply isn’t any credible excuse for the president’s reticence, at least if one thinks that the overthrow of the Iranian regime is a good thing.

On that score, Charles Krauthammer takes the president to task for his semi-groveling to the “Supreme Leader” and stubborn neutrality during perhaps the most stunning international development in a decade. And there are multiple reasons to be disgusted with the president’s performance during the uprising in Iran.

First, Obama is stuck back on day one when election fraud was the issue. Hello! There’s a revolution going on now:

Obama totally misses the point. The election allowed the political space and provided the spark for the eruption of anti-regime fervor that has been simmering for years and awaiting its moment. But people aren’t dying in the street because they want a recount of hanging chads in suburban Isfahan. They want to bring down the tyrannical, misogynist, corrupt theocracy that has imposed itself with the very baton-wielding goons that today attack the demonstrators.

Second, as Mousavi’s spokesman stated, Obama has missed (or chosen to ignore) the vast implications of what is occuring:

Now, with Hezbollah having lost elections in Lebanon and with Iraq establishing the institutions of a young democracy, the fall of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran would have an electric and contagious effect. The exception — Iraq and Lebanon — becomes the rule. Democracy becomes the wave. Syria becomes isolated; Hezbollah and Hamas, patronless. The entire trajectory of the region is reversed.

All hangs in the balance. The Khamenei regime is deciding whether to do a Tiananmen. And what side is the Obama administration taking? None. Except for the desire that this “vigorous debate” (press secretary Robert Gibbs’s disgraceful euphemism) over election “irregularities” not stand in the way of U.S.-Iranian engagement on nuclear weapons.

And finally, Obama falsely assumes that a regime’s brutality neither matters nor signals that Obama’s fervently hoped for Grand Bargain has “zero chance” to succeed. Krauthammer concludes:

And where is our president? Afraid of “meddling.” Afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror — and the people in the street yearning to breathe free. This from a president who fancies himself the restorer of America’s moral standing in the world.

And that is why, ultimately, the Obama approach collapses upon itself. This is a president who prefers whenever possible to avoid military action, who isn’t willing to pay for a defense build-up and who is squeamish about using other ”sticks.” He believes in speeches and talk, which he envisions – because he is the luminous Obama — turning the hearts and minds of leaders and peoples previously not inclined to pay attention to us. But how does that work if Obama’s persona shrivels to that of a cold-hearted technocrat obsessed with engaging a loathsome regime? Who will listen to him then and be emboldened by his calls for change if he projects not moral vision, but embarrassing timidity and submissiveness toward one of the most reactionary regimes on the planet?

Obama has unmasked his own rhetoric as fraudulent. And for what — for the nonexistent chance to persuade the mullahs to give up their nukes?