Commentary Magazine


Topic: private

Mark Kirk Makes Sense Regarding Iran

I am delighted to see Rep. Mark Kirk leading in the Illinois Senate race to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama. If elected he would add a bracing voice of realism to the foreign-policy debate in the upper chamber. He has already emerged as a leader on Iran policy — an unusually well informed, sensible critic of the Obama administration’s head-in-the-sand approach. He makes a powerful case in this article that the administration should be doing much more to support the Green Movement in Iran. How? He offers some suggestions:

The President should speak directly and publicly to the dissidents of Iran—name their names from the White House podium—and make them heroes in homes across America. He should invite members of the Green Movement to meet with him at the White House. …

Overall funding for Iran democracy promotion should be increased with … control transferred from the State Department to the National Endowment for Democracy. From there, the United States should take the lead in facilitating Green Movement conferences outside of Iran—whether in the United States or Europe….

While Radio Farda continues the mission of Radio Free Europe, we should work to establish new public/private partnerships to fund independent Iranian filmmakers and producers—using them as a new way to foster more original content. VOA Persian and Radio Farda should set up a “Green Hour” for their broadcasts, and expand their interaction with Iranian dissidents.

Those sound like eminently sensible ideas to me. Why isn’t the Obama administration pursuing them? Surely it can’t think anymore that supporting Iranian dissidents will make the Iranian government less likely to talk to us. If the last year of wasted effort should have convinced the administration of anything, it is that Ahmadinejad et al. have no interest in bargaining away their nuclear program.

Trying to foment peaceful regime change is hardly a panacea. It will be a slow, difficult process that will likely not show results before Iran goes nuclear. But it is also the only long-term approach that has any hope of curbing the threat from Iran, whether it’s armed with nuclear weapons or not. Mark Kirk sees it. Why doesn’t Barack Obama?

I am delighted to see Rep. Mark Kirk leading in the Illinois Senate race to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama. If elected he would add a bracing voice of realism to the foreign-policy debate in the upper chamber. He has already emerged as a leader on Iran policy — an unusually well informed, sensible critic of the Obama administration’s head-in-the-sand approach. He makes a powerful case in this article that the administration should be doing much more to support the Green Movement in Iran. How? He offers some suggestions:

The President should speak directly and publicly to the dissidents of Iran—name their names from the White House podium—and make them heroes in homes across America. He should invite members of the Green Movement to meet with him at the White House. …

Overall funding for Iran democracy promotion should be increased with … control transferred from the State Department to the National Endowment for Democracy. From there, the United States should take the lead in facilitating Green Movement conferences outside of Iran—whether in the United States or Europe….

While Radio Farda continues the mission of Radio Free Europe, we should work to establish new public/private partnerships to fund independent Iranian filmmakers and producers—using them as a new way to foster more original content. VOA Persian and Radio Farda should set up a “Green Hour” for their broadcasts, and expand their interaction with Iranian dissidents.

Those sound like eminently sensible ideas to me. Why isn’t the Obama administration pursuing them? Surely it can’t think anymore that supporting Iranian dissidents will make the Iranian government less likely to talk to us. If the last year of wasted effort should have convinced the administration of anything, it is that Ahmadinejad et al. have no interest in bargaining away their nuclear program.

Trying to foment peaceful regime change is hardly a panacea. It will be a slow, difficult process that will likely not show results before Iran goes nuclear. But it is also the only long-term approach that has any hope of curbing the threat from Iran, whether it’s armed with nuclear weapons or not. Mark Kirk sees it. Why doesn’t Barack Obama?

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Re: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Peter, you are right to note that President Bush did attend the ceremony in the capitol where the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal. But the actual meeting that he held with the Tibetan spiritual leader was private, not public. I would agree that when it comes to caring about human rights, George W. Bush was light years ahead of both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, who have both been clear that such concerns will not be allowed to interfere with their engagement of tyrants whether the latter are located in Beijing or Tehran. But it is difficult to argue that the eight years of the Bush administration were a time during which human rights in China were ever a priority or even a major concern.

For strategic reasons that are certainly understandable, if regrettable, Bush had his own engagement agenda with the Chinese leadership. While, unlike Obama, we can say that Bush’s heart was in the right place, one photo op in the rotunda doesn’t change the fact that this issue hasn’t had much of an impact on American foreign policy toward China during the last few administrations.

Peter, you are right to note that President Bush did attend the ceremony in the capitol where the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal. But the actual meeting that he held with the Tibetan spiritual leader was private, not public. I would agree that when it comes to caring about human rights, George W. Bush was light years ahead of both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, who have both been clear that such concerns will not be allowed to interfere with their engagement of tyrants whether the latter are located in Beijing or Tehran. But it is difficult to argue that the eight years of the Bush administration were a time during which human rights in China were ever a priority or even a major concern.

For strategic reasons that are certainly understandable, if regrettable, Bush had his own engagement agenda with the Chinese leadership. While, unlike Obama, we can say that Bush’s heart was in the right place, one photo op in the rotunda doesn’t change the fact that this issue hasn’t had much of an impact on American foreign policy toward China during the last few administrations.

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