Obama is rightly ignoring the calls from both the right as well as within his own administration to take a stronger stand on the situation in Iran. These pleas -- such as from Sen. John McCain, Rep. Mike Pence, Paul Wolfowitz, or Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, as reported in the New York Times Thursday -- merely reflect the stale American solipsism that's to blame for our sundered image abroad in years past. Obama has made notable progress in polishing the previous administration's tarnish, but a single slip-up at the wrong moment could reverse it all in a second.
If Obama were to speak out and side with Mousavi in the current Iranian uprising, it would transform a legitimate, organic popular movement into a GOP teabag party. As many may recall, the conservative teabag movement in April was an embarrassing flop. Though it donned the mask of a grassroots uprising, it was quickly revealed to be naught but astro-turf (fake grassroots) -- carefully orchestrated by conservative corporate lobbyists, Fox News and even the Republican Party. The result was that nobody took the "popular movement" seriously, regardless of its scale, prevalence, message or sincerity.
Those who wish for Obama to adopt a stronger tone seem to be under the delusion that everyone doesn't already know exactly where he stands. Beyond being mistakenly impetuous, explicitly choosing a side in the current conflict without knowing who will emerge on top offers no possible benefit. Though the Iranian regime already blames the West, the Iranian people are not stupid. They know full well how to spot propaganda. And fortunately, as reflected by the Supreme Leader's Friday prayer today, Europe is taking the brunt of the blame, especially the United Kingdom.
This bodes well for Obama's position. And as Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution has noted, this is as it should be, considering that Europe actually has a presence in Tehran, as opposed to the US who cut off all relations in 1979. Putting the United States on the front-line would play directly into the propagandists' hands -- the propagandists who still control the levers of power in the Islamic Republic, I might add.
At the ninth National Iranian American Council (NIAC) conference on US-Iran relations Wednesday, a roundtable of Iran experts agreed that Obama's tacit stand for free expression against violence was sufficient. And that anything further would be counterproductive. According to Maloney, it is important that we not "make ourselves the story, thus undermining or endangering people on the streets...Senator McCain should be reminded of this."
Those who insist that Obama throw his hat in the ring do not hide their lack of faith in the Iranian demonstrators. They shape their argument as pro-democracy and pro-freedom of expression, but they ground it in the arrogant belief that an American endorsement is the sine qua non of any successful democratic political movement. Let the Iranian's have their moment, they know whose side we're on. Presuming that they require the explicit validation that comes with an American presidential statement is to fall prey to the same patronizing self-aggrandizement that has for so long plagued our dealings abroad. Obama is wise to ignore his "expert" advisers and the "experts" from the past administration.
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