Saturday, December 12, 2009


In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech Thursday, Obama actually recognized the existence of evil in the world (a la G. W. Bush) and he expounded on America's heavily disproportionate role in maintaining peace and security. All on foreign soil, no less. Good for him. And for us.

...make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

...the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.

(This is the second time in the past two weeks he's said this - the first was in his Afghanistan surge speech. A small caveat. I would have substituted "underwritten" for "helped underwrite" - we haven't been helping anyone. We've done it on our own).

America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements — these movements of hope and history — they have us on their side.
(Reportedly, Obama went off script with this, changing "these movements have hope and history on their side" to the phrasing he used above - a significant improvement).

Of course there were also a few of Obama's trademark pompous inanities. For instance,

“I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war.”


But overall, it was a welcome speech.
Unfortunately, it was just a speech.
Obama says we have a responsibility to make clear that we are on the side of democrats. He has yet to take that responsibility.

Allow me now to interject a dubious analogy.

In an episode of "Mad Men" - I forget which season - Harry Crane, the media director at the Sterling Cooper ad agency, needed an assistant to read all of the upcoming scripts for client sponsored TV shows so there would be no embarrassing surprises when the shows aired. He temporarily enlisted the services of super secretary Joan Harris who proved to be as competent handling this assignment as she was at everything else. Soon after, however, Harry recruited from outside someone else for the position, a man. When Harry broke the news to Joan, she was understandably despondent. The new hire was a clueless incompetent and needed Joan's help to do his job. It didn't matter. The myopic thinking of the male dominated ad agency culture of the times (the early 1960s), prevented a talented woman like Joan from contributing as a full-fledged colleague. (There was a good amount of self-interest involved too, but that's a separate issue).

Harry Crane, because of his rigid view of gender roles in the workplace, was unable to see that Joan Harris was more than capable of vetting TV scripts. President Obama, because of his rigid ideology, is similarly oblivious to foreign policy solutions that show up on his doorstep. (I said the analogy was dubious).
Obama is still so intractably wedded to his policy stance regarding Iran that when an golden opportunity arises miraculously before him, he blindly ignores its significance and potential. The continued courageous resistance of the Iranian people to their oppressive regime is such an opportunity.

Regime change is the only solution to halting the Iranian regime's quest for nuclear weapons that has a favorable outcome. And it could be highly favorable. Overthrowing Iran's theocracy will end its destabilizing nuclear threat, will eliminate it as the major patron of terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, will add to the burgeoning democracy movement in the region, will provide the U.S. with another Islamic ally, and will enhance our energy security. And yet, Obama refuses to recognize the demonstrators as the true voice of Iran. He prefers instead to talk with the tyrants enslaving the country and threatening the peace of the region and the world.

What should Obama do? Military action isn't necessary. But we should provide all possible covert assistance to the demonstrators. The regime accuses us of doing it anyway. And Obama should give forceful rhetorical support much as Ronald Reagan did for Eastern Eurpeans more than two decades earlier.
The President should make a major address proclaiming that we stand with the dissenters. "Stand down, Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad!" It doesn't resonate quite like Reagan's "Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev!", but it gets the message across just as well. With his Nobel speech, maybe Obama has found his pro-American, pro-democrat voice.

Writing in Thursday's WSJ, Iranian born Amir Taheri sees the Iranian opposition getting stronger and the regime in real danger of collapse even without our help.

The pro-democracy movement is deepening and growing. Much work is under way to connect it to independent trade unions and hundreds of formal and informal associations that lead the civil society's fight against the evil of the Islamic Republic.

Iran has entered one of those hinge moments in history. What is certain is that the status quo has become untenable.

Less than a decade ago, four contiguous nations from Arabia to India's border, all with Islamic majorities, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, were all - authoritarian (if not totalitarian), oppressive, sponsors of terror, and anti-American. [Iraq was particularly noxious, having started two wars against its neighbors, having developed and used chemical weapons in its war against Iran and against its own people and was working to develop these and other WMDs for future use]. Today, it is not too outlandish to imagine that all four of these former bad actors could, in the forseeable future, be - democratic, free, non-threatening, American allies.


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