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Varieties of Realism and Idealism in the Obama Administration:

The Iran crisis is perhaps signaling, so far as I can tell watching from the outside, divisions within the Democratic Party and possibly within the Obama administration, not just between idealists and realists, but among an increasingly complicated set of normative foreign policy positions.

A couple of years ago I mentioned the rise, as a consequence of the Iraq war, of what I called the 'New Liberal Realists' (it was in this review essay of Francis Fukuyama's After the Neo-Cons and Peter Beinart's The Good War), urging caution against democracy promotion agendas as foreign policy. Hillary Clinton exhibits something of this tendency, at least when in the mode that early on dismissed concerns about human rights in China out of hand, as, well, befits relations between debtor and creditor.

Distinguished from the New Liberal Realists are the transnationalists, the liberal internationalists who, in Fukuyama's useful categories, seek to use international law and institutions to overcome the international power politics that the realists, including the New Liberal Realists, take for granted. It is also the home of universalist human rights. The default position for many in the Democratic Party's intellectual and academic wings - Harold Koh, for example - it is a form of foreign policy idealism, of course, but exists in some tension with the New Liberal Realism. It has not been very apparent which tendency is ascendent, or whether they will simply exist in tension within the administration.

But there is another form of idealism - one which has been distinctly disfavored recently in the Democratic Party, even though formerly quite popular, until Bush embraced it and then the Iraq war: democracy promotion. Universal in one sense - universal not in the liberal internationalist sense, however, but instead in the sense of a universal form of internal governance - by consent of the governed through elections - within sovereign states. It is not universalism in the sense of embracing global governance, but the assertion of a value as being universal for application within sovereign nation-states.

This democracy-promotion idealism is not necessarily inconsistent with liberal internationalism, and that has generally been the position of its Democratic Party supporters, who have embraced both. Still, if you are a liberal internationalist, for whom a principal commitment is hostility to sovereignty as such, in favor of global institutions, then this democracy promotion is not really what interests you, because this democracy-promotion is about political order and values within a sovereign state, not about reducing the importance of sovereignty as such.

Democracy-promotion has had very important intellectuals and supporters within the Democratic Party - some of whom have gone into the Obama administration. Michael McFaul of Stanford University is the most important among the intellectuals and academics. But it is not very clear to those of us on the outside how much influence the ideal of democracy promotion has within the administration, notwithstanding that it has a pedigree in the Democratic Party quite separate from neoconservatism.

Update: My reservations about the "new liberal realism," in a piece from 2006 (slightly revised from publication form). I have about the same reservations today.

The new liberal realism is profoundly unattractive--as though liberal idealists, long constrained by their moral Calvinism to worship at the altar of severe Wilsonian idealism, were suddenly freed, through the failure of conservative idealism, the failure of neo-conservatism, to celebrate a Carnival of realism, petit moralistes, catechists of the Categorical Imperative, until now sternly watched over and instructively smacked on the head to prevent dozing off in the Church of Human Rights by the likes of Michael Ignatieff, Kenneth Roth, Samantha Power, Geoffrey Robinson, Jimmy Carter, Claire Short, Louise Arbour, but the seminarians of human rights idealism are suddenly freed to dance drunk in the avenues of dubious virtue, to party in the sinful precincts of hard realism usually reserved to the morally benighted Brent Scowcroft and James "no dog in this fight" Baker, freed to expound on the virtues of accommodation, containment, stability, and interests, freed to expatiate realist necessity, game theory, instrumentalism, rational choice; freed not to have to sing hosannas at every goddamn waking moment to the glory of Moral Ends and Human Rights Universalism, and freed to maintain the necessity of "our sonofabitch." Think Wilberforce on a drunken bender.

Update 2: Welcome Instapunditeers and thanks Glenn! Glancing at the comments, I probably should have posted more of the above quote - in context, it's not intended to be snark. This was written before Obama, before the surge, before lots of things, and it was intended to channel, as it were, the feelings of some of my close liberal friends. Things they wouldn't be willing to say publicly but were definitely their private views. It goes on to say that I don't think the Carnival can last, because eventually these folks will recover some form of foreign policy idealism. Where I would like to see us all wind up is in some form of "chastened idealism," some form of "tempered idealism." Wouldn't you?

What that means for the administration on Iran today, well, I would prefer it to be more willing to assert the American value of liberty - and unlike some of the commentators, I have no hesitation in ascribing that to us - but also believe that this kind of difficult judgment is fully within the call of an administration, either way.

That said, as to the above quote, it is rare that I get any reaction to something I write in a law review - only a blockhead, I believe Samuel Johnson put it, ever read a law review except for money - but I got several striking emails following this piece, from good liberal friends among the academics and intellectuals, saying, that's me, that's me - skip the substance, I just love being able to be a realist, a real realist, you get to say things I could never say before, it's so much fun!

I say this, by the way - Anderson talking - as an idealist, not an realist, though I hope a suitably chastened one.

Hadur:
As a realist, I have been pleasantly surprised by the Obama foreign policy. He is probably the most realist President since Nixon.
6.21.2009 3:22am
Falsifiabilitor:

Obama may not be doing much, but interestingly Anonymous has weighed in.
6.21.2009 3:43am
Public_Defender (mail):
If idealism isn't tempered by realism, you get nothing accomplished. With Iran, Obama is promoting democracy, and he's doing it in the way most likely to lead to succeed.
6.21.2009 5:10am
interruptus:
The democracy-promotion debate splits into finer parts too, I think. One can hold the view that democracy should be universal, without thinking that toppling undemocratic regimes is an effective way of spreading it.

In particular, a number of political scientists across the political spectrum view democracy more as a set of civic values in a functioning civil society, rather than the mere fact of elections taking place. That makes democracy-promotion of the regime-change variety a poor bet, because there's no particular reason to think democratic societies will spring from the void just because a new Constitution is instituted and elections are held.

In the current context of Iran, for example, one could imagine two means of democracy coming about: 1) a revolution that topples the Islamic Republic and replaces it with a secular republic (French-Revolution-style); or 2) a gradual shift of power from the Supreme Leader to the elected parliament/president, until eventually the Supreme Leader is relegated to a figurehead (UK style).
6.21.2009 5:16am
BGates:
he's doing it in the way most likely to lead to success

Whatever he's doing, it's the right thing. He was right to say nothing for a long time, then he was right to echo the statements the French had already made. He was right to go out and get ice cream. Tomorrow if he puts the 4th Infantry at Khamenei's - excuse me, at the Supreme Leader's disposal, that will be right too.
6.21.2009 5:36am
Ellen K (mail) (www):
An idealist says "we want everything now." A realist says "how do we pay for it?" It seems to be increasingly only the American people that are saying "enough." Instead we are starting to see actions that will diminish job growth, transfer wealth from middle income workers to low income workers or non-workers and add further taxes directly and indirectly to an already overburdened and stressed corporate entity. While I am not a big fan of CEO's with golder parachutes, I wonder why people get so incensed by the compensation of business skills when they laud the ridiculous compensation of professional athletes.
6.21.2009 6:30am
bender:
I really don't like the terms 'realism,' 'idealist,' 'normative' as they are used in the IR literature. The value judgments are implicit--I guess that's sort of the point, but I think it's pretty douchey to claim a monopoly on being realistic. I suspect that a lot foreign policy folks on the american left would argue that they have a slightly more expansive view of what they argue is in American interests than would traditional 'realists' (ie more of a focus on soft power, more of a concern with the perception of the US abroad)--I assume this is what fukuyama would call 'new' liberal realism. But I think the left views these as complementary to somewhat narrower economic and strategic military interests that concern 'true realists.' Not sure how this is new. These two areas have dominated American foreign policy for quite some time, with internationalism popping up occasionally when politically feasible.

There's a recent meme floating around in the conservative press that the fact that Obama hasn't summarily renounced every Bush administration policy is a vindication of said policies. The Obama policies read more like pragmatism to me than the ascendance of realism over new realism, or realism over internationalism. Witness Obama's rhetorical overtures to the middle east, by contrast with his muscular approach to Afghanistan. Are these approaches inconsistent? Or is it more the realization that you can't have any semblance of cooperation among nation-states when there are effectively no nation-states to speak of in certain parts of the world?

Call me a cynic, and perhaps it's 'too early to tell,' but I see precious little evidence of democracy promotion by the Bush administration as anything other than rhetorical cover for realpolitik. I assume we'll find out about some shuttle diplomacy in the future. Certainly, eschewing a one-size fits all approach to foreign policy seems to be in ascendance--but I think pragmatism has been the recent rule in foreign policy decisionmaking among both dems and republican administrations other than the last one, which really seemed to relish the saber-rattling.

I'll suspect we'll know more about the administration's views on internationalism in the coming months regarding climate change, TLOS, etc.
6.21.2009 8:23am
TheGrandMufti:
Isn't "realism" just code for abandoning Israel?
6.21.2009 8:29am
The River Temoc (mail):
I think that democracy promotion works best in the context of consolidating new democracies -- helping political parties build out their infrastructure in places like Ukraine, for example.
6.21.2009 9:12am
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Call me a cynic, and perhaps it's 'too early to tell,' but I see precious little evidence of democracy promotion by the Bush administration as anything other than rhetorical cover for realpolitik. I assume we'll find out about some shuttle diplomacy in the future. Certainly, eschewing a one-size fits all approach to foreign policy seems to be in ascendance--but I think pragmatism has been the recent rule in foreign policy decisionmaking among both dems and republican administrations other than the last one, which really seemed to relish the saber-rattling
In other words, you don't see the democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan as successes.
6.21.2009 9:15am
Bruce Hayden (mail):
As a realist, I have been pleasantly surprised by the Obama foreign policy. He is probably the most realist President since Nixon.
Doing nothing except disclosing American weakness,admitting that we are the scum of the earth internationally, and apologizing for it is apparently considered realism.

Ok, I have been a bit snarky in my last two posts. The issue really is is President Obama's being a follower, not a leader, when it comes to Iran this weak a sign of weakness or a sign of vision? Should he have come out earlier and stronger against the repression of those protesting the election? Or was it prudent to let things flow, so as not to jeopardize our (non-existent) leverage or nuclear arms, or (more realistically) threaten our successes in Iraq and Afghanistan?
6.21.2009 9:21am
Hadur:

Doing nothing except disclosing American weakness,admitting that we are the scum of the earth internationally, and apologizing for it is apparently considered realism.


Realists care less about these things, since we view foreign policy rhetoric as almost inherently insincere, or at the very least un-instructive as to the actual power and intentions of a country.
6.21.2009 9:31am
Hadur:

There's a recent meme floating around in the conservative press that the fact that Obama hasn't summarily renounced every Bush administration policy is a vindication of said policies


A key tenet of modern realism (at least modern academic realism) is that a country's foreign policy doesn't really change with its regime. This is because that which is in a country's geostrategic best self-interest is largely determined by external factors. Thus realist IR theory predicts precisely that Bush and Obama would have many commonalities.

This is a major reason why realists don't particularly care about democracy in Iran: we think that for foreign policy purposes they would be quite similar.
6.21.2009 9:34am
Bart (mail):
Realism is the international projection of power in the "great game" to promote the national interests of the United States. Think Kissinger and George I. Because the Dems are generally reluctant to use hard power, they are not truly realists.

Liberal internationalism as employed by the Dems prior to Vietnam was the use of international organizations to impose great power (primarily US) policies on the rest of the world to keep order and prevent another world war. Think FDR and Truman. Since Vietnam, the Dems have turned this system on its head and use it instead to (1) provide and excuse not to go to war (Rwanda) and (2) to undermine US democracy by imposing foreign law through unaccountable courts and bureaucracies. (Koh).

Democracy promotion goes straight back to our own Revolution and is the international projection of power for the purpose of promoting democracy under the assumption that a free world does not war, is prosperous and thus indirectly benefits the United States. Think Jefferson, Wilson, Reagan and George II. This strategy has had no Dem support since Vietnam. The Dems generally view democracy promotion as a form of cultural and political imperialism.

Rather, since Vietnam, the Democrat Party has assumed the mantle of isolationism formerly held by the GOP prior to WWII. If they can at all avoid it, the Dems will not use hard power to promote US interests or democracy and apologize for past uses of US hard power as imperialism. Think Carter and Obama.
6.21.2009 9:39am
Hadur:

Realism is the international projection of power in the "great game" to promote the national interests of the United States. Think Kissinger and George I. Because the Dems are generally reluctant to use hard power, they are not truly realists.


While Realists certainly care about the acquisition, if not maximization, of a country's military and economic power, they are quite frequently reluctant to use that power. Not because they are timid, but because they believe it should only be used in ways that increase power.

This is why many academic realists opposed the Iraq War. As John Mearsheimer put it, "I have no problem with aggressive wars of conquest and expansion. I have problems with stupid wars of conquest and expansion".
6.21.2009 9:47am
seadrive:
It's not clear to me that democracy is promoted by either side in the Iran election mess.
6.21.2009 10:28am
bushbasher:
ah, for the simpler times under the republicans: straight-forward psychopathy and war-mongering, and never a need to think.
6.21.2009 10:34am
sureyoubet:
It's really simple. Obama sees the US and the results of the "US way" as so fundamentally flawed and unfair that promoting the US way is something that he cannot do in good conscience.

Most Americans are aware we have flaws, but are firmly convinced we still have it much more right than anywhere else. Not so with Obama. He's firmly convinced that we are, at best, no better than anyone else, and more likely, that we are so bad that we cannot be an example to anyone.
6.21.2009 10:35am
Fact Checker:
But there is another form of idealism - one which has been distinctly disfavored recently in the Democratic Party, even though formerly quite popular, until Bush embraced it and then the Iraq war: democracy promotion.

I know it is popular among Republicans to believe that Bush invaded Iraq as part of some grand scheme of "democracy promotion" in the middle east. However, arguing that Democrats rejected this idealism because Bush embraced it fails because I doubt you will find many (if any) Democrats who actually believed that Bush's "democracy promotion" was anything but a cynical and transparent pretense.

Even if he was serious, then the effort was an abject failure. Democracy certainly hasn't spread to any of the other countries in the middle east--which is, after all, what we were promised.
6.21.2009 10:45am
Fact Checker:
Not so with Obama. He's firmly convinced that we are, at best, no better than anyone else, and more likely, that we are so bad that we cannot be an example to anyone.

Can you provide anything that Obama has said or done that would support this rather outrageous claim?
6.21.2009 10:47am
Cornellian (mail):
Ok, I have been a bit snarky in my last two posts. The issue really is is President Obama's being a follower, not a leader, when it comes to Iran this weak a sign of weakness or a sign of vision?

I'd call a welcome sign that Obama realizes it is not the job of the American President to lead the Iranians. The Republican party used to realize that until the neocons took over the party.
6.21.2009 10:50am
Fact Checker:
Since Vietnam, the Dems have turned this system on its head and use it instead to (1) provide and excuse not to go to war (Rwanda)

And of course George Bush rushed troops to stop the genocide in Darfur.
6.21.2009 10:52am
Eli Rabett (www):
A country has gotta know its limitations
6.21.2009 10:54am
Kirk:
soft power
Without real power lurking somewhere in the background, there is no such thing as soft power, but only softness.
6.21.2009 10:56am
NowMDJD (mail):

Even if he was serious, then the effort was an abject failure. Democracy certainly hasn't spread to any of the other countries in the middle east--which is, after all, what we were promised.

Umm... Lebanon? Partial democratization of Kuwait? Elections in Saudi Arabia (it's a start)? Iraq itself, and especially strong democratic roots in Kurdistan? Free elections in Morocco and Algeria? The fall of Musharraf in Pakistan, with new elections? (Yes-- it's questionable whether the Maghreb and Pakistan are in the Middle East but many regart them as being so.)

And, of course, democracy didn't have to "spread" to Israel or Turkey, which already were democratic.
6.21.2009 11:06am
Public_Defender (mail):

he was right to echo the statements the French had already made.

Yes. The French have been a major impediment to dealing with Iran. Now, they are doing what we want, but they can satisfy their arrogance by not following us. Of course, sometimes we have to annoy our allies, but CheneyBush, who seemed to do it for sport.

And yes, I trust Obsma's judgment. That's one big reason I voted for him. He seems to have a knack for knowing when to play nice and when to throw elbows.
6.21.2009 11:25am
Fact Checker:
Umm... Lebanon? Partial democratization of Kuwait? Elections in Saudi Arabia (it's a start)? Iraq itself, and especially strong democratic roots in Kurdistan? Free elections in Morocco and Algeria? The fall of Musharraf in Pakistan, with new elections? (Yes-- it's questionable whether the Maghreb and Pakistan are in the Middle East but many regart them as being so.)

Umm, Lebanon, you may have a case for. As for the rest, Saudi Arabia actually reneged on promises to liberalize made before Bush got his great democracy promotion plans started, and the eventual, much delayed, elections were much less than originally advertised. Kuwait (and Qatar) was already reforming their governments and the changes would have occurred regardless. We had next to nothing to do with Morocco and Algeria (which aren't even in the M.E.). As for Pakistan, Musharraf was deposed, in spite, not because, of us.

It is too way too early to call Iraq a success. Although if we are going to judge Iraq by the standards the administration set for itself before the war (less than 30,000 troops in the country by the end of 2003, total expenditures of $10 billion or so with Iraqi oil revenue quickly paying for any rebuilding costs), then it is a total failure. I will withhold judgment on how democratic the Kurds are until the fate of Kirkuk is decided.
6.21.2009 11:33am
first history:
Bruce Hayden sez:

In other words, you don't see the democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan as successes.

I don't see either country as anything near a representative democracy. The Iraqi government owes its continued existence to the US military presence; the jury is still out whether it will survive on its own.

Calling the Afghanistan government (again, sustained by a foreign military occupation) a democracy is really pre-judging the case. Karzai is more the Mayor of Kabaul than anything else (and he barely controls that city); most of the rest of the country is controlled by warlords and the Taliban.

In both countries corruption and violence rules rather than the people.
6.21.2009 11:44am
Desiderius:
Hadur,

"This is a major reason why realists don't particularly care about democracy in Iran: we think that for foreign policy purposes they would be quite similar."

Ah, the simplicity of living in the eternal now...
6.21.2009 12:19pm
NowMDJD (mail):

the eventual, much delayed, elections were much less than originally advertised. Kuwait (and Qatar) was already reforming their governments and the changes would have occurred regardless. We had next to nothing to do with Morocco and Algeria (which aren't even in the M.E.). As for Pakistan, Musharraf was deposed, in spite, not because, of us.

Well, first you said there was no tendency toward emocracy and now you said t would have happened anyway. Actually, we don't know. We can just correlate.

If Iran becomes democratic, will it be because of Obama, in spite of Obama, or unrelated to Obama?

Were the Orange, Rose, and other color revolutions in Georgia, Ukrain and Central Asia helped by Bush, in spite of Bush, or neither? No they weren't in the Middle East, but the same questions apply.

And I indicated in my original post that not everyone would include the maghreb in the Middle East. Geographicalli it isn't; culturally it is. I interviewed a candidate for residency with a degree in Middle East studies (before medical schol) who did a thesis on Morocco, and discussed this very point with her.
6.21.2009 12:21pm
Parared:
So, people here think that its important for our pinhead^H president to have a playbook, an agenda, a strategy for effecting change in a country, before he straps on a pair and takes the radical approach of voicing support for free and fair elections, the rule of law, freedom of assembly, freedom not to have you daughters heart blown out while she's standing next to you?
6.21.2009 12:24pm
Fact Checker:
If Iran becomes democratic, will it be because of Obama, in spite of Obama, or unrelated to Obama?

Were the Orange, Rose, and other color revolutions in Georgia, Ukrain and Central Asia helped by Bush, in spite of Bush, or neither?


Like it or not, Iran is already more democratic than most countries in the middle east. The U.S., whether the president is a Democrat or Republican, has very little influence on the internal politics of Iran, and any overt support of internal groups is probably counterproductive.

As for the revolutions in the former Soviet Republics, the policies of the U.S. had very little to do with them.
6.21.2009 12:36pm
methodact:
6.21.2009 12:50pm
The River Temoc (mail):
admitting that we are the scum of the earth internationally

I must have missed the part where Obama said that the U.S. is the scum of the earth internationally. Would you care to refresh my memory? Thanks.
6.21.2009 12:57pm
CJColucci:
The 101st Fighting Keyboards are out in force demanding posturing and speechifying as if that were the serious business of foreign policy. It isn't. We have foreign policies to accomplish things, not to make us feel better. Othwerwise, we'd name Dr. Phil Secretary of State -- and even he would tell folks to get real. Anyone whose opinion we care about already knows that we don't approve of the carnage in Iran and won't be impressed by a speech or misled if we don't make one. But until there's something we can actually do about it, flapping our gums will likely make things worse. If -- and if it's a big if -- we have a dog in this fight, we're in the position of the unpopular governor who told a friend and politicasl ally: "I'll come into your district and campaign for you or against you -- whichever you think helps."
6.21.2009 1:06pm
drunkdriver:
freedom not to have you daughters heart blown out while she's standing next to you?

Parared, that clip bothered me as much as anyone else but let's not take the anger out on Obama. He didn't cause the theocracy, he'd like it if it were gone, and he is a father himself and god knows what he thought watching that clip. As much as I'd love to hear him say something in support of the protesters I have to ask- if he did, what then? If it backfired somehow, we'd have ironically aided the theocracy. I don't think it is lost on Iranians- many of whom, I recall, publicly mourned on 9/11- that Americans have sacrificed their own lives in countries near their own that now have democratically elected, if highly imperfect, leaders.
6.21.2009 1:26pm
Bart (mail):
CJColucci:

But until there's something we can actually do about it, flapping our gums will likely make things worse. If -- and if it's a big if -- we have a dog in this fight, we're in the position of the unpopular governor who told a friend and politicasl ally: "I'll come into your district and campaign for you or against you -- whichever you think helps."

What would Reagan do?

1) Skip going for ice cream and giving feel good speeches about father hood. Get to work.

2) Give an unequivocal speech supporting the democracy movement and calling out the fraudulent election and atrocities of the Islamic fascist dictatorship.

3) Order CIA and Special Ops to support the democracy movement in any way possible as well as weakening the state by disabling Iran's energy infrastructure as we did the Soviet natural gas pipelines in the 1980s. Work to divide the state bureaucracy.

4) Ensure that the Democracy movement can communicate the Islamic facsist atrocities to the rest of the world,

5) Encourage demonstrations around the Arab world in support of the Iranian democracy movement.
6.21.2009 1:48pm
Fact Checker:
What would Reagan do?

6) Sell the Mullahs illegal arms to finance illegal wars in Central America.

7) Cozy up to Saddam Hussein and not object when he uses chemical weapons on the Iranians (and perhaps even give him access to satellite information so he knows where Iranian troops are concentrated) and even on his own people.

8) Invade an insignificant Caribbean Island to distract attention from how badly you screwed up and let 241 Marines die for no good reason at all.
6.21.2009 2:24pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Cozy up to Saddam Hussein and not object when he uses chemical weapons on the Iranians


Correct. And Reagan's support for Saddam went beyond that.
6.21.2009 2:29pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Like it or not, Iran is already more democratic than most countries in the middle east.

In fact, "fact checker," if you check the stateofworldliberty.org rankings, Iran is near the bottom both for overall liberty and individual liberty among middle east countries. Only Syria and Lybia came out worse. If you want to argue about whether an ayatollah who rules the country but lets buppets run for office is better or worse than a heredity monarch who does the same, then quibble with someone who cares.

54 Israel
68 Bahrain
72 Kuwait
84 Turkey
95 UAE
99 Jordan
103 Oman
105 Lebanon
110 Morocco
112 Qatar
120 Tunisia
121 Pakistan
122 Saudi Arabia
125 Egypt
135 Algeria
144 Yemen
147 Iran
148 Vietnam
149 Syria
158 Libya

Countries worse than Iran
150 Equatorial Guinea
151 Zimbabwe
152 Uzbekistan
153 Belarus
54 Turkmenistan
155 Laos
156 Myanmar
157 Cuba
158 North Korea
6.21.2009 2:59pm
Baseballhead (mail):
Not so with Obama. He's firmly convinced that we are, at best, no better than anyone else, and more likely, that we are so bad that we cannot be an example to anyone.
Right, right, because he hates America, secret Muslim, blah, blah, blah. Here's an alternative scenario: Obama realizes a simple fact, that there are many, many countries on this world, none of them run with the slogan, "We're No. 2!", and none of them appreciate being made to feel like No. 2 by the American President.
6.21.2009 3:30pm
Parared:

If it backfired somehow, we'd have ironically aided the theocracy. I don't think it is lost on Iranians- many of whom, I recall, publicly mourned on 9/11- that Americans have sacrificed their own lives in countries near their own that now have democratically elected, if highly imperfect, leaders.


Umm, you seem to think that we have something to gain by holding our tongue here. The Supreme Leader is already calling the whole uprising a US operation. These are the scum that start every day with 'Death to America' and call us 'great satan'. I don't think we should be proud of the fact that our president betrays american ideals in order to not upset these kind of people. The younger generation in Iran is crying out for freedom, and we see our sycophant in chief lisping moral relativity.

America used to stand for something. Now we see our congress freely taking property from some of us to give to others, others that unsurprisingly tend to vote for those very same pols. Well, I guess we at least stand for Democratic values, if not democratic ones.
6.21.2009 3:40pm
interruptus:

America used to stand for something.

It's been a long time since that was true. We sold our soul during the Cold War, when it comes to standing on principle against ugly regimes. It may have been the least bad option, but supporting thugs like Pinochet, the Shah, and Saddam Hussein, and crazed religious fanatics like the Afghani mujahadeen, was certainly not a foreign policy based on idealistic stands for American principles.

That's precisely the reason an American president today would have difficulty exercising moral authority to intervene anywhere: the rest of the world, after experience of the kinds of brutal regimes we supported, assumes that we always act based on realpolitik, so doesn't believe us when we claim we're doing something on principle.
6.21.2009 5:07pm
Ben P:

Umm, you seem to think that we have something to gain by holding our tongue here. The Supreme Leader is already calling the whole uprising a US operation. These are the scum that start every day with 'Death to America' and call us 'great satan'. I don't think we should be proud of the fact that our president betrays american ideals in order to not upset these kind of people. The younger generation in Iran is crying out for freedom, and we see our sycophant in chief lisping moral relativity.


1. Just because he says it, doesn't mean people believe him.

DUring the orange revolution Yanukovitch denounced Our Ukraine as a US puppet too, but ultimately it didn't carry any weight because it was plain to see the US had no part in the popular uprising.

The leader might denounce the whole thing as some sort of US organized coup., but unless people have a plausible reason to believe it, it doesn't mean it carries any weight.


2. you're absolutely mistaken in arguing that being silent has anything to do with appeasing Irans theocratic leadership.

This is a popular movement in Iran, just because people don't like their government doesn't mean they like the US. If the US gets involved, it strips legitimacy from the opposition movement there. We wouldn't accomplish much by throwing our lot in, and we'd split them up and turn the issue from "the people vs the ladership" into "the US vs the ladership" which has much less support from the people there.
6.21.2009 5:08pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
6) Sell the Mullahs illegal arms to finance illegal wars in Central America.

7) Cozy up to Saddam Hussein and not object when he uses chemical weapons on the Iranians (and perhaps even give him access to satellite information so he knows where Iranian troops are concentrated) and even on his own people.

8) Invade an insignificant Caribbean Island to distract attention from how badly you screwed up and let 241 Marines die for no good reason at all.


Good list, but you left out "and if terrorists kill a couple hundred Marines in Lebannon . . . cut and run."
6.21.2009 5:26pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Whoops, you did include that. Bad reading comprehension on my part.
6.21.2009 5:27pm
sureyoubet:
"Can you provide anything that Obama has said or done that would support this rather outrageous claim?"

Sure...just about any speech he's given in the last 6 months while away from US soil. Read the Cairo speech. Krauthammer in April summed up his European tour pretty well too: "indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world." Heck, you can even go back to Michelle's little slip of the tongue when she said it was the first time she's been proud of her country.

If you went to school in the United States in the 70's and 80's (at least in California where I did) that's pretty much all the teachers were teaching: that the US was pretty much an fundamentally mean and unfair place. Why is it even remotely outrageous? Unless you actually got out a little, traveled the world a little and listened to and tested other points of view, you might actually still believe it.

And for such an "outrageous claim" it would appear that many posters here pretty much agree that it is obvious. (see e.g. interruptus... we can't exercise any moral authority)


"Right, right, because he hates America, secret Muslim, blah, blah, blah. Here's an alternative scenario: Obama realizes a simple fact, that there are many, many countries on this world, none of them run with the slogan, "We're No. 2!", and none of them appreciate being made to feel like No. 2 by the American President."

Nice try. I said nothing about hate or being a Muslim.

It's just pretty clear that he doesn't think we have any moral authority in the world and while you are right, the rest of the world doesn't particularly go for "We're No. 2", apparently Obama expects the American people to accept that slogan while he attempts to placate everyone else.

It's not that he "hates" America. He just doesn't think we are superior, morally or otherwise, because he dwells on what he sees as unfairness.

I think most Americans actually do believe we are number one...but a pretty wide margin.
6.21.2009 6:09pm
Perseus (mail):
I'd call a welcome sign that Obama realizes it is not the job of the American President to lead the Iranians. The Republican party used to realize that until the neocons took over the party.

President Eisenhower was a neocon. Who knew?
6.21.2009 6:29pm
RPT (mail):
SYB:

Citing Krauthammer or any other neo-con with a record of repeatedly bad advice, gets you nowhere with the reality-based community. "We are number one"? What does this mean?
6.21.2009 6:38pm
Baseballhead (mail):
I think most Americans actually do believe we are number one...but a pretty wide margin.
Sure. That's also true for most people in most countries around the world, at least insofar as the industrialized world is concerned. Telling them that, no, no, USA #1 and they are all inferior, morally and otherwise, is the very definition of arrogance.

Not being arrogant and believing we have no moral authority are two vastly different things.
6.21.2009 6:56pm
sureyoubet:

"Not being arrogant and believing we have no moral authority are two vastly different things."

Couldn't agree more. I happen to think that Obama has gone far beyond "not being arrogant" and has ceded all moral authority and US interest in his zeal to be liked by everyone.

How can we complain about Iran wanting nuclear "power"?....after all, we bombed Japan. We are as evil as it gets. We have no right to meddle. It's their "right" as much as it is ours.

How can we complain about terrorism? After all, we had slavery. Terrorism is an understandable (just unwise) response to oppression. And with such a rich history of oppression, we should know.

How can we hold countries accountable for human rights violations...after all, we invented Gitmo!

etc. etc.
6.21.2009 7:18pm
Parared:

It's been a long time since that was true. We sold our soul during the Cold War, when it comes to standing on principle against ugly regimes.


Yawn ... there's a difference between a countries leaders and the country itself. Do you think the US now has some sort of original sin, and can't comment on a moral situation without flagellating ourselves first?

I know evil bastards when I see them. One hint is when they murder unarmed people that disagree with them. We should, ya know, maybe speak out against them.

Obama is (for worse or worse) the voice of america, and to a large extent the free world. Keeping silence so as not to irritate the murderous regime in Iran is placet approval.
6.21.2009 7:48pm
Parared:
placet --> tacit (grrr old age ...)
6.21.2009 7:49pm
second history:
Being America means never having to say you're sorry.
6.21.2009 7:53pm
John Moore (www):

We sold our soul during the Cold War, when it comes to standing on principle against ugly regimes.

Nonsense. We were in a true existential war. We no more sold our soul than Churchill and Roosevelt did allying with Stalin.

Fact Checker demonstrates the absurdity of his pseudonym:


As for the revolutions in the former Soviet Republics, the policies of the U.S. had very little to do with them.


The true idealist realists of the Reagan administration recognized that a combination of democratic idealism and hard power realism were the only things that could defeat the "Evil Empire" (tm RR). They used them appropriately and it worked.

Fact checker, you need to check your facts. Look into the CIA/Vatican work with the Poles, the lynchpin of the destruction. Look at the reaction of the Soviet nomenklatura to Reagn's "Evil Empire" characterizaiton (hint: it blew their minds and caused them to realize that their cause was bogus). Notice how Afghanistan (with out substantial help) wrecked the Soviet myth of superiority and undermined the regime. Look at how "Star Wars" scared the Soviets, as it scares the Russians now, because they, unlike our lefty loons, knew it was a major threat to their ability to terrorize us.

No, we didn't have anything to do with their fall. It was just a coincidence.

Right.

I wonder if any of Obama's "realists" understand this and how it relates to today's Iran problem.
6.21.2009 8:47pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Look at the reaction of the Soviet nomenklatura to Reagn's "Evil Empire" characterizaiton (hint: it blew their minds and caused them to realize that their cause was bogus).

You can't be serious. Reagan called them "evil" and they suddenly woke up and said, "damn, we're evil, let's give it up"? Gosh, if only Truman, Ike, JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, or Carter had thought of that!
6.21.2009 9:21pm
methodact:
During the orange revolution Yanukovitch denounced Our Ukraine as a US puppet too, but ultimately it didn't carry any weight because it was plain to see the US had no part in the popular uprising.
Um, the United States DOES control Ukraine as a client-state and freedom there is same as here - illusory rights. The FBI strong-armed Ukraine, to crush LS Studio, the greatest child modeling studio in all of the world. Now compare the dates on that wiki article with the ones for the Orange Revolution and it is hardly fuzzy math.
6.21.2009 10:11pm
Psalm91 (mail):
Bart:

"Disable the energy infrastructure" of Iran in order to show the people how we support them? Do you have something against electric lights, air conditioning and inside plumbing? Did infrastructure destruction work well in Iraq? Don't you know that the same people you wanted to "bomb, bomb" last year are some of the same ones in the street today? Is this some kind of geopolitical game to you?
6.21.2009 10:48pm
interruptus:

We no more sold our soul than Churchill and Roosevelt did allying with Stalin.

You think having some tin-pot dictator in a two-bit state like Chile as an ally was as important as Stalin's odious but necessary role in defeating Hitler?
6.21.2009 11:22pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
The Soviet Empire had a huge mechanized army in Europe, ICBMs and nuclear subs, and hundreds of millions of people under its control. So maybe we did what we had to do to contain it until it disintegrated from the internal contradictions of socialism. These Muslim Middle Eastern countries are hardly a threat by comparison. We need to get back to the sort of foreign policy vision of our Founders, namely, minding our own goddam business and expecting others to do the same. It's time to stop trying to control outcomes everywhere around the world. It costs too much and is always plagued by unintended consequences--Woodrow Wilson's mucking around in Europe and paving the way for Hitler being the paradigm example. Let economic and technological powerhouse democracies like Japan and Germany step up to handle security in their own regions. Meanwhile if we weren't bankrupting ourselves and overextending our military in stupid "nation-building" military occupations, maybe we'd be in a better position to take action against real threats. As far as I am concerned, Obama has said too much about the Iranian elections already.
6.22.2009 12:18am
Smoothie (mail):
Hilarious as it took all of 2 seconds of the romantic fact deluded what would Reagan do example to pop up. Why do people defend a necon response after 8 years of necon disasters and even claim Reagan was a necon.

If Obama was to "side" with the protestors, essentially putting the USA on a "side" in an Iranian civil strife, what do you think the supreme leader would do? You honestly thing you are helping by taking a side in a country that is deeply nationalistic and paranoid about foreign influence in their politics?

The current leadership's attempt to portray the demonstrators as agents of the West is failing because of Obama's approach. And yet you advocate assisting the current regime's attempt to tag an internal movement as influenced by the outside and marginalize those who support it as agents of the West.

Get off of your own selfish need to chant USA USA USA and think about what is best for the protestors. Your own need to try to validate yourself and criticize Obama advocates a position that puts the people you intend on "helping' in harms way. Either you don't care, or you don't know Iranian politics. Either way, you're wrong and it's good those advocating this are not in charge anymore.
6.22.2009 12:21am
John Moore (www):
Joseph Slater (mail):


You can't be serious. Reagan called them "evil" and they suddenly woke up and said, "damn, we're evil, let's give it up"? Gosh, if only Truman, Ike, JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, or Carter had thought of that!

According to autobiographical accounts, yes. The continuous condemnation of the USSR as an evil organization, highlighted by the evil empire speech, indeed had a dramatic effect on at least the members of the Foreign Ministry.

Do not underestimate the power of ideas and the power of truth. The nomeklatura had access to western news, but it took them a long time to figure out it was for real. Reagan was a big factor in that (although that was only a bit of his overall influence on destroying them).
6.22.2009 12:54am
John Moore (www):

The current leadership's attempt to portray the demonstrators as agents of the West is failing because of Obama's approach.

I suppose you have some information to back that up?

Obama comes off as weak and unwilling to voice the most basic principles, while Sarkozy spoke forcefully and directly. I don't see the Ayatollahs blaming France, do you?

It isn't clear exactly what the right approach should be, but asserting that Obama's typical "vote present" approach - waffling, avoiding the issue, being the last to speak up, is not likely to be the best.
6.22.2009 12:56am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
fact:

let 241 Marines die for no good reason at all


And I think very few people understand how our dear friend Maliki is connected with that event. Speaking of getting into bed with thugs.

==================
parared:

there's a difference between a countries leaders and the country itself. Do you think the US now has some sort of original sin, and can't comment on a moral situation without flagellating ourselves first?


That difference ("between a countries leaders and the country itself") tends to matter when the leaders are unelected dictators. Then the people in "the country itself" can disclaim responsibility for the crimes of their leaders. We don't have that excuse.

A "comment on a moral situation" isn't worth much when the people making the comment lack moral credibility.
6.22.2009 2:21am
Baseballhead (mail):
You can't be serious. Reagan called them "evil" and they suddenly woke up and said, "damn, we're evil, let's give it up"?

According to autobiographical accounts, yes.
Can you offer some references? I'm curious to see the accounts.
6.22.2009 3:26am
Public_Defender (mail):
The update to the main post is pretty much pure, substance-free invective. Did Anderson think he was posting in The Corner?

And Obama hasn't been silent. He helped set the groundwork for the hard(er)liners' electoral defeat. He has also spoken against the violence. But he's smart enough to realize that Iranians have to be the leaders here. Don't get in the way of a revolution that's working.

Unlike Carter, we now have idealism with a plan. If all you have is idealism, you just flop around ineffectively. If all you have is realism, you lose your moral bearings. Idealism tempered by realism gets stuff done.

The goal here is a less hard line regime in Iran. People on the Right have mocked Obama for relying too much on pretty speeches. Obama's handling of Iran shows that he has a very keen understanding of the power of his words, and the limits of that power.
6.22.2009 5:20am
Moneyrunner43 (www):
The Obama whiplash

Obama's followers are developing whiplash. As event unfolded in Iran and Obama said nothing, the refrain was that Obama's refusal to condem the Iranian regime for its crackdown was exactly right. Must no appear to interfere…. Can't do anything anyway…. Condemnation will only give ammunition to the Mullahs. Obama's finely tuned PR machine put out all the reasons why doing nothing, saying nothing was exactly the right thing to do. Going out for frozen custard with the girls was the ultimate geopolitical coup.

Out comes Obama with his condemnation of the Iranian crackdown. The Obama followers now take exactly the opposite approach. Condemning the Iranian regime shows steel. His statement is exactly right. We must assert our moral authority. His condemnation will not strengthen the Iranian regime.

Watching this in action will explain to the current generation of Americans who did not see the Communist Party USA during the 1940s. First, as allies of Hitler, denouncing the warmongers in Washington; then, after Hitler attacked Stalin, doing a 180, overnight.

We were always at war with Eurasia.
6.22.2009 8:24am
Bart (mail):
Psalm91 (mail):

"Disable the energy infrastructure" of Iran in order to show the people how we support them? Do you have something against electric lights, air conditioning and inside plumbing? Did infrastructure destruction work well in Iraq?

The infrastructure to which I refer is the Iranian oil production and refining and electricity.

Disabling this infrastructure would accomplish two goals:

1) Deny the dictatorship funds.

2) Get the citizenry pissed at the dictatorship because it was not providing basic services.

Your example of Iraq was quite apt except you are taking the wrong POV. The attacks on the infrastructure was the most successful strategy by far used by the insurgency in Iraq. You need to think like insurgents when you are working to take down a government.

Finally, you do not need to bomb to cripple infrastructure. Think cyber attacks and other types of sabotage. In the 1980s, we planted malicious code in software the Soviets stole to use in operating their siberian natural gas pipeline, which when installed set off a series of "accidental" explosions along the pipeline, crippling it.
6.22.2009 8:42am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Moneyrunner, I will assume that you are channeling Sarcastro comparing supporters of Obama to supporters of the CP circa the Hitler-Stalin pact.
6.22.2009 9:00am
Ben P:

Disabling this infrastructure would accomplish two goals:

1) Deny the dictatorship funds.

2) Get the citizenry pissed at the dictatorship because it was not providing basic services.



3. Get the Citizenry pissed at US because we're blowing shit up in their country.


We're not running a damn insurgency, we're a third party and a world superpower who already bears a reputation for officious intermeddling.

We blow up things in Iran, the government says See look, you need us to protect you from the West, remember what the British and the Americans did to our country in the past?

All of a sudden the issue becomes not, the Iranian People vs the Iranian government, but the United States vs the Iranian People. I don't you can ever be right in underestimating the patriotism of the Iranian people, regardless of their current government.
6.22.2009 9:20am
Bart (mail):
Ben:

This is why you have CIA and Special Ops doing this behind the scenes, rather than sending in the air force to bomb things. Iran's oil infrastructure has already been breaking down due to lack of proper maintenance and repairs. We could give that natural degradation a strategic shove here and there to achieve collapse. Then you could plant misinformation concerning the causes of collapse blaming regime incompetence and corruption.

The only limits on special ops like this are the imaginations, or lack thereof, in the Obama Administration.
6.22.2009 10:18am
Joe The Plumber (mail):
divisions within the Democratic Party and possibly within the Obama administration, not just between idealists and realists

"Divisions"?

Divisions??

The Democrat party is 4-square on the side of tyranny.
6.22.2009 11:06am
George Smith:
Obama has two foreign policy goals: (1) be adored by Western Europe, and (2) minimalize the interference of foreign policy matters with the expansion and consolidation of government power in the US. He really doesn't care about Iran, or any place else for that matter, except to the extent he has to be bothered by events there.
6.22.2009 11:20am
rosetta's stones:
Bart, the Iranian petro infrastructure will continue to erode, even without our push, much as the Sovs did, much as Brother Hugo's will, now that he's turning red.

I think JM's got it right above, that Reagan's rhetoric was quite powerful during the Cold War's endgame. The "Evil Empire" quote worked all around, on all sides of the equation, including the pointy heads and academics pinks in this country and especially in Europe. They were riled up, but lost much of the argument, and the Pershing II's were deployed, which brought clarity and action to the rhetoric, and let the commies know where the situation truly stood, no matter their internal fantasies.

Soon, the commies raised up Comrade Gorbachev (a transitional stooge, and soon to be case aside), but while the pinks were all celebrating their hero, and Time magazine had him on the cover as Man of the Year, Reagan recognized the time was now ripe for the next round of rhetoric, and he demurely sojourned to Germany, to deliver the most powerful phrase spoken during the Cold War... and right when it most mattered and could prompt true change, and give hope to all those enslaved, who were working for that change.

Thatcher called him "The Great Liberator". I won't go that far, because people liberate themselves, but they gotta have friends.

It starts with rhetoric, but the people on all sides had to be ready to hear the rhetoric, and make use of it productively. They were then, are they now?
6.22.2009 11:28am
Thales (mail) (www):
Bart writes:

"This is why you have CIA and Special Ops doing this behind the scenes"

Ah yes. That tactic worked so well when they and the British installed the Shah and prompted the 1979 revolution--surely that sordid history has nothing to do with whether it would be wise for the U.S. to keep quiet at this moment (of course all right-thinking people, Obama included, are privately hoping for a Mousavi victory, which means at least incremental progress toward reform--but public speech has different dimensions) and why only John McCain and Fox News are urging Obama to act as you suggest. It worked very well in our numerous attempts to kill Castro and Saddam Hussein. A bang up job in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America creating and propping up regimes that oppose one of our temporary enemies, but wind up hating and resenting us when the enemy is gone . . .

If it were all that simple.
6.22.2009 11:30am
Joe The Plumber (mail):
Unlike Carter, we now have idealism with a plan

Really?

And the "plan" would be what, exactly?
6.22.2009 11:41am
Joe The Plumber (mail):
If Obama was to "side" with the protestors, essentially putting the USA on a "side" in an Iranian civil strife, what do you think the supreme leader would do? You honestly thing you are helping by taking a side in a country that is deeply nationalistic and paranoid about foreign influence in their politics?

I love watching you moral equivocating lefitsts in action.

Anyway,


Germany sides with those Iranians who want to exercise their right to freedom of expression and assembly", Merkel declared on Sunday; making it one of the strongest messages sent by any Western leader to Iran so far. Chancellor Merkel also called on Tehran to allow peaceful demonstrations, to refrain from using force against protestors, and to release imprisoned opposition figures. "Human and civil rights have to be fully respected," she stated. Merkel further demanded that restrictions placed on foreign media covering the widespread protests across Tehran and the rest of the country be lifted.


What I find funny is people like you have convinced yourself you're for "freedom" and "liberty"
6.22.2009 12:26pm
Willis (mail):
Obama's problem is he believes all of the Fanon and other commie and anti-colonialist screeds he read in college (and is no doubt still reading today thanks to the Hugo Chavez Book of the Month Club he apparently signed up for). He sees the US as the problem - even going so far as to apologize for colonialism that the US never practiced. He is far more leftwing than advertised. The fact is he and Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright have a lot more in common than living in the same neighborhood.
6.22.2009 12:41pm
vmark1:
This is priceless

>The Rev Al Sharpton, the headline-grabbing US civil rights leader, has announced plans to visit the four Uighurs in Bermuda today to support Bermuda's "humanitarian gesture". The Uighurs say that they are tired and may not attend the meeting.<<<

Too tired to meet w/BIG AL!???!!
6.22.2009 1:31pm
rrr (mail):
Wow. This thread devolved into a game of "Oh yea? You're stupider!" very quickly, didn't it?
6.22.2009 2:20pm
Bart (mail):
Tales:

The Reagan Doctrine for the advancement of democracy without going to war was rather successful. Compare the number of democracies and near democracies across the world before and after the Reagan Administration.

The Middle East could use a healthy dose of the same.
6.22.2009 3:02pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Bart:

"The Reagan Doctrine for the advancement of democracy." I am unaware that such a doctrine existed. I am aware of the Reagan Doctrine to oppose Soviet influence globally, regardless of whether such opposition involved the promotion of democracy (not often, but sometimes) or creating or strengthening right-wing or theocratic dictatorships (see, e.g., every country in the Middle East and Latin America in which the Reagan administration meddled).
6.22.2009 4:16pm
junyo:
Damn that Bush and his wars for oil! Damn him to hell!
...for real politics to happen you need space. There are a million things to hate about President Bush's costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. "Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous," said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. "It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were."

So what was the excuse for the tepid response again? Oh yeah... Damn that Bush and his wars for oil!
The Bush team demonized them, and they demonized the Bush team. Autocratic regimes, like Iran's, drew energy and legitimacy from that confrontation, and it made it very easy for them to discredit anyone associated with America. Mr. Obama's soft power has defused a lot of that. As result, "pro-American" is not such an insult anymore.

Let's face it; "realism" is just a euphemism for 'I don't really give a shit about anybody's freedom but my own'.
6.22.2009 4:35pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):

Moneyrunner, I will assume that you are channeling Sarcastro comparing supporters of Obama to supporters of the CP circa the Hitler-Stalin pact.



Friend Joe, why would you assume that? What I - and many other observers find interesting - is the ability of Liberals to change tacks at a moment's notice, not even taking a brief moment to give their prior positions a decent burial. Just like Stalin's supporters circa WW2. Patriots all, we are told.

Adherence to a cult of personality rather than principle is not a pretty sight. It seems that Marc Rubin is a more principled Liberal. Start the revolution without me is a thorough evisceration of Obama on this issue.

Regards
6.22.2009 5:54pm
Fat Man (mail) (www):
The foreign policy of the Democrat party can be most parsimoniously explained as one part nostalgia for the Soviet Union (they loved it), one part hatred of George W. Bush, one part hatred of the United States of America, one part idolatry of the United Nations, and a healthy dash of Boomer narcissism.

They can't be realists because they have no conception of reality (way too frightening), and they can't be idealists because their ideals (Soviet Union, UN) are so delusional.
6.22.2009 5:55pm
RPT (mail):
Krauthammer the realist bows down to the Supreme Leader:

"Last Friday, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer disdainfully attacked President Obama for referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the "Supreme Leader" of Iran. "'Supreme Leader'? Note the abject solicitousness with which the American president confers this honorific on a clerical dictator," wrote Krauthammer. But during an interview on Dennis Miller's radio show today, Krauthammer himself referred to the ayatollah as "Supreme Leader"".
6.22.2009 8:32pm
Smoothie (mail):
Joe,

"I love watching you moral equivocating lefitsts[sic] in action." Nice analysis there, oh wait, that wasn't any analysis other than name calling. Good job with building your "leftist" boogieman in order to try to win an argument.

Lets try to morally justify your position. Because you feel it is the United State's "duty" to stand up for what's "right" you advocate the US do "something" to take sides in the dispute, even though doing so will likely harm the movement itself. That's a morally righteous position there.

Sounds like good old GWB logic, let's not think a few steps ahead on how we can best help the people we want to support, but instead see things in black and white and shoot from the hip in our actions.

Self perceived moral certainty at the cost of a moral result. We've had 8 years of saying things to make us feel good at home, at the sacrifice of doing what would help achieve a good result. Time for a new approach guy.

And your quote from Germany is substantively nothing different than what Obama already has said.
6.22.2009 8:36pm
John Moore (www):

We've had 8 years of saying things to make us feel good at home, at the sacrifice of doing what would help achieve a good result.


When are folks going to get over BDS?

The Bush years were mixed. One thing is clear, however - the Iranian protesters learned from Iraq that democracy and freedom are possible in a Shiite Muslim society. That lesson would not have been possible without Bush's policy.

While I fear the Iranian nascent revolution will fail, it was clearly aided by Bush's policies.
6.22.2009 9:32pm
Psalm91 (mail):
FM:

"They can't be realists because they have no conception of reality (way too frightening), and they can't be idealists because their ideals (Soviet Union, UN) are so delusional."

The world is crying out for more neo-con blustering from the combat-hardened likes of "reality-based" Limbaugh, Goldberg, Kristol, Ledeen, Bolton, Cantor, etc.
6.22.2009 9:50pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Eli is not sure that Mousavi and Rafsanjavi are on our side. How about you folk.
6.22.2009 9:51pm
The River Temoc (mail):
Sure...just about any speech he's given in the last 6 months while away from US soil. Read the Cairo speech.

I have. I have seen nothing in there that says "that we are so bad that we cannot be an example to anyone" -- which is the contention that you've been asked to provide examples of.

Quite the contrary, in fact. In the Cairo speech, Obama said:

The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Maybe I am illiterate or something, but I do not see how this says that the U.S. is so bad that it cannot be an example to anyone.

Would you care to cite some language that actually upholds your interpretation of the Cairo speech?

Krauthammer in April summed up his European tour pretty well too

You were asked to provide examples of what Obama said, not Krauthammer's (bizarro) interpretation of what he said.

Michelle Obama...

You were asked to provide examples of what Obama himself said, not what his wife said.

If you went to school in the United States in the 70's and 80's (at least in California where I did) that's pretty much all the teachers were teaching

You were asked to provide example of what Obama said, not what some idiot teacher in California thirty years ago said.

I think that you are sour because Obama has reached out to the Muslim world and illustrated that there is a better way to conduct foreign policy than harping on about axes of evil.
6.22.2009 11:46pm
The River Temoc (mail):
Lets try to morally justify your position. Because you feel it is the United State's "duty" to stand up for what's "right" you advocate the US do "something" to take sides in the dispute, even though doing so will likely harm the movement itself. That's a morally righteous position there.

That is because they're not interested in the outcome of the Iranian revolution, or in the American national interest, but in Obama-bashing.

One of the more hard-core neocons, Daniel Pipes, even said he would have voted for Ahmadinejad.
6.22.2009 11:49pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
But during an interview on Dennis Miller's radio show today, Krauthammer himself referred to the ayatollah as "Supreme Leader"".


IOKIYAR.

Here's the link with helpful details.
6.22.2009 11:52pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Daniel Pipes, even said he would have voted for Ahmadinejad.


Exactly. "I am rooting for Ahmadinejad."
6.22.2009 11:55pm
The River Temoc (mail):
All of you people citing Reagan as an example of what Obama should do are missing a fundamental point: Obama *is* doing what Reagan did.

Reagan gave his "tear down this wall" speech very early on in the Gorbachev years (1987, IIRC), well before the fall of the wall actually became plausible. The best analogue to this speech was Obama's speech in Cairo, where he talked about the importance of freedom and its compatibility with Islam.

By 1989, once the Eastern European communist regimes appeared weak, George H.W. Bush was very careful to portray the revolutions in Eastern Europe as compatible with the interests of the Soviet Union. (Indeed, he even tacitly promised that NATO would not be expanded beyond Germany; in this sense, Clinton was much more hawkish than Bush I. He did this to ensure that Soviet hardliners would not send tanks back into Eastern Europe.)
6.22.2009 11:58pm
Sarcastro (www):
if the Mullahs fall, Obama is the Great World Leader that did what Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II couldn't do. Does ANYONE think this is good????? Obama looks like superman if the Mullahs fall. The USA is toast and Israel is dead...
6.23.2009 12:19am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Obama looks like superman if the Mullahs fall.


Which is why people like Pipes were rooting for Ahmadinejad.
6.23.2009 12:25am
Ricardo (mail):
Interestingly, Daniel Pipes only criticizes "leftists" for daring to take issue with him on supporting the Holocaust-denying, paranoid, semi-educated Ahmadinejad. Not a word of criticism for Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Sen. Lindsey Graham and the countless other conservatives and Republicans who have lashed out at the President for not taking sides.

Former Rudolf Giuliani adviser Pipes certainly knows which side is buttering his bread.
6.23.2009 1:40am
rosetta's stones:

"All of you people citing Reagan as an example of what Obama should do are missing a fundamental point: Obama *is* doing what Reagan did."


Disagree. The Obama World Apology Tour 2009 is the polar opposite of what Reagan did. Reagan called the Sovs an evil empire, and averred that they were going to be swept into the dustbin of history... as a sad chapter... a footnote. Explicitly and foundationally in Reagan's rhetoric, the Sovs had to change, or die. That's how he entered into the relationship. Quite bold, and quite unlike Obama's apologia.

Obama's offer for immediate, high level negotiations, directly with the mullahs, without preconditions, was an invitation for the mullahs to rig this recent election, and ensure that the Holocaust-celebrating, nuke bomb-building, "Death-to-America" shouting Ahmadinnerjacket would be sitting there at the table with Obama.

Is this not obvious, even to the most batsh!t crazy Koz Kid?

And now, he's trapped in his past rhetoric, as events have overtaken that stupidity.

I suspect Hillary broke her arm rapping it upside Obama's head, to disavow him of all the stupidity that's rubbed off on him these past 3 years on the rubber chicken circuit, begging money off the BDSers, moveon.org et al.

Reagan was always going to speak with the Sovs, even as he destabilized them and questioned their legitimacy. He negotiated from a position of strength, militarily and rhetorically. Obama has yet to learn that skill. It's early, and Hillary may yet have to break her other arm on his thick skull, but there's much opportunity for him to get back on track, and help everybody, on all sides.
6.23.2009 8:49am
The River Temoc (mail):
Reagan called the Sovs an evil empire, and averred that they were going to be swept into the dustbin of history...in Reagan's rhetoric, the Sovs had to change, or die.

Except that at the Rejkjavik summit (1987, IIRC) he also floated a proposal to abolish all nuclear weapons and said that it occurred to him that the Soviets feared nuclear war as much as we did.

And at a subsequent speech at the UN, he even stated that the nations of the world would come together in the event of an alien invasion. Setting aside the question of whether he had watched one too many episodes of "The Twilight Zone," that comment hardly suggests someone who thinks the Soviets had to "change or die."

There was also the whole issue of Iran-Contra, which (merits of the policy aside) shows that Reagan could be quite pragamtic.

I would also disagree with your characterization of Obama's speech as a "World Apology Tour." Does the importance of credibility in our foreign policy mean nothing to you?

...nuke bomb-building, "Death-to-America" shouting Ahmadinnerjacket would be sitting there at the table with Obama...

Rather like Nixon dining with Mao, I would say. And I know of no serious foreign policy analyst who says that Nixon did the wrong thing in pursuing an overture to China.
6.23.2009 11:13am
geokstr (mail):

jukeboxgrad:

Obama looks like superman if the Mullahs fall.

Which is why people like Pipes were rooting for Ahmadinejad.

I call BS.

As usual, the left using a creationist debate tactic of ripping the words of an opponent totally out of context, then inserting their own context as "proof" of the left's righteousness. Alinsky would be proud.

Prior to the elections, Mousavi was known to be basically just a smoother talking Ahmedinajad, with no real differences concerning Israel, the nuke program, or anything else. Pipes' article that you linked to was written on June 12th, before the election results were known.

What Pipes was obviously saying was that it's better to have the world see the thuggish Ahmedinajad as the face of Iran than someone who could lull the world to sleep with nice words and then do exactly the same thing.

Since the election, this unrest has taken on a life of its own, and likely in a direction that Mousavi didn't anticipate at all. Had he just been elected outright, there would be no unrest or calls for the "Supreme Leader" to step down, just more of the same.
6.23.2009 11:19am
geokstr (mail):

jukeboxgrad:
But during an interview on Dennis Miller's radio show today, Krauthammer himself referred to the ayatollah as "Supreme Leader"".

What a joke.

I doubt very much that Krauthammer was calling him the "Supreme Leader" out of respect, as Obama would, probably with a nice curtsey. He was no doubt being either sarcastic or condescending or both. If Krauthammer had said that the "so-called "Supreme Leader" was a homocidal maniac", you'd probably have figured out a way to claim that, see, he called him "Supreme Leader" just like Obama does.

More twising. You guys sure are good at that.
6.23.2009 11:29am
rosetta's stones:

...that comment hardly suggests someone who thinks the Soviets had to "change or die."


None of your various non sequiturs suggest anything to the opposite of Reagan's stated position, that the Sovs were about to be relegated to the dustbin of history, as an evil empire, nor that Reagan ever closed the door on negotiations with them along their way to the dustbin... he didn't.

Believe me, I watched the Left squeal like stuck pigs when he said it, much as you seem to be doing now, because they knew then what he was saying, and what it meant for them, and their beliefs. Guess what, he meant it, and he was right. Surprising to hear somebody coming up with this sorta revisionist history, and even comparing these principled actions to Obama's frickin' apologias, but there you go.







I would also disagree with your characterization of Obama's speech as a "World Apology Tour." Does the importance of credibility in our foreign policy mean nothing to you?


It does, and that's why the Obama World Apology Tour 2009 is such a tremendous blunder. It has no purpose, other than making him feel good, apparently. However, you're welcome to provide evidence of this increased US foreign policy "credibility" you're claiming... real evidence of it... if you have any.








"...nuke bomb-building, "Death-to-America" shouting Ahmadinnerjacket would be sitting there at the table with Obama..."




"Rather like Nixon dining with Mao, I would say."


No, not at all like dining with Mao, I would say. China was a nuclear power, like the Sovs, and playing the 2 off against each other was a masterstroke of diplomacy. Obama encouraging the mullahs to elect one thug over another is merely foolishness, on stilts. It has no underlying purpose, other than making him feel good, apparently.

Oh, and you forgot the "Holocaust-celebrating" portion of the Ahmadinnerjacket bio.

Like I say, even the most tinfoil hatted Koz Kid can see that Obama's foolishness invited the mullahs to rig that election.

And now, what's he gonna do? Events have intervened, and he's trapped by his past rhetoric, and Hillary's winding up for another headknocking.

And that can't feel very good.
6.23.2009 11:45am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Like I say, even the most tinfoil hatted Koz Kid can see that Obama's foolishness invited the mullahs to rig that election.

Um, no. The tone of Obama's speech was fine, but even if it wasn't, the idea that a few phrases here or there talking to a country that we have no diplomatic relations with anyway "invited" the Mullahs to do anything they wouldn't have done to try to maintain their poser anyway makes the classic It's All About Us mistake. For that matter, calling Iran part of the "Axis of Evil" didn't help/change things either.

It must be pretty to think that just a few changes in a U.S. president's speech one way or another will cause despotic rulers to behave differently. But frankly, even the most tinfoil hatted Red State poster must see this is just a clueless, desperate way to try to take shots at Obama. OH NOES, HE'S EATING ICE CREAM!!!
6.23.2009 3:38pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
"power" not "poser." Although "poser" kind of almost makes sense.
6.23.2009 3:39pm
rosetta's stones:
No, I have no need to take shots at Obama, Slater, not unless he deserves them.

And yes, the mullahs have every need to send up the kookiest tool in the shed, if a US president is on record saying he's going to open up unconditional dialogue with that tool. And it didn't just happen in one speech, it was an Obama campaign staple. The mullahs have long known what they'd be doing this election... rigging it.

Take off your tin foil hat, and you'll see the logical train of action here. Obama's actions invited electoral mischief.

No, Iran is not all about us, from our perspective. But, for the mullahs, their future is much about the US, and they know it. "Death to America" rings out every Friday, if you need confirmation.

And heck, I don't even care which of these 2 thugs gets in, you wanna know the truth. They are both selected by the same group of thugs, and my guess is that this is merely an internal mullah power struggle, factions fighting over shares of the swag in state owned industries, and whose brother-in-law gets hired.

The important thing is that the Iranian people now recognize this as an impetus for change, and are working for that. Many thanks to Obama for providing that impetus, even if he was just an unwitting dupe.

Now, his previous blather can go in the garbage can where it belongs, and he can attempt to catch up with events in some rational way. That's fine, and no shame in starting slow, and shedding past foolishness as events progress. But let's be clear, that's what he's doing, and not channeling Reagan somehow.
6.23.2009 4:48pm
rosetta's stones:
Slater,

I'm yet ambivalent about the whole "Axis of Evil" statement, but I do sense a bit of rearguard bullpen warmup from you on the issue. Laying the groundwork for a future argument, perhaps?

If events proceed in Iran and Iraq positively, are you still gonna be making that case, or are you going to begrudgingly give Bushitler some credit?
6.23.2009 4:54pm
RPT (mail):
"RS:

Take off your tin foil hat, and you'll see the logical train of action here. Obama's actions invited electoral mischief."

This is quite true. If McCain had been elected and bombed Iran, the election would not have been stolen.
6.23.2009 5:24pm
rosetta's stones:
Good point. Obama is a tenderfoot, but even that is often preferable to a gnarled-up old kook.
6.23.2009 5:31pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
rosetta's:

Son, I was beginning to think you made sense at least half the time, but you really have to get off this "OMG if only Obama had phrased things differently, the mullahs would be acting differently" horsehockey.

Also, pointing out that Bush's "tough" talk didn't make things better re Iran is not a "rearguard bullpen action" (whatever that means): it's proof of my point. Iran wasn't quaking in its collective boots or acting better when Bush did that. Now maybe things would actually be worse had McCain's insane "bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran" become the talk of a president, but beyond that, the Mullahs want to stay in power whatever the U.S. prez says.

Further, Obama isn't trying to talk to the Mullahs, he's talking to the people of Iran, which is the smart move. It may not work, but neither has anything else we've tried. Take off the anti-Obama glasses and all I've said above is really pretty obvious.
6.23.2009 5:48pm
rosetta's stones:
No, Slater, it's not a matter of Obama "phrasing things differently"... as he's phrased it any number of different ways over the many, many months he's been phrasing it... that he'd sit down and negotiate with the mullahs' boy... without preconditions... even as that boy was already acting out on the international stage... talking mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv for example.

So quite naturally, the mullahs stuck with the kook, as Obama assured them he'd gladly be the kook's homie at the negotiating table. So they rigged the election accordingly, as Obama's actions surely invited them to do.

And yes, the mullahs are quaking in their boots, rest assured. Whenever you hear Ahmadinnerjacket or any other totalitarian yapping loudly against "the other" on the world stage, they are likely destabilized at home, and quaking. This is what Ahmanutjob has been doing for years now, and we also know the economic situation in Iran is eroding. This is Totalitarian 101, but maybe you need to start at the 51 level.

Still ambivalent that Bush's "Axis" statement is a prime catalyst here, but the mullahs know they're sitting on a throne of bayonets, and things can change suddenly in such cases, and they know it. You keep the bullpen warmup going... because there's a chance you're gonna have to come into the game with it... if things turn for the good here in Iraq/Iran.

Obama's direct proposals to the mullahs, oft repeated throughout his campaign, are direct rebuttal to your claim that Obama is speaking to the Iranian people. He wasn't. He was speaking to the totalitarians... not the Iranian people.

Sure, he's trying to catch up with events now, and God bless him for doing so. But again, let's be clear... he's catching up. He's following, and shedding his past stupidity in the process.
6.23.2009 6:42pm
Desiderius:
"Where I would like to see us all wind up is in some form of "chastened idealism," some form of "tempered idealism." Wouldn't you?"

Sure. And your account of Bacchanalian realism among the former idealists has the ring of truth to it. I would chasten your expectations of getting back to some sort of idealism, however. That relief was the relief of a generation finally allowed to be what they now are: old. They were determined to die before they got there, but some didn't quite make it.

The old tend to be conservative cum reactionary. Stodgy. Set in their ways. Realists extraordinaire. We now suffer from a Codger Boom, and will likely continue to so suffer until Meathead goes on to join Archie in the great hereafter.

As for Bart's Cloak and Dagger shenanigans, I hope they soon head the same way. Subversion is for those afraid of the light of day. That's not us.
6.23.2009 7:26pm
Desiderius:
KA,

Then again, perhaps there is some hope.
6.23.2009 7:30pm
The River Temoc (mail):
I watched the Left squeal like stuck pigs...
...sorta revisionist history...
...Obama's frickin' apologias...
...Ahmadinnerjacket...
...tinfoil hatted Koz Kid...
...Obama started it...


Your meds called. Someone forgot to take them.

I'll happily continue this debate when you stop trying to find a way to blame America first.
6.24.2009 9:32am
rosetta's stones:
Probably smart of you to run away whining. There wasn't much of a debate, I'd agree, after you claimed Obama was channeling Reagan here.
6.24.2009 9:47am

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