‘Monitoring’ may have to do for now

‘MONITORING’ MAY HAVE TO DO FOR NOW…. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today that the administration is “impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm” the Iranian election generated, and is now “monitor[ing] the entire situation closely, including reports of irregularities.”

Likewise, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added her own interest in the “enthusiasm and the very vigorous debate and dialogue that occurred in the lead up to the Iranian elections,” adding that the State Department is “monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran, but we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide.”

It’s tempting to think “monitoring the situation” is not only passive, but unproductive. It’s why I was interested in this item from Spencer Ackerman, who talked to the strongly anti-Ahmedinejad Hadi Ghaemi, a spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

“…I think it’s wise for the U.S. government to keep its distance,” Ghaemi says. The White House can and should “show concern for human life and protesters’ safety and promote tolerance and dialogue.” But to get any further involved, even rhetorically, would “instigate the cry that the reformers are somehow driven and directed by the U.S., whether under Bush or under Obama, and there’s no reason to give that unfounded allegation” any chance to spread. […]

After years of being told in this country that no initiative for the expansion of global human rights will occur absent active U.S. support, Ghaemi’s advice can come across as passivity or indifference. But that reflects a certain arrogance, and occurs at the expense of the goal in question. “We should not have the U.S. lead,” says Ghaemi.

In other words, the more the administration pushes, the less it’s likely to help. So, we get a lot of “monitoring the situation,” with subtle references to “reports of irregularities” and “hopes” that the outcome “reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people.”