Kristol’s advice to conservatives

KRISTOL’S ADVICE TO CONSERVATIVES…. In a post this morning at the Weekly Standard‘s blog, Bill Kristol encourages conservatives to be constructive in their concerns about the Obama administration and U.S. policy towards Iran.

[Obama] is our president. We could be at an historical inflection point in Iran. The United States may be able to play an important role. The task now is to explain what the Obama administration (and Congress) should be saying and doing, and to urge them to do what they should be doing. Presuming ahead of time that Obama will fail to exercise leadership, and cataloguing this episode pre-emptively as another in a list of Obama failures, would be a mistake. The U.S. has a huge stake in the possible transformation, or at least reformation, of the Iranian regime. If there’s some chance of that happening, and some chance of U.S. policy contributing to that outcome, we should hope Obama does the right thing, and urge and pressure him to do so — because then the United States will be doing the right thing, and the United States, and the world, will benefit.

This too is the role of a loyal opposition.

At first blush, this seems like gracious sincerity on Kristol’s part. His post, in effect, encourages the right to not root for failure — a habit conservatives have embraced with some enthusiasm since Jan. 20. Indeed, by criticizing the right’s reflexive position of “cataloguing this episode pre-emptively as another in a list of Obama failures,” Kristol is indirectly slamming the insulting rhetoric we heard from Mitt Romney yesterday.

The concern, though, is what Kristol has in mind when he’s “explaining” to the president and lawmakers what they “should be saying and doing.” On Fox News yesterday, for example, he recommended that the West press for “international observers to review whether this was a fair election,” and then possibly having the U.S. and Europe demand “another election.'”

As Spencer Ackerman, following up on some fine reporting over the weekend, re-emphasized this morning, that would be a mistake.

I don’t presume that the Iranian opposition speaks with one voice. But what’s been very, very striking about following the #iranelection hashtag on Twitter is how few tweets from Iran are calling for U.S. involvement. In my piece today, I report that U.S.-based Iranian human rights activists believe that Obama should speak up for human rights in Iran and say little else, out of fear that greater U.S. involvement will risk delegitmizing the Iranian opposition. Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council told me that every non-Iranian needs to be “two steps behind the opposition and not two steps ahead,” as the Iranians “have tremendous pride in doing this themselves.” […]

[A]n American voice is more likely to be counterproductive than helpful…. For the United States to weigh in on what Iran ought to do can’t possibly help. It’s time to treat Iran in terms of what aids the opposition, not what makes us feel good about ourselves.

I get the sense that Kristol, his courteous post notwithstanding, would be far less polite in recommending a different course of action.