TO WHAT END?…. For all the far-right hand-wringing about whether President Obama is doing “enough” to intervene in Iran, I still don’t know what, exactly, conservatives think will happen if the administration takes a harder line.
Dave Weigel has a great report today on neocons and congressional Republicans who are making all kinds of demands, without much in the way of depth.
The president, they argue, has an opening — if not a responsibility — to make a statement on the elections that aligns the United States with reformist elements inside of Iran. Monday began with a few disconnected critiques of the president’s silence, and ended with calls for a bold Obama statement from leading neoconservatives and one of the Republican Party’s most prominent leaders in the House.
The Heritage Foundation, Michael Ledeen, Daniel Pipes (who had recently rooted for an outright Ahmadinejad victory), and a variety of leading congressional Republicans keep making oblique demands. Obama should “act.” The U.S. should “show resolve.” The president needs to “support” Iranians.
I keep wanting to hear these activists answer the follow-up question: and then what?
If the president issued a sweeping condemnation of the Iranian political process, what do the neocons and other Republicans see happening? Iranians might take to the streets to protest their government? Call me crazy, but I think they’ve already done this. Demonstrators aren’t waiting for the U.S. president to give them a green light. Indeed, you also might have noticed that Iranian protestors haven’t called out for more U.S. support at all.
By now, the policy dynamic is no doubt familiar. The more the president pushes, the more it helps Ahmadinejad. It’s why so many foreign policy experts have lauded Obama’s restraint — because to do what his conservative detractors want would be to run the risk of “making things a lot worse,” as Gary Sick, a former National Security Council expert on Iran in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, put it.
With that in mind, the president appeared alongside South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak this morning at the White House and reminded his audience that “it’s not productive” for the U.S. president “to be seen as meddling in Iranian elections.” Obama added, however, that he has “deep concerns about the election,” and expressed distress over the “violence directed at peaceful protesters.”
The president went on to say that “something has happened in Iran…. How that plays out over the next several days and several weeks is something for the Iranian people to decide.”
The right will no doubt continue to complain. Given that they’ve been wrong about practically every foreign policy issue for decades, and that their advice here is backwards, here’s hoping the White House ignores them.