DO THEY KNOW THE OTHER SIDE EXISTS?…. I’ll give the Weekly Standard credit for clarity. The conservative magazine published two very similar pieces today — one from Stephen Hayes and William Kristol, the other from Fred Barnes — offering the identical attack with indistinguishable language: they want President Obama to do more to intervene in Iran.
The pieces are almost comical in their belligerence towards the White House. Hayes and Kristol lament Obama’s “weakness,” and described the U.S. president as “a de facto ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.” Barnes insists, “Obama has tilted in favor of the regime. The result is personal shame (for Obama) and policy shame (for the United States).”
What I find interesting about the 2,000 words of the conservatives’ angry and righteous denigration is how remarkably narrow it is. For Hayes, Kristol, and Barnes, it’s almost as if the argument presented by the president is so self-evidently horrible, they don’t feel the need to explain why they think it’s wrong.
By now, we’ve all heard the pitch. Obama believes it would be counterproductive for Iranian protestors for the U.S. to intervene on their behalf. The more Americans weigh in to “help” reformers, the more it’s likely to help Khamenei and Ahmadinejad — throwing them a public-relations life preserver when they need it most — and the easier it is to make dissidents look like American stooges.
Gary Sick, a former National Security Council expert on Iran in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations — not, in other words, a liberal activist or party hack — explained the other day, “The Obama administration has handled this pretty well. There’s nothing we can do in a proactive way that is going to improve things. We could make things a lot worse.”
It’s a position endorsed by other Republicans such as Dick Lugar and Henry Kissinger. Nick Burns, an Undersecretary of State in the Bush administration, said this week that Ahmadinejad “would like nothing better than to see aggressive statements, a series of statements, from the United States which try to put the U.S. at the center of this.”
Why do the neocons believe this is a misguided approach? We don’t know; they won’t say. Jon Chait noted yesterday:
What’s remarkable to me is that those on the other side refuses to rebut it. Today’s Washington Post op-ed page has two more columns lambasting Obama for failing to embrace the demonstrators. Today’s offerings are by Charles Krauthammer and Paul Wolfowitz. Neither one of them even mentions, let alone answers, Obama’s argument for why embracing the demonstrators would be counterproductive.
I don’t understand how you could write a column without ever once addressing the primary argument for the proposition you’re arguing against. The low quality of argument on this topic from the right is striking.
Chait’s criticism of Krauthammer and Wolfowitz applies just as easily to Hayes, Kristol, and Barnes. All five of them are so focused on attacking Obama, they never quite get around to refuting the argument from the president they find so offensive.
Is the administration’s position justified? Is it sensible? Might it be the responsible approach under the circumstances? The strategy is not above reproach, but the Weekly Stanard neocons just won’t, or can’t, challenge the policy. It’s bizarre.