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June 20, 2009

President Coward Comes Out From Under His Desk

Earlier this week I had a disagreement with some coworkers about the President's so-called "strategy" on the Iranian protests. Some very overeducated people assured me that it was a "smart play" to sit on the sidelines, neither provoking nor encouraging either side. Of course, inaction is easily understood as a supporting the status quo. In Iran's case the status quo is tyranny and oppression.

I explained to my coworkers that even if Mousavi is only fractionally better than Ahmadinejad, it is right for the U.S. to demonstrate support for free and fair elections. And, in an appeal to their constant blather about losing the "moral high ground", I encouraged them to consider the U.S. taking a moral stance against brutality. Suddenly, every last one of them was a pragmatist.

They told me that Obama should not do anything that would sour relations between the current and likely continuing government (they say) of Iran. That he clearly "has a plan" and is "demonstrating courage" by sticking to it in the face of criticism.

On Monday, I'm going to have to work very hard not to say HA HA YOU STUPID, STUPID BASTARDS. The President has reversed course on Iran. He's decided to caution the Iranian government about its thuggery. He threw whatever "smart play" he had out the window and I suspect it's because the heat was getting to him.

Click through. Read that statement and try and explain why it could not have been issued Monday. The only difference between now and then is that more people are dead and the protests are looking more and more like a revolution. Obama was banking on the whole thing dying off. Now he's left scrambling to not be the last head of state in the West to condemn the Iranian government.

Will it be a revolution? I'm not that optimistic, but it is the seed of something. Americans tended to think of Iran as an oppressive state even prior to last week. The lack of freedoms always loomed large in our eyes. But the Iranians didn't think that way. It was their country, good or bad, and everyone has problems, right?. Now, however, do you think any of the ordinary citizens who have been abused by the police are going to forget that this isn't mere police brutality, but violence actually ordered by their own government?

There is no way to pretend anymore that incidents of oppression are isolated, rare events--the exception, not the rule. Now they know how very less than free they are and the seed of something new is planted. What remains to be seen is whether they will be satisfied if the mullahs sack Ahmadinejad. Maybe they just might recognize that the root of the problem is the Guardian Council. I suspect the mullahs are aware of this possibility, which is why a few of them are now promising limited recounts.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:29 PM

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