‘Watching the Fall of Islamic Theocracy’

The protests in Iran have entered a third week and the state media acknowledges that the death toll has reached 19 and that hundreds have been injured. Fareed Zakaria, a man not noted for idle leaps, proclaims, “we are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy.”

In an interview with CNN, he explains:

No, I don’t mean the Iranian regime will fall soon. It may — I certainly hope it will — but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian regime.

The regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists had divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea was at its heart. Last week, that ideology suffered a fatal wound.

When the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “divine assessment,” he was indicating it was divinely sanctioned. But no one bought it. He was forced to accept the need for an inquiry into the election. The Guardian Council, Iran’s supreme constitutional body, met with the candidates and promised to investigate and perhaps recount some votes. Khamenei has subsequently hardened his position but that is now irrelevant. Something very important has been laid bare in Iran today — legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from popular support.

As for the United States,

I would say continue what we have been doing. By reaching out to Iran, publicly and repeatedly, President Obama has made it extremely difficult for the Iranian regime to claim that they are battling an aggressive America bent on attacking Iran. In his inaugural address, his New Year greetings, and his Cairo speech, there is a consistent effort to convey respect and friendship for Iranians. That is why Khamenei reacted so angrily to the New Year greeting. It undermined the image of the Great Satan that he routinely paints in his sermons. In his Friday sermon, Khamenei said that the United States, Israel, and especially the United Kingdom were behind the street protests, an accusation that will surely sound ridiculous to most Iranians. The fact that Obama has been cautious in his reaction makes it all the harder for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to wrap themselves in a nationalist flag.

I think a good historic analogy is President George H.W. Bush’s cautious response to the cracks in the Soviet empire in 1989. Then, many neo-conservatives were livid with Bush for not loudly supporting those trying to topple the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But Bush’s concern was that the situation was fragile. Those regimes could easily crack down on the protestors and the Soviet Union could send in tanks. Handing the communists reasons to react forcefully would help no one, least of all the protesters. Bush’s basic approach was correct and has been vindicated by history.

One of those neoconservatives, columnist Mark Steyn, points out that the Iranian regime will interpret whatever Obama does or does not do however they see fit, noting that they’re already railing against American “interference” and saying we have no right to lecture them about human rights given, for example, the debacle with the Branch Davidians in Waco during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

There’s a very basic lesson here: For great powers, studied neutrality isn’t an option. Even if you’re genuinely neutral. In the early nineties, the attitude of much of the west to the disintegrating Yugoslavia was summed up in the brute dismissal of James Baker that America didn’t have a dog in this fight. Fair enough. But over in the Balkans junkyard the various mangy old pooches saw it rather differently. And so did the Muslim world, which regarded British and European “neutrality” as a form of complicity in mass murder.

And, of course, the United States, along with our NATO allies, ultimately decided we had no choice but to intervene, first in Bosnia and later in Kosovo.

Like Zakaria, NYT op-ed columnist Roger Cohen thinks the situation permanently changed, observing that Khameini has “lost his aura.”

Khamenei has taken a radical risk. He has factionalized himself, so losing the arbiter’s lofty garb, by aligning himself with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against both Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution.

He has taunted millions of Iranians by praising their unprecedented participation in an election many now view as a ballot-box putsch. He has ridiculed the notion that an official inquiry into the vote might yield a different result. He has tried pathos and he has tried pounding his lectern. In short, he has lost his aura.

The taboo-breaking response was unequivocal. It’s funny how people’s obsessions come back to bite them. I’ve been hearing about Khamenei’s fear of “velvet revolutions” for months now. There was nothing velvet about Saturday’s clashes. In fact, the initial quest to have Moussavi’s votes properly counted and Ahmadinejad unseated has shifted to a broader confrontation with the regime itself.

Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner ss

For now, however, Obama is keeping his powder dry.  Yesterday, he issued his strongest statement yet:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

The Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler reports that “U.S. officials say Obama is intent on calibrating his comments to the mood of the hour. They say he is seeking to avoid having the demonstrators accused of being American stooges and is trying to preserve the possibility of negotiating directly with the Iranian government over its nuclear program, links to terrorism, Afghanistan and other issues.”  He adds that, “Despite increasingly intense Republican criticism, and the passage of resolutions in the House and Senate on Friday that were tougher than the president’s words, U.S. officials say they will stick to their current course.”

Is there a point at which waiting will become intolerable?  Perhaps.

They say there is not much the United States can do to influence the situation — except make it worse for the opposition — but they have begun planning for the administration’s response if the crackdown turns very violent.

“We have to watch every day to see what is happening, even while we anticipate several different possibilities and what to do in those circumstances,” one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Within the administration, officials say, Obama’s cautious stance has the support of key senior officials, with disagreements centered mostly on quibbles over a word choice.

It’s a frustrating balancing act that will please no one.  It’s not at all clear, however, that there are better options at this point.

Photo: Reuters Pictures.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. odograph says:

    Obama’s “calibrated” approach seems eminently rational. The calls for “more” seem emotional in comparison – especially given that a more active US would make the home-grown democracy movement seem less so.

    This isn’t about “what they are already saying about us”

  2. Matthew Stinson says:

    I’d argue the restrained response from Western powers is wise on two counts.

    First, it remains to be seen how much working age middle class Iranians identify with either faction at the moment, and the West should watch them closely in the coming days. We’ve seen lots of students on Mousavi’s side to be sure, and the regime has its thugs, but from the photos I’m not seeing the rebellion as a Solidarity-esque all-ages-and-backgrounds movement but a broad youth movement not unlike the uprisings in Greece over the holidays.

    Second, it remains to be seen exactly what kind of government Mousavi and Rafsanjani would constitute. Despite being so-called “moderates,” they still consider themselves standard bearers of Khomeini and, in Rafsanjani’s case, have a laundry list of statements in support of the Holocaust, against Israel and America, and for Iranian nuclear weapons. Considering the outcomes in Ukraine, where the “color revolution” candidates we embraced had decidedly anti-democratic tendencies, the West would be more prudent in this case to see who is left standing when the dust settles and gauge what kind of leader he is.

    As an aside, it’s alarming that someone so learned as Zakaria would forget the psychology of revolutions and their tendency to turn authoritarian after achieving victory. We cannot deduce that the youth of Iran are against theocracy so much as that they are against Ahmadinejad and the current faces of the regime. That was the central mistake of Iraq, after all — liberating Iraqis from a dictator did not make them democrats. If the ruling elites decided to cut a deal with Mousavi by making him president and ousting Ahmadinejad, who’s to say Mousavi wouldn’t take it and return Iran to business as usual?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian regime.

    I think that Zakaria is overly optimistic. Ideologies may persist forever. Rationality has little to do with it. Although the ideology that supported the French monarchy collapsed more than two hundred years ago, it recovered within a few years and has resurged off an on ever since. Even today the Alliance Royale is a monarchist party. There are royalist parties all over Europe with varying degrees of influence and varying degrees of looniness.

    Centralized planning was completely discredited a generation ago. It’s still alive and well. I think I could point to a dozen different ideologies that have been material failures that rise, phoenix-like, because the ideas behind them are so appealing to some people. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they worked? is the view, I think.

    Does Mr. Zakaria have substantial evidence that even a majority of the protestors don’t support Islamic theocracy? I doubt it—more than likely it’s just wishful thinking on his part.

    I think that President Obama’s stance has largely been the correct one although he might have made some changes in detail. There are a couple of things I would remind both supporters and opponents. First, we have almost no ability to shape opinion in Iran and the mullahs have a lot. Whatever our President says, it won’t arrive unfiltered and will be turned to the purposes of those who control the major channels of information distribution.

    Second, what he says matters here. I don’t mean that it’s all about us. What I mean is that the positions that the president takes and the statements that he makes become part of the prevailing wisdom here.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    An important point Zakaria misses is that the clerics have been key players in Iranian politics for at least a hundred years, playing at times a liberalizing role or balancing force amongst the various factions. It’s nearly impossible to see them disappear as a significant force (discredited as he puts it). It’s more likely to see this group move to a more “quietist” position if it appears better for Iran or Shi’ism.

  5. steve says:

    I am not sure ideology was the correct term for Zakaria to use. From my readings, and a number of expat Iranian friends, it seems to me that since the founding of the Revolution in 1979, many have been unhappy with the unaccountability of the clerics, who have most of the power in the country. There is a sizable group that really wants to have the democratic/representative government that the clerics claim exists. This election shattered that illusion and has become the focal point for many troubles brewing under the surface for a long time. These current protestors may not win out, but the stage has been set for changes down the line.

    Since we have no leverage, and anything we say can and will be used against us, I think statements supporting the people and asking for their safety are about as far as we should go now. The real quandary we may face is what to do if the protestors explicitly ask for our help. To date they have not asked, indeed what little I have seen, they seem to appreciate that we have stayed out of this. Khameini tried to blame it all on foreign interference, but it was not credible. If really large scale bloodshed occurs, and we are asked for help, that will be a difficult decision. Most of this debate about what to say or not say is just partisan sniping.

    Steve

  6. PD Shaw says:

    the Muslim world, which regarded British and European “neutrality” as a form of complicity in mass murder

    This is an important point: objective neutrality is unobtainable by the United States. If you believe that a handful of CIA agents toppled the Iranian government in a few months during the 1950s, then American non-action is support.

    Why would Americans support the mullahs? Because Americans are hypocrites that speak values, but secretly support the tough guy that can ensure the flow of oil. I think Obama should address this apparent contradiction, what does America support and what are its limitations?

  7. The flow of communications that keeps us informed via twitter and other social networks goes both ways. The protesters know the American people are with them.

    It’s not true that everything an American president says will arrive in Iran distorted. It’s true that the Iranian government will distort it, and some will believe the government, but the truth will percolate through other groups and classes of Iranians.

    I have yet to see a believable message from protesters that they want our president to speak more forcefully. I saw one obvious provocateur doing so, but the only calls I’ve seen from the protesters have been to the UN.

    Mr. Obama seems to understand the realities of modern communications. He knows it goes both ways and that the same protesters sending us video and messages know full well that their communication is being loudspeakered throughout the world by American social networks and bloggers and companies.

    The protesters know that YouTube made it easier for them to upload, and that Google rushed out a Farsi translator, and that people like Andrew Sullivan are following their every message.

    That’s where the diplomacy is taking place between us and them. It’s not in the wood-paneled conference room, it’s in the 140 character box. But they know that we are watching, and Mr. Obama grasps that as well, even as thoughtless voices on the right are attempting to score political points.

    The paradigm isn’t just shifting for the Iranian regime, it’s shifting for diplomacy.

  8. JKB says:

    Is Islamic theocracy going to cease to exist in the world? No. The idea won’t even cease to exist in Iran. However, by tying the declared election outcome to a divine assessment, Khamenei has inexplicably linked the two. If some compromise is achieved then the divine assessment was in error. If the people continue to believe the election was stolen, the the divine will is denied. If the regime uses violence to force suppress the questioning, then the divine will is disbelieved. If people believed in the divine providence of the Islamic theocracy before and the divine will is seen to be erroneous, corrupt or disbelieved, it can only lead to more questioning of the moral authority of the theocracy.

    Obama’s statement was weak tea. Very passive and asserts “universal” rights denied even by the Canadian Human Rights Commission as distinctly American. He could have asserted the rights of assembly and free speech as natural rights, held by men and women above any government edict. He could of spoke of the right to elections free of the perception of manipulation or unfairness. But then such assertions would be out of character, removing them from the pale of government control.

    “U.S. officials say Obama is intent on calibrating his comments to the mood of the hour.

    I.e., whoever appears to be winning will get his support. Non-interfering is good, but wishy washy not so much. I suspect that whomever wins, Obama has hurt himself with them.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    It’s not true that everything an American president says will arrive in Iran distorted. It’s true that the Iranian government will distort it, and some will believe the government, but the truth will percolate through other groups and classes of Iranians.

    Michael, I think you’re looking at 5-10% of Iranians and generalizing from them. I suspect that most Iranians get their information from the preacher on Fridays, from the newspapers, or from the state television rather than from the Internet or from somebody who gets their information from the Internet.

    Note than in Iran the claimed literacy rate is about 77%. That means that the actual literacy rate is probably lower.

  10. Dave:

    Michael, I think you’re looking at 5-10% of Iranians and generalizing from them.

    Two responses on that:

    1) That 5-10% form the core of the protesters. And the literate and connected are disproportionately influential, even in Iran.

    2) I’m sure someone has coined a better term for this, but I’ll call it the persistence of the digital. The images of this event will not go away. The regime cannot make them go away. The Ministry of Truth can’t get Winston to excise them.

    So while only a few Iranians have seen the video of that girl yesterday dying with blood pouring from her mouth and eyes, eventually almost all Iranians will see it. That and imagery like it will be the Zapruder films of Iran’s future.

    You don’t have to read to know what’s happening when you watch that film. And six months from now I’ll bet 50% of Iranians will have seen it.

  11. Eric Florack says:

    The protesters know the American people are with them.

    But not the American Government. And who elected this government? A people who were tired of fighting for freedom, including that of the Iranians. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that point gets by folks over the longer haul.

    This is an important point: objective neutrality is unobtainable by the United States. If you believe that a handful of CIA agents toppled the Iranian government in a few months during the 1950s, then American non-action is support.

    Correct, and herein lies my concern.

    The current regime will implode, eventually. That being a shorter or longer term is inconsequential to the central the question for us as a nation, which is how we will be remembered by the Iranian people and indeed the rest of the world, once that shift to freedom takes place, as it eventaully must.

    As it stands now, I can’t see it being the world’s perception of us not supporting freedom in this case, being a good one. They’ll remember an entire generation of Iranian freedom fighters getting washed away by these thugs… while, under what passes for leadership by Obama, we stood by and refused to help.

    (spit)

  12. Eric Florack says:

    f the ruling elites decided to cut a deal with Mousavi by making him president and ousting Ahmadinejad, who’s to say Mousavi wouldn’t take it and return Iran to business as usual?

    This seems to me to miss a central point in all of this. This revolution, and revolution that is, is no longer about the election, much as that was the final trigger for this series of events. The fact is, the Iranian people are not about the election itself, they are rebelling, and demanding not alleged role justice, but freedom.

    This is not about who is the figure had of the Arabian government put a rebellion against the real power; the Mullahs.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    The fact is, the Iranian people are not about the election itself, they are rebelling, and demanding not alleged role justice, but freedom.

    hear hear!!!

  14. Erick:

    You’re talking nonsense.

    From Sully under the headline “Criminal.”:

    That’s what Ahmadinejad is now calling Mousavi. And they are playing their usual card of blaming the uprising on foreign terrorists and the US. In this, the neoconservative call for Obama to join the uprising is exactly what Khamenei wants. But the Islamists may finally have an intelligent foe in Washington, rather than a clueless ideological one.

    Erick, the only people still yapping about needing more noise from Obama are people who have been consistently wrong about American policy for the last 8 years: Krauthammer, Wolfowitz, the GOP in the House, a collection of —-wits if ever there was one.

    Right now the ayatollahs and assorted clerics are in Qom perhaps cooking up a change of leadership. Is there some shred of logic you can provide that suggests Obama wrapping his arms around the protesters would help in that?

    Same question I keep asking and keep getting no rational response:

    How would more rhetoric from Obama help the protesters?

    Not how would it make you feel better, how would it help the people we want to help?

    And the second question: do you want to help them? Or are you, like Bibi and Krauthammer and Wolfowitz more concerned with prserving your favorite demon and taking cheap shots at Obama?

  15. DL says:

    If they fall -it is far better for their own to have brought them down, than to have outsiders (Jews or Christians) take them down.

    It’s a rebellion – not a war!

  16. anjin-san says:

    This is not about who is the figure had of the Arabian government

    Ah bit. News flash. Iranians are Persians, not Arabs.

    Another day, another edition of ignorance on parade from bitsy.

  17. Gustopher says:

    The protesters know the American people are with them.

    But not the American Government. And who elected this government? A people who were tired of fighting for freedom, including that of the Iranians.

    After watching civil liberties in the US erode through the Bush administration, the militarization of the police, the brutal suppression of dissent at the 2004 Republican convention, the Do Not Fly lists and the airport security theater, the transformation of New York City from one of the most open cities on Earth into a modest little occupied zone where you have to consent to police or national guard checking your bags just to ride the subway…

    After all of this, I’d say we stopped fighting for freedom around September 12th, 2001.

    As it stands now, I can’t see it being the world’s perception of us not supporting freedom in this case, being a good one. They’ll remember an entire generation of Iranian freedom fighters getting washed away by these thugs… while, under what passes for leadership by Obama, we stood by and refused to help.

    What, precisely, can we be doing that we are not doing?

    If this is going to become a true revolution against the theocracy, that has to come from the Iranians themselves.

    We should be very, very careful about meddling in things while it is still a matter of people rioting to install a slightly less horrible man into a weak presidency.

    One thing that I wish we would do is release satellite photos of the riots, so people can get a good scale of the size of these protests, and how widespread they are in Iran.

    This seems to me to miss a central point in all of this. This revolution, and revolution that is, is no longer about the election, much as that was the final trigger for this series of events. The fact is, the Iranian people are not about the election itself, they are rebelling, and demanding not alleged role justice, but freedom.

    I hope you’re right here. I really do.

    But I don’t think we have seen anything that suggests this has moved substantially beyond support for Moussavi.

  18. anjin-san says:

    the central the question for us as a nation, which is how we will be remembered by the Iranian people and indeed the rest of the world,

    One of the things that they are going to remember is the repeated calls of people like you for an unprevoked and devestating attack on them.

    It seems clear that Iran is the central supporter of terrorist activities and unrest in the region. It doesn’t take a great deal of thought to determine our next course of action. 20 years gone, now, such evidence as I’ve posted here alone would have resulted, rightly, in a military response against Tehran which would make ‘shock and awe’ look like a tea party.

    Posted by Bithead | April 27, 2008 | 12:43 pm |

    Well bit, there is your contribution to the dialog. Attention people of Iran, Americans want to kill you.

  19. Erick:

    Nonsense:

    And who elected this government? A people who were tired of fighting for freedom, including that of the Iranians.

    No, we’re not tired of fighting for freedom, we’re just tired of losing. Which would be why Obama is sending 17k more men to Afghanistan, carrying out Predator attacks inside Pakistan, showing a more honest and welcoming face to the Muslim world which helps to give some maneuver room to the Pakistani government as it goes after Taliban.

    We’re not tired of the fight, we’re just tired of being led by blustering, incompetent, loudmouthed idiots.

  20. anjin-san says:

    And who elected this government? A people who were tired of fighting for freedom, including that of the Iranians.

    Interesting. I remember the right excoriating Sean Penn when he actually put his butt and his reputation on the line for the people of Iran.

    Now, suddenly the right wing “typing for freedom” brigade emerges. No doubt Iranians are sleeping more soundly…

  21. Eric Florack says:

    Ah bit. News flash. Iranians are Persians, not Arabs.

    You keep trying to get me on something, don’t you?
    Well, news flash: It was dictated. I said Iranian. it said Arabian. Sorry to disappoint you.
    (Which also accounts for a couple other errros I noted after posting it)

    No, we’re not tired of fighting for freedom, we’re just tired of losing.

    That’s just it, we aren’t losing. Or at least, we weren’t until such time as Urkel came along.

  22. Eric Florack says:

    What, precisely, can we be doing that we are not doing?

    Ive addressed this.

  23. Erick:

    You’re rapidly approaching the point where I just stop bothering with you. If you want to discuss grown-up issues with the grown-ups, referring to the President as Urkel is not helping.

    It makes you seem to be not worth anyone’s time.

  24. steve says:

    Fighting for freedom is such a nebulous term. Please define that. Are you referring to Afghanistan and Iraq? I thought we went to Afghanistan because AQ was there. Still not sure why we really went to Iraq. Guess I still just find it bizarre that people think we can gift freedom and liberty to others. Even a casual study of history, IMHO, shows that people earn and make their own freedom and liberty. This grand experiment of invading other countries for whatever reason, and then trying to turn them into democracies is interesting, but far from over.

    Even if we wanted to, how would we “fight for freedom” in Iran? Without helping Khameini? We have pretty consistently underperformed in the area of information ops according to most analysts. Why continue the bombast of the past? How much credibility do the people who have been exhorting the bombing of Iran have, when they suddenly pronounce they want to support freedom?

    Steve

    Steve

  25. G.A.Phillips says:

    In whatever we do they will blame us……no matter how we do it and even if we don’t…..

    So whats the point here…..

    Speak up for Freedom Mr. President……

  26. G.A.Phillips says:

    All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride legitimately, by the grace of God.

    Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826

  27. This is about us or out petty internecine squabbles to score debating points. How about we state our principles clearly and act upon them rather than to divine the roll of the dice that comes with any action whose outcome is so uncertain?

    I believe America should stand for freedom and democracy and its expansion to all the people of the world. That doesn’t mean we fight every battle on every field every time, but it does mean that we do what we can to offer moral if not material support to those striving for the birthright we already have. Anything less is cowardice usually msquerading as some flavor of Machiavellianism.

  28. Still no answer:

    How would more rhetoric from Obama help the protesters?

  29. anjin-san says:

    It was dictated. I said Iranian. it said Arabian.

    Ah. The dog ate your homework. I see.

  30. anjin-san says:

    How would more rhetoric from Obama help the protesters?

    Short answer is it would hurt them. The theocracy could then link the protests to the American government, which would hurt thier cause.

  31. anjin-san says:

    Apparently, Mr. Obama is no Jack Kennedy.

    Perhaps President Obama wishes to avoid another Bay of Pigs…

  32. anjin-san says:

    Hmmmm. Still no apologies to Sean Penn from the right wing “freedom” brigade.

    Penn risked much to help Iranian dissidents before it was trendy to do so. For his efforts, the right called him a traitor.

    And now the keyboard freedom fighters want to leverage the bravery of the Iranian people (who they wanted to bomb just a short while ago) for political gain. Beyond pathetic.

  33. An Interested Party says:

    Or are you, like Bibi and Krauthammer and Wolfowitz more concerned with preserving your favorite demon and taking cheap shots at Obama?

    Ding, ding, ding, ding!!! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner…

    After watching civil liberties in the US erode through the Bush administration, the militarization of the police, the brutal suppression of dissent at the 2004 Republican convention, the Do Not Fly lists and the airport security theater, the transformation of New York City from one of the most open cities on Earth into a modest little occupied zone where you have to consent to police or national guard checking your bags just to ride the subway…

    Isn’t it interesting that we are supposed to be preaching about freedom when some of our own has been taken away by some who are so scared of Islamic bogeymen…I suspect the irony would be lost on these people…

  34. G.A.Phillips says:

    How would more rhetoric from Obama help the protesters?

    How is more rhetoric from Obama going to help with anything!

    Ha ha, now I see the logic in repeating this question even after it’s been answered multiple times in multiple ways, you really do have some thing under the beautiful head of hair…….

  35. Eric Florack says:

    Well bit, there is your contribution to the dialog. Attention people of Iran, Americans want to kill you.

    I called for military action against Iraq, if you’ll bt recall. But in both these cases the targets were the governments, not the people.

    Your nonsense attached to your faux outrage is getting a little tiresome.

  36. Eric Florack says:

    Penn risked much to help Iranian dissidents before it was trendy to do so. For his efforts, the right called him a traitor.

    And so he is.
    What’s your beef?

  37. G.A.Phillips says:

    Hmmmm. Still no apologies to Sean Penn from the right wing “freedom” brigade.

    im sorry Sean, that your a liberal.

    I have apologized:)

  38. G.A.Phillips says:

    Fighting for freedom is such a nebulous term. Please define that.

    No king but King Jesus!!!!!

  39. G.A.Phillips says:

    Apparently, Mr. Obama is no Jack Kennedy.

    he ain’t no Jefferson Lincoln or Reagan ether…….Great donkey hoof stained hell, he ain’t even honest like his Reverend….

  40. G.A.

    No, it has not been answered.

    Various people have run around their cages throwing scat in the air, but no one has connected so much as a single dot.

    Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

    They can’t answer the question because they don’t actually want Obama to help the demonstrators they want to score political points by attacking Obama, and they want the Iranian government to massacre the protesters. Because then they’ll be proven right and in their twisted little heads, Obama will be proven wrong.

    The important thing to remember about the Krauthammers of the world (or Eric, their lesser pet) is that they don’t give a damn about the truth.

    Hence the lack of answer. From everyone, including you.

  41. anjin-san says:

    But in both these cases the targets were the governments, not the people.

    Right. Because if we were to bomb Tehran, none of “the people” would be killed. How could I have missed that?

    Lets review your comment once again:

    a military response against Tehran which would make ‘shock and awe’ look like a tea party.

    You are really a piece of work. The blood lust you were directing at the people in Iran just a short while ago, has now been replace by your trumpeting yourself as some sort of champion of Iranian freedom. Meanwhile, Sean Penn, who actually took some personal risk to further the cause of freedom in Iran, is a traitor. As ever, the expedience of the moment is your lodestone.

    I can’t even call you a moron anymore. It is an insult to morons.

  42. anjin-san says:

    I called for military action against Iraq, if you’ll bt recall. But in both these cases the targets were the governments, not the people.

    Well, let’s review your comment in its entirety thru the magic of cut and paste.

    Only one problem with that idea. The Soviets, for all their stupidity, did not suffer from a suicide-bomber mentality, that they were all going to be rewarded in heaven for killing infidels. Consider that Iran is working toward Nuclear weapons capability, despite having no rockets that can get such a weapon far enough downwind to prevent radiation problems for it’s own territory. Surely, a suicidal attitude, and one vastly different from anything we faced during the cold war.

    The kind of war we have fought so far in Iraq and Afghanistan should, if nothing else, be solid enough indication that strategies we’ve used in the past will simply not work, or worse, will work to our the advantage of our enemy.

    It seems clear that Iran is the central supporter of terrorist activities and unrest in the region. It doesn’t take a great deal of thought to determine our next course of action. 20 years gone, now, such evidence as I’ve posted here alone would have resulted, rightly, in a military response against Tehran which would make ‘shock and awe’ look like a tea party. We delay such response now, at our own peril, I think. The centrifuges, after all, continue to spin in the underground facility in Iran.

    Posted by Bithead | April 27, 2008 | 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm. Nothing about “Go after the government and spare the people” here.

  43. G.A.Phillips says:

    They can’t answer the question because they don’t actually want Obama to help the demonstrators they want to score political points by attacking Obama, and they want the Iranian government to massacre the protesters. Because then they’ll be proven right and in their twisted little heads, Obama will be proven wrong.

    well hell if you already have the answer I guess your question is right.

    forgive me for doubting your intentions and attacking what I perceived to be a biased attempt to blame the only evil that you know to exist in the world for every thing that has ever been done or that ever will be….

    What do I know anyway I’m just an XXX-liberal/x-crack head who cant even spell with out a tele…er, spell checker.

    Forgive me….

  44. G.A.:

    That’s an evasion. Its’ always an evasion with you. You giggle and guffaw and refuse to engage anything honestly.

    One might suspect you simply don’t have any answers.

  45. G.A.Phillips says:

    That’s an evasion. Its’ always an evasion with you. You giggle and guffaw and refuse to engage anything honestly.

    thats what all the liberals say, if I’m telling them the truth or playing around with them so whats the difference I chose to fling back poop.

    you have a question, it has been answered, And please look up the word honesty before you fling it my way.

    The only thing that will satisfy you is if we all repent and and agree with you so I did, I want you to be happy…

  46. PD Shaw says:

    I’ve already given my answer to michael reynolds in a previous thread.

  47. G.A.Phillips says:

    Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.

    George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

    hmm do you think he meant neocons….

    crap I wish some one would tell me what neocons means to them……

  48. G.A.

    Another evasion. You really got nothing.

  49. PD Shaw says:

    We could frame the debate in this way:

    Is it worthwhile for a President to use speech to promote values, whether as an adjunct (or primary vehicle of) foreign policy, with say speeches in Cairo? Or to fathers on father’s day?

    Or is this just hectoring, signifying nothing?

  50. PD:

    You could reframe the issue any number of ways. But here is how it’s been framed by Krauthammer and all the Hammerettes:

    Obama is betraying the protesters and freedom itself by refusing to embrace them more openly.

    Which is why I asked the question that seems to have baffled Mr. Obama’s right-wing critics on this site and others.

    So you can reframe, but I’ll still pose the same question and wait for a coherent answer.

  51. G.A.Phillips says:

    That’s an evasion. Its’ always an evasion with you. You giggle and guffaw and refuse to engage anything honestly.

    lol, nice..

    anonymous guy who finds himself inexplicably amusing.

    wrong and right,,,,,
    1345 Deane blvd Racine WI, And I have a very good time being inexplicable….

    And ya you don’t look chubby at all in the video and sorry about the small mind thing, I couldn’t tell if you had one under that Flowing black raven feathered glimmering mantle of radiance, Hot damn Conan!!!

    Posted by G.A.Phillips | June 20, 2009 | 10:14 pm | Permalink

    you must have missed this one also, I do nothing but answear your questions and complement you…..

    braniac lib like you should have me all figured out why do you keep acting like you have just realized it?

  52. G.A.

    Okay, I’m losing track. How many evasions is that?

  53. G.A.Phillips says:

    coherent answer.

    lol…..

  54. G.A.Phillips says:

    Okay, I’m losing track. How many evasions is that?

    that depends on what you definition of evasion is and math too…

  55. Eric Florack says:

    I hope you’re right here. I really do.

    But I don’t think we have seen anything that suggests this has moved substantially beyond support for Moussavi.

    That’s certainly an arguable point. But I’m getting a different vibe off of this. Certainly, different than the one we got back in 1979. The difference in this case is the apparent loss of the or a ….

    (Edit… arrgh! “Aura! See where the voice dictation gets into contextual trouble, without telling me?)

    …surrounding the “supreme leader”. He appears to have lost the divinely inspired invincibility that was once in the eyes of the Iranian rank and file voter. That aura was a great reinforcement of power. With it gone, there’s a lot of anger at not only the election being stolen, by means of fraud, which any politician in such an environment might do, but being led down the garden path by what amounts to a huckster in religious garb.

    Actually, in my perception that loss has been forthcoming for a long time. As I’ve said, yt just needed a trigger.

  56. Eric Florack says:

    and wait for a coherent answer.

    You’ve already been given several.

  57. G.A.Phillips says:

    Say like if you think a Carter a Clinton and an Obama add up to a wast of 12 and a half years of my country’s time so far and that I have evaded adding all of the rest of my country’s time that the rest of the democrat presidents have wasted then you are correct sir.

  58. G.A.Phillips says:

    blah, ima go hunt me sum dragons have fun Harry…..

  59. and wait for a coherent answer.

    You’ve already been given several.

    No. You have not. You’ve rambled on in a wandering, incoherent way about disconnected matters, you’ve ranted a bit, you’ve evaded a bit, you’ve played some games, but you have not connected the dots.

    So here’s how you do it:

    1) Obama gives a speech written by you, Erick. Your exact words. And then . . .

    2)

    And (2) has to be a) directly related by cause-and-effect to the speech you’ve written for Mr. Obama, and b) it has to actually help the protesters. Actually help.

    Now, if you can do that, swell. If G.A. can do it, equally swell. And anyone else can join in and connect the dots for me.

  60. Eric Florack says:

    Obama gives a speech written by you, Erick. Your exact words.

    Again, Did that.

    Mr. Obama could and should have spoken up at once, telling Iran’s current leadership that the way it treats its opponents will determine its place in the world going forward. But no, that calls for a real leader.

    Explain to me how that doesn’t meet your criteria.

  61. Erick:

    There is not a single word in that rambling screed that in any way answers the question.

    Don’t give me a rehash of your misinterpretations of history, answer my extremely simple question.

    I even left you a blank to fill in. What do you need, a multiple choice quiz?

  62. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not optimistic about the chances of peaceful reform in Iran, but here is the context of the opportunity that Obama won’t grapple with:

    Time and again and around the world — from as recently as Tibet in 2008, to Egypt in 2005, to Tiananmen in 1989 — the prospects of reform dim considerably without international support. In fact, we know of no modern democratic evolution or revolution that has succeeded without some support and pressure from the west.

    . . .

    Other transitions in places like South Africa, Panama, Taiwan, Georgia, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Indonesia also all involved considerable pressure from the outside world.

    Time

  63. We’ve offered no end of rhetorical support for Tibet. Results? Nothing.

    We’ve offered no end of rhetorical support for Burma. Results? Nothing.

    Sudan results? Nada.

    A peaceful Congo? Ditto.

    Zimbabwe?

    A free Cuba? Hah hah. Good one.

    We’ve been offering rhetorical support for international movements of one type or another for a very long time.

    We offered rhetorical support for Kurds and marsh Arabs after the first Iraq war. Result? Massacres.

    We offered rhetorical support for Hungary in 1956. Result? Massacre.

    Offering rhetorical support accomplishes dick. It particularly accomplishes dick when rhetorical support actually enables the oppressors. As it would in this case.

    It accomplishes dick. Except when it makes matters worse.

    This is not about us, it’s not about our feelings, it’s not about our self-esteem, it’s not about restating first principles. It shouldn’t be about discredited ___wits like Krauthammer looking to score points.

    It’s about whether the Iranian army will get into this and if so on which side. It’s about what the clerics in Qom decide. It’s about Rafsanjani’s business needs. It’s about Ali Sistani in Iraq, and Montazeri, and a bunch of other religious assholes who don’t like us.

    It’s about whether a bunch of protesters want to go into the streets and die tomorrow. And whether they will be more likely to do so if they know the bulk of their countrymen believe they are American stooges.

    We’re in a chess match here. A very complicated game. And chest-thumping is really kind of beside the point.

  64. anjin-san says:

    We’re in a chess match here. A very complicated game. And chest-thumping is really kind of beside the point

    Good point. The right is chomping at the bit to, once again, blunder into a situation that we have a limited understanding of.

    The Fox gang and their parrots were cheerleaders for the carpet bombing of Iran a few short weeks ago. Now they are all about freedom for the people of Iran, who they were prepared to incinerate without cause. Give me a break.

  65. anjin-san says:

    Mr. Obama could and should have spoken up at once, telling Iran’s current leadership that the way it treats its opponents will determine its place in the world going forward. But no, that calls for a real leader.

    When has the current leadership of Iran given any indication that it gives a rat’s ass about world opinion or how other countries define their place in the world?

    Obama is playing it cool, which is a hell of a lot smarter than trying to bluff when you don’t really hold any cards.

    If the people of Iran want to be free, they will have to earn it the hard way, with blood, sweat, sacrifice and tears. We are all pulling for them. But it is something they have to want badly enough to make it a reality.

    Let’s abandon this fiction that the right gives a crap about Iran. The game here is hurt Obama any way possible. Keep slinging the shit, and maybe sooner or later, something will stick. After the disaster that was the Bush Presidency, slinging shit is all they have left.

  66. Anjin-san:

    Aren’t you surprised about how little game Erick and his cohort have? They’ve literally got nothing but bluster.

    It makes you wonder how different the world might have been if we’d questioned these people a little more closely before Iraq. Once they get done posturing and bluffing they’ve got nothing.

    There’s no there there.

  67. anjin-san says:

    Aren’t you surprised about how little game Erick and his cohort have? They’ve literally got nothing but bluster

    No surprise at all. Go back and look at ol’ Eric’s predictions for the 2008 election. He got it about as wrong as humanly possible, all the while damn near giving himself tendinitis from patting himself on the back for being so clever.

    One aspect of this that we have to keep in mind is that there are millions upon millions of very sophisticated, highly educated people in Iran who are very capable of seeing through the faux concern from the American right about their well being and are probably not very happy about the fact that Krauthammer & co. are trying to pimp their sacrifices for domestic political gain.

  68. Janis Gore says:

    We have no authority in the Middle East. We have suggestion.

    To balance the image of Neda dying, we have the image of this child whose parents were killed at a checkpoint in Iraq.

    Source: Newsday, via Radley Balko.

  69. An Interested Party says:

    This post makes a very good point…it’s not right vs. left on the issue of whether the president should do more…it’s more like neocons vs. everybody else…

  70. DL says:

    Objective observers in the face of evil don’t deserve the freedom they have. At least, pick a side, buy some pom poms, and cheer like hell.

  71. G.A.Phillips says:

    I hate bush, I hate neocons, i play cheese, yada yada yada….

    Two questions, whats does neocon mean to you?

    And do you seriously think I can replace the styling of the TelePrompter? I do, but that beside the point……

  72. Eric Florack says:

    There is not a single word in that rambling screed that in any way answers the question.

    Yes, it did. And, directly so. I even asked you to explain to me how my answer falls outside your criteria. The answer, however is clear, despite your not having given it… That my answers to your questions don’t match your narrow worldview is not my problem. It’s your lack.

  73. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol, I said chesse…..

  74. Eric Florack says:

    Ajin, try your junk on someone who hasn’t been around to see you playing your game for a while. It’s not selling, here.

  75. G.A.Phillips says:

    Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.

    John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

  76. anjin-san says:

    Ajin, try your junk on someone who hasn’t been around to see you playing your game for a while. It’s not selling, here.

    In other words, you can’t even come up with one of your lame BS comebacks. But you are correct, the game of “slap the pinhead around” that I play with you is old. Like I said earlier, I can’t even call you a moron anymore, you don’t rise to that level.

    Hey, how about that big McCain comeback win you called :p

  77. G.A.Phillips says:

    He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

    Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, December 23, 1791

  78. anjin-san says:

    He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

    So we can assume that you and the other right wing freedom fighters are on the way to Tehran to take your principals to the streets?

  79. G.A.Phillips says:

    So we can assume that you and the other right wing freedom fighters are on the way to Tehran to take your principals to the streets?

    Stawdonkey, what are you doing?