Monday, June 22, 2009

The Unhappy Coincidence of Obama and Iran

Over the past few days, Iranians have done something that can't be done often enough. They've shown that human beings still aspire and deserve to be free. This ought to be an obvious fact, but our insane political culture makes it a deeply controversial one.

Oppression is strong and efficacious; it may well crush this moment of liberty, though it will hopefully pay a price for doing so. History obeys nobody's moral laws, as it is moved by the good, the bad, and the accidental.

One of those historical accidents attending Iran's revolutionary moment is Barack Obama, and if he is a blessing he wears an impenetrable disguise.

In March Obama sent an unprecedented video message to "the people and the leaders of Iran" - as if these two things were a harmonious whole. In it he repeatedly refers to Iran as The Islamic Republic of Iran, rolling out the phrase with relish. Whether or not Iran ought to be an Islamic republic is a question that is currently being put to the test of blood in Iran itself, and US interest would be better served by a negative answer. It was not diplomatically necessary for Obama to insist on Islamic Republic; on the contrary, it was diplomatically undesirable. Obama cannot distinguish between deference and diplomacy. This is not a small thing, just as making respectful reference to a "Supreme Leader" of Iran is not a small thing. Matt Yglesias makes the useless point that "The Fuhrer" was Hitler's "proper title", missing the obvious fact that Roosevelt and Churchill did not refer to Hitler as The Fuhrer.

In his video message, Obama heaped effusive praise on Persian civilization. Well, Persian civilization is currently in agony, so if this praise was sincere then we should expect some indignation to match it. Obama coolly explains that he is too smart to fall into such a trap - Obama does his diplomatic thinking out loud. Empty flattery, followed by indifference.

In explaining his sang froid, Obama refers to the history of US-Iranian relations - what does he think of when he thinks of that history? US crimes, apparently. The fact that the clique that currently oppresses Iran is the same clique that seized our embassy and held our people hostage seems to be missing from his consciousness. Obama assumes the moral superiority of anti-American claims, or thinks that "diplomacy" requires him to assume it.

Whatever message Obama thinks he is sending to the bloody hangmen that rule Iran, the message they are getting is clear: There is no danger, whatsoever, of pushing Obama too far. Kim Jung-Il understands this, if our own intelligensia do not.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What do you get when you cross Moral Equivalence with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?