There's been a lot of discussion about what the proper response should have been from President Obama to the recent election in Iran and the protests and violence that followed. I come down on the side of those who believe the president's response was both timid and tardy. I wasn't looking so much for hard language as I was moral clarity.
Obama defended his approach by saying that he didn't want to be seen as taking sides, and that it is up to the Iranian people to determine their country's course. This would make sense if Iran wasn't under the control of an oppressive regime, if it held free elections, and if its people were actually able to choose their destiny. The reality of the situation, however, is just the opposite: the Iranian government is brutally oppressive, its elections are blatantly rigged, and its people are being beaten and killed in the streets in response to their peaceful protests.
So Obama should be taking sides -- not in so much as to be choosing winners and losers, but he should be standing clearly on the side of freedom, democracy, and fundamental human rights -- the things, as JFK put it, "to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."
Obama often stresses the important of remaining true to America's values, yet he's been hesitant to state those values clearly and openly. He says it's because he fears such words would be used to blame America for the conflict in Iran. This is belied by his admission that, even in the absence of such words, the Iranian regime has simply lied about Obama's statements and accused America of inciting the protests anyway.
Obama certainly has the rhetorical skills to provide clarity and leadership, yet he chooses not to, instead favoring a more "neutral" stance. But neutrality is vice in the face of evil, and what Obama offers is neutrality in name only.
While giving a most feeble voice to the principles of liberty and human dignity, Obama flatly proclaimed that it doesn't matter who emerges as the victor in Iran, and that the United States is just as willing to sit at the table with the murderous mullahs as it is with those who are risking their lives to throw off the yokes of oppression. These statements are not only an abdication of American values, they are a betrayal of those who value the freedoms we hold dear and are willing to die for them. Obama's statements are a de facto endorsement of the status quo.
It's all good, he says. No price worth paying, no burden worth bearing, no hardship worth meeting, no friend worth supporting here. Just let us know when you've sorted it out, and its back to business as usual.
It is good to see that Obama has come around to some extent. He's beefed up his rhetoric of late, pressured and embarrassed by the fact that France, Germany, and both houses of Congress have displayed a truer moral compass than his own.
Better late than never? Or too little, too late? Either way, it's a sad thing when the "leader of the free world" is unwilling to show leadership in the cause of freedom.