Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Muddling while Tehran yearns [updated]

The sound of freedom is still ringing around the streets, houses and souks of Tehran, even if that sound hasn’t yet reached the White House or the man within it.

While the people of Iran cry out for change from their fearful oppressors, the ObaMessiah who once promoted such a concept as something you could believe in is struggling to avoid any believable stand at all.  The policies of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are practically the same, says President Zero, all but wondering what the big deal is here.

The big deal, you big oaf, is that freedom is breaking out where hitherto we might have least expected it. Mousavi is hardly Thomas Jefferson, but that’s hardly the point – and it rather makes the perfect the enemy of the good, doesn’t it. Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal explains the point well,

    Just as in Hungary in 1956, a popular uprising has coalesced around a figure (Imre Nagy in Hungary; Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran), who had once been a creature of the system. Then as now it was buoyed by inspiring American rhetoric about freedom and democracy coming over Voice of America airwaves.
    And then as now the administration effectively turned its back on the uprising when U.S. support could have made a difference. Hungary would spend the next 33 years in the Soviet embrace. One senses a similar fate for Iran, where Mr. Ahmadinejad's "victory" signals the ultimate ascendancy of the ultra-militants in the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the paramilitary Basij, intent on getting what they want and doing as they please even in defiance of their old clerical masters. Which means: Get ready for a second installment of the Iranian cultural revolution.
[Thanks to Shari for the link.]

On top of that, President Zero and his cardboard cut out Vice Biden look to the god of democracy as the balm that will fix all, ignoring some simple advice that rings down through history, advice that the people on the streets of Tehran might pass on to Obama – if he would but listen and if they weren’t banned from communicating by any means other than Twittering: That even if the majority did vote for Ahmadinejad, that doesn’t make it right.

As  Walter Williams reminds us,

Democracy and majority rule [can] give an aura of legitimacy to acts that would otherwise be deemed tyranny.

Principled government is not built on majority rule, but on individual rights.  Hanging your hat on the verisimilitude of a vote is not the way to bring freedom to Iran, or to anywhere.  Freedom is not a popularity contest, it’s a human birthright.

Meantime, the sounds of freedom continue to ring out around Tehran and the peaceful demonstrations continue, even in the face of brutality by the pro-government militia (the Basij) and from the Hamas and Hezbollah ring-ins trucked in to take the place of the Iranian military who are reportedly refusing to fire on the protestors. Andrew Sullivan posts this quote below from a women protestor that gives some context::

    Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of 'filthy homosexuals'. All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event. The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to engage in any violent act.

It worked in the Philippines when Marcos was overthrown and in Portugal with the “Carnation Revolution.” It worked in Prague’s Velvet Revolution and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the later “Colour Revolutions” when the cracks within those society finally and peacefully opened up.

Let us hope it happens here in Tehran too, with or without the help of a President who can apparently only muddle while Tehran burns.

UPDATE: Michael asks in the comments what Obama should do, just as if the poor chap had nothing to work with. 

“If you were Obama, what would you do? Sure, he could point all that out about it being wrong, but would would it actually achieve?”

Well, there are several tangible things he could do to help.  After all, he has no compunction about meddling in the affairs of Israel, or of the world’s tax havens, so the problem is clearly not one of reluctance to meddle in another country’s internal affairs – and in this case (as Scott says) it’s akin to “your next door neighbours saying "mind your own business" when you witness their kids bruised and bleeding after hearing them screaming saying ‘stop’.” And Obama’s troops over the border in Iraq are practically neighbours, and since Iran is the world’s primary sponsor of world’s terrorism ending the Ahmadinejad regime at a time when it’s already weakened would be within its ambit.

But even that may not be necessary.  Yet.  Moral courage is sometimes enough, even if it is about as rare as an honest lawyer.  It was enough when Ronald Reagan stood up in Berlin and said “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  And eventually, the logic of that was accepted and Mr Gorbachev did.  And it was enough when Reagan spoke out in support of striking Polish workers, who took the moral courage from his words and used them as fuel to overturn the oppressive regime of Soviet puppets that was stifling their freedom.

And we know that while Obama very rarely has anything to say, we know as well as we know anything that he sure as hell can talk when he wants. If only he could say anything approaching what Reagan said when the Soviets began crushing the Polish Solidarity uprising, it might be enough:

We view the current situation in Poland in the gravest of terms, particularly the increasing use of force against an unarmed population and violations of the basic civil rights of the Polish people.

Violence invites violence and threatens to plunge Poland into chaos. We call upon all free people to join in urging the Government of Poland to reestablish conditions that will make constructive negotiations and compromise possible.

... The Polish nation, speaking through Solidarity, has provided one of the brightest, bravest moments of modern history. The people of Poland are giving us an imperishable example of courage and devotion to the values of freedom in the face of relentless opposition. Left to themselves, the Polish people would enjoy a new birth of freedom. But there are those who oppose the idea of freedom, who are intolerant of national independence, and hostile to the European values of democracy and the rule of law.

Two Decembers ago, freedom was lost in Afghanistan; this Christmas, it’s at stake in Poland. But the torch of liberty is hot. It warms those who hold it high. It burns those who try to extinguish it.

Would that the current President had either the courage or the understanding to say what’s needed.  It would assuredly save a lot of future heartache, and undoubtedly avert a lot of present bloodshed.


  1. What's in a (middle) name then?

  2. If you were Obama, what would you do? Sure, he could point all that out about it being wrong, but would would it actually achieve?

  3. His position couldn't be to do with the fact that polling in Iran has repeatedly shown overwhelming popular support for the country's nuclear programme could it?

    Probably something like 85% of those protesting support it.

    What difference does it make to the US which flavor of irrational is in power?

    Romanticising this issue with flowery words and great art is quite frankly naive and reality challenged.

  4. I have just posyted on the issue too.
    Obama is showing yet more weak leadership.
    All some words in favour of freedom would be needed.
    It woprked in the past.

  5. MSM's love affair with MHO doesn't seem to be abating though.

    Just today, headlines on Stuff: Obama swats a fly and Obama is the world's stylish man. Presumably the news organisations are now supplying copious quantities of mouthwash to their correspondents to help them get the taste of arse out of their mouths.

  6. PC: While the people of Iran cry out for change from their fearful oppressors

    I wish it was true. I doubt this is the case though.

    But on Obama: he wants to regulate the finance industry of the entire world. Freedom doesn't fit anywhere in his world view.

  7. Ruth

    You wrote regarding Iran's nuclear program: "Probably something like 85% of those protesting support it."


    That's a little rubbery. Lot's of wriggle room there.


    Kind of like well, maybe some of them?

    Kind of like, well ya know, it's sorta likely that they might do?

    Probably 85%.

    Possibly 85%

    Or probably some number, possibly.

    Again: "Probably something like 85% of those protesting support it."

    And you know this because?

    And you are referring to a nuclear weapons program?

    Or something else, like a nuclear-electric program?

    Or something else entirely?

    How the heck would you know anyway?

    Got to love mind readers who can operate from half way round the planet. You ought ta get an 0800 number. Probably.


  8. Berend

    Re Obama

    "Freedom doesn't fit anywhere in his world view."

    It doesn't seem to. What do you think his w/view is? Do you reckon he actually has one?


  9. If Iraq and Afghanistan are anything to go by, US intervention is the last thing this situation needs.

    At any rate, the US economy is in the toilet, the military is overstretched and the country as a whole seems to have lost it's appetite for "regime change".

    The protests might bring real change to Iran, or they might not. But either way, nothing Barack Obama says is going to make any practical difference.

  10. Iran is unlikely to change, but mass protests are scaring the theocracy more than US sabre rattling ever could. Tehran is as cosmopolitan as Cairo or Beirut, but the rest of Iran is as cosmpolitan as almost all of Afghanistan - i.e. stone age.

  11. Well said PC.

    - Sam P

  12. Are you suggesting that Obama should threaten to send troops in?

    Supposing he did, and the people democractically elected Mousavi, putting aside dealing with all the anti american sentiment, they still wouldn't be free, and there would still be the nuclear problem.

    The states line has always been for freedom and democracy, If you're only talking about him having a more direct opinion on it fair enough, but sending in troops?


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.