Friday, June 19, 2009

Staying the Course

Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005, has an op-ed in the Washington Post wherein he joins the chorus of those trying to push President Obama into saying something about what’s going on in Iran.

President Obama’s first response to the protests in Iran was silence, followed by a cautious, almost neutral stance designed to avoid “meddling” in Iranian affairs. I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s initially neutral response to the crisis following the Philippine election of 1986, and of George H.W. Bush’s initially neutral response to the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Both Reagan and Bush were able to abandon their mistaken neutrality in time to make a difference. It’s not too late for Obama to do the same.

The difference, of course, between those situations and this one is that the United States had substantial relationships with both the Philippines and the Soviet Union. We don’t even have diplomatic relations with Iran, and that country has used the United States as a scapegoat for all of their problems; I wouldn’t put it past them to blame earthquakes on The Great Satan.

The other obvious point is that in both 1986 and 1991, the United States’ reputation abroad was considerably more well-respected than it is now. After eight years of faux-butch “bring ’em on” behavior on the part of the Bush administration — and executed by Mr. Wolfowitz — the credibility of our good and democratic intentions for other countries is rightly suspect by the rest of the world. And after being labeled as part of the “Axis of Evil,” does Mr. Wolfowitz seriously think that the rulers in Iran, whoever they are, are going to either give a rat’s ass what we say or not try to turn it to their advantage in their campaign of oppression?

Mr. Wolfowitz would probably do well to listen to Henry Kissinger, who knows a little something about foreign policy, diplomacy, and the consequences of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.