Friday, June 19, 2009

Making the worst of a bad situation

The eyes of the world are on Iran.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past week, there's been a presidential election there. The incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared victory, while the challenger Mir Hussein Mousavi and his followers cry fowl. As a result, Tehran has been in turmoil as tens of thousands loyal to Mousavi have taken to the streets in protest. Personally, I'm in lockstep with the protesters.

But what really puzzles me is why the United States House of Representatives felt it was absolutely essential to vote on resolution to show moral support for dissenters in Tehran. House Resolution 506, introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) states the following:


Expressing support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law, and for other purposes.

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) expresses its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law;
(2) condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and
(3) affirms the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic and fair elections.

I think it's safe to say that most of the civilized world is on the the side of those who seek freedom in Iran. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Pence said "I appreciate the fact that the president said the protesters have a right to be heard and represented, and I appreciate the fact that he said he is troubled. But I respectfully disagree with the administration's decision to essentially draw the line at not meddling and not interfering."

The overall tone from the Republicans has been just shy of sabre-rattling while accusing the president of being soft and timid toward Iranian hardliners. Some have even evoked the name of Ronald Reagan and his famous "Tear down this wall" speech to Mikhail Gorbachev, in an attempt to draw correlations between Obama's "softness" and the situation in Iran.

I can hear it now - "Mr. Khamenei, give the presidency to Mousavi! We demand it!"


Senator John McCain has back-pedaled from his previous statements in which he was also said Obama was timid. John McCain is the last person that should be offering the president any foreign policy advice toward Iran. Jokes about bombing Iran is not foreign policy, Senator.

So what do Congressman Pence and his like-minded peers hope to achieve with their little resolution? Is it really necessary to waste the time and effort to draft a resolution like this? What do they think will happen - that Iranians will just stop what they're doing and kiss their feet?

Let's say that the president does come out with a stronger approach toward Ahmedinejad and Khamenei while Mousavi and his supporters embrace President Obama with open arms. What would likely happen is the current leadership would label Mousavi as friendly toward the "Great Satan", and the blood that is already spilling in the streets of Tehran would only increase. What would be your intervention approach then, Congressman Pence - a fleet of aircraft carriers and tanks?

While Republicans have been calling the president timid toward Iranian foreign policy, even Henry Kissinger said "the president has handled the situation well," during a recent interview on Fox News. He went on to say, "Anything that the United States says that puts us totally behind one of the contenders, behind Mousavi, would be a handicap for that person. And I think it’s the proper position to take that the people of Iran have to make that decision...and I think it was the right thing to do because the public support for the opposition would only be used by the - by Ahmadinehad...against Mousavi." Ironically, John McCain has recently said in his Facebook page that Kissinger is the "smartest man in the world!"

So here's a friendly foreign policy reminder for Mike Pence and those Republicans who call themselves "conservative":

"The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to domestic nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."

George Washington's Farewell Address, 1796

By the way, the resolution passed overwhelmingly 405 to 1. Anyone want to guess who voted "No"?

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