Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Why Obama is Taking the Right Path Towards Iran

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 18, 2009

The recent presidential elections in Iran have quickly become a divisive issue not only amongst Iranians but increasingly amongst Americans of different political parties.  Conservative politicians, most notably Sen. McCain, have begun to criticize President Obama for his stance towards the elections.  They claim that the president isn’t standing up for democracy, and that his silence is violating “an American principle” that stands up for free elections and the right of citizenry to select their leadership.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Sen. McCain is correct, and that is a principle that we follow at all times, although I am sure there are many countries that would have a hard time believing that (countries such as Iran).  Does that necessarily mean that the president’s relative silence regarding Iran is wrong?

Many human rights groups agree with the administration’s stance, and it is not hard to see how it would harm those that support Moussavi if they were to be seen as having the backing of the United States.  America is not the most popular country in Iran, or that part of the world for that matter, and if the U.S. were to take the side of the protester’s it would give Ahmadinejad an instant talking point.  The fact that some conservatives seem to be oblivious to this policy reveals a deep and troublesome misunderstanding of the way that the world works.  Conservatives often accuse liberals of living some fantasy world when it comes to foreign policy. but closer examination reveals that conservatives have some fantasies of their own.

Conservatives are making a dangerous judgment that people in other countries see America in the same manner that they do.  Conservatives see America as “a shining city on a hill”, a nation that has done much good throughout the world, and stands for freedom.  Those in other countries, such as Iran, see America as a colonial power that has made a practice of bullying other nations.  This is not to say one side is right, and the other is wrong.  As with so many things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  But the truth of the argument isn’t what is important.  Rather, the perception that other countries have is what is important when making decisions.

This inclination to assume that everyone views America through the same lens Americans do has been around for a long time, and it is not exclusive to conservatives .  President Kennedy made this same mistake at the Bay of Pigs.  This viewpoint is what led to the claim that Iraqi’s would greet us as liberators.  And it is this same mistaken viewpoint, with its resistance to be changed by historical events, that is now driving conservative calls for Obama to speak out.

Imagine that the election between Obama and McCain had been contested, and there were charges of rigging being thrown around (much like the Gore/Bush election).  Now imagine that Iran spoke out in favor of Obama.  Now imagine what the conservative response would have been.  There would be immediate criticism, appealing to citizens mistrust of Iranians.  This would be the same situation which we would have if Obama were to speak out.  And it in no way helps that one of the main conservative voices on this issue was also caught on tape singing “Bomb, Bomb Iran” during the presidential campaign  does little to help any feelings of mistrust by Iranians.

None of this article was meant to argue if one viewpoint is right.  Recognition that some people might have different views of America than Americans hold is seen as weakness by conservatives, and this attitude only serves to deepen fissures in the world.  Understanding that America has done things that others view to be wrong is not weakness, but rather understanding how the world really works.  Ignoring the views of other countries is dangerous, and in the case of Iran would further harm what are already very shaky relations.

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