Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

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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Be Very, Very Scared

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 9, 2009

In an article in today’s Washington Times Frank Gaffney says that by “applying the standard of identity politics and pandering to a special interest that earned Mr. Clinton that distinction, Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America’s first Muslim president”.  Most of the “evidence” for this claim is pulled from President Obama’s recent visit to the Middle East, namely his speech in Cairo.  The article does much to expose the true problem, the Right’s use of terms meant to strike fear into the hearts of Americans.

The first issue is the actual issue being discussed, is Obama really a Muslim?  First off, no.  He’s not.  It doesn’t matter how many times you say he might be, he’s still not.  Does he show respect to a religion that a lot of the world believes in?  Yes, guilty as charged with that heinous crime of showing respect to an ancient religion.  It is a rare thing to hear conservative complain that a politician is showing respect for religion, but perhaps those commentators only have Christianity in mind when they talk about religion.

Those same commentators throw the word Muslim around as if it were a slur, synonymous to terrorist, and are seemingly making the claim that it is perfectly acceptable to judge a religion’s worth by the bad things that it has done.  Islam is no more defined by terrorism than Christianity is defined by the Inquisition.  The fact that a small minority of a population has done evil things doesn’t give you the right to disregard their religion.

And that is the issue that seems to always be overlooked in these reports that Obama is a Muslim, or that Obama sympathizes with Muslims.  Why is no one questioning the use of Muslim as a slur?  I can say with great certainty that if someone were to refer to a politician as Christian, and then use that as an argument against their fitness for office, there would be an outcry.  Yet when the term is Muslim the only discussion seems to center around whether the claim is true.

This attempt by the right to weld the term Muslim to terrorist, and then Muslim to Arab, is nothing more than an appeal to the basest of human emotions.  When times are rough, as the are now, the population becomes fearful, and when a nation is fearful, they want something specific to be scared of, and they usually won’t ask many questions.  And the Right knows that, at this point politically, the only chance they have to turn Obama’s popularity is to make him a scary Muslim secular Arab socialist dictator.

We as a nation have to demand that policy debates no longer be turned into a scare-fest.  While it is true that there are some who respond to these fear tactics, they only respond when the idea is suggested.  Just because you disagree with the president does not give you free reign to state your grievance in terms specifically used to frighten people.  A strong America can only come about by a well-informed populace, and attempts to steer the discussion from facts to scary do little to inform the populace.  Honest discussions need to be had on many different topics, but “Is Obama a Muslim” is certainly not one of those.  I find it hard to believe the Right has America’s best interest at heart when appeals to fear above all else is a rallying cry.

It was fear that allowed the Orwellian Patriot Act to be passed, and now the Right is attempting the same trick in reverse.  If a citizen has already been told what an evil terrorist dictator the current president wants to become, does it really matter anymore what his actual policy decisions are?  If you should be scared, at all times, of the president, then it stands to reason that he will never do anything good.  Our Congress, and some in this nation, let us down when the Patriot Act was passed out of nothing more than blind fear.  That act alone should be more than enough to teach us the perils of allowing fear to rule in politics.

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