The Fierce Insincerity of Now
For nearly a year now, there has been a great deal of outrage over President Obama's alleged failure to assist the Green Movement in toppling the obviously despicable Iranian regime. A cottage industry of media outrage quickly emerged, as I was forced in my daily culling to read countless op-ed and blog titles including some arrangement of the words "Obama" and "Betrays." Indeed, as Fouad Ajami recently put it, Obama's failure last summer to aid Iranian democracy "shall now be part of the narrative of liberty that when Persia rose in the summer of 2009 the steward of American power ducked for cover," failing to "even find the words to tell the forces of liberty that he understood the wellsprings of their revolt."
Whoa. Powerful stuff. Clearly, if the American president failed to act - that is, if the signs of imminent revolt were there and the leader of the free world refused to even budge - then this will indeed stand as a stain on President Obama's time in office.
And what, may I ask, did the president fail to do? What substantive and decisive action did Obama choose to waffle and waver on? Luckily, Reuel Marc Gerecht has the answer:
More specifically, the opposition needs access to satellite-fed Internet connections across the country. Unlike landline connections, satellite-dish communications are difficult for the government to shut down. Just monitoring them would be a technical nightmare for the regime.
THE democracy movement also needs a large supply of digital-video broadcasting cards, which function much like prepaid telephone cards and allow downloading and uploading of digital content from satellites.
So let me get this straight: President Obama should've put the brakes on a multilateral policy to rid the world of Iran's nuclear weapons program so that the Green Movement could get online - an arguably overstated tool in their organizing abilities of last summer - and upload more video of the awful stuff we already know the regime is doing? Seriously? This is what caused all of this outrage; this is what has so many neoconservatives pinning the death of the Green Movement on Obama?
The problem with this argument is that it assumes the Green Movement already had the numbers to topple the regime last summer, which no serious Iran analyst could possibly argue in retrospect. As Karim Sadjadpour points out, there's still much the Green Movement will have to do in order to grow and win, and most of these items involve substantive coalition building and message development. These are important and essential steps for the Greens, all of which have very little to do with the United States.
And there's nothing terribly offensive about providing tech or satellite aid to the Green Movement; I'm in fact agnostic on the idea. The real problem however is the blatantly insincere bellyaching from certain corners of American politics who have repeatedly manufactured outrage over these "failings" in order to attack the president over, well, anything and everything. It makes no difference to these critics that the administration has provided export permits for internet software, or that the Pentagon intends to ramp up intelligence gathering and dissident targeting inside Iran.
These gestures don't matter, not because they are, admittedly, modest and inconclusive, but because the objective isn't to get Obama to do "more," but to get him out of the White House. This means attacking everything the administration does or doesn't do about Iran, no matter the inconsistency. One minute, Bill Kristol is scolding Obama for not aiding the Greens in regime change, the next he's arguing that an American attack on Iran would result in a more inward-looking, cautious Iranian regime - in other words, diminishing the likelihood of revolution and regime change.
Are these arguments consistent? No. Must they be? Of course not. So long as they can be used to raise Obama's negatives here in the States, they needn't mean a thing for actual Iranians.
UPDATE: Matt Duss has more.