Recently, conservative MSNBC pundit Joe Scarborough summed up the last decade under President George W. Bush. “You had this terrible combination of big government Republicanism at home … and an aggressive foreign policy that would have made Woodrow Wilson blush,” Scarborough said. “The mixture was toxic.”
Conservatives seemed to have finally learned their lesson on supporting big government Republicanism at home. But few seem willing to reject the other half of that “toxic mixture” of big government abroad, or what Scarborough calls “Wilsonian globalism,” as demonstrated by the Right’s recent rhetoric on the ongoing developments in Iran.
Conservative talk radio and many Republican pundits and politicians seem to be wondering the same thing — why won’t Obama speak out in support of the Iranian masses protesting the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Or as National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg writes, “Do it, President Obama, please. Take the side of democracy.” However, this line of thinking reflects the same sort of reckless “cowboy diplomacy” that got us bogged down in Iraq in the first place.
The best help the U.S. could possibly give Ahmadinejad would be to condemn the election results outright and show unqualified support for the protesters. Obama has not done this, saying instead on the Monday after Friday’s election that “it is not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling.” By Wednesday, the Iranian government of Ahmadinejad and his boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were accusing the United States of “intolerable” meddling in its internal affairs.
Why would Khamenei and Ahmadinejad try to convince Iranians that the U.S. was “meddling?” For the same reason Obama has tried to convince Iranians the U.S. is not meddling — because that perception benefits the ruling regime. Explains Pat Buchanan: “When your adversary is making a fool of himself, get out of the way. U.S. fulminations will change nothing in Tehran. But they would enable the regime to divert attention to U.S. meddling in Iran’s affairs and portray the candidate robbed in this election, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, as a poodle of the Americans.”
There are two primary groups hoping that the U.S. will inject itself into the current protests taking place in Iran. Neoconservatives and Ahmadinejad himself.
Neoconservatives have applied the same any-stick-will-do-to-beat-a-dog approach to Iran, inflating Ahmadinejad’s alleged menace by calling him the “next Hitler” (and Obama “Neville Chamberlain”), constantly pointing to his repeated denial of the Holocaust (as if anti-Semitism is somehow unique to Iran amongst Arab nations), and exaggerating his nation’s nuclear capabilities (Iran’s “WMD”).
But like Iraq, the various reasons offered for desiring a confrontation with Iran are but the many means to the same end — a permanent U.S. presence in that country. On the possibility of an invasion and occupation of Iran, Defense Secretary Robert Gates rightly believes “[a]nother war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. In fact, I believe it would be disastrous.”
Neoconservatives disagree. Or as uber-neocon Daniel Pipes said while speaking at the Heritage Foundation two days before the Iranian election, “I’m sometimes asked who I would vote for if I were enfranchised in this election, and I think that, with due hesitance, I would vote for Ahmadinejad.”
Why would any American, neoconservative or otherwise, hope that Ahmadinejad would win the Iranian election? Because Ahmadinejad’s mere presence will make it easier to sell the American people on a possible war with Iran.
And why would these same neocons demand that Obama support the protestors? Because such an action would increase the opposition to American “meddling” among the Iranian president’s followers. And if Obama verbally backed the protesters, then the possibility that the U.S. military would support the demonstrators and any future regime changes — with boots on the ground — is that much more likely. Or worse, rhetorical support from Obama could falsely convince young Iranians that they will receive U.S. military support, and that could result in even worse bloodshed, like China’s Tiananmen Square.
As of this writing, many encouraging developments are happening in Iran, and America rightly continues to cheer the protesters. Our president is also right to stay out of it.
Conservatives who want the U.S. to get involved not only have refused to learn the lessons of the past, but should give up any pretense of actually being conservative, as both the neoconservative Right and the socialist Left agree the U.S. needs to spend trillions of dollars — they only differ on where to spend it.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.