WHAT DOES THE PRESIDENT WANT, AND WHEN DOES HE WANT IT? Robert Kagan, in the Washington Post, provides a superbly argued analysis of the Obama policy on Iran, complete with its ugly cynicism. Yes, we'll sure feel proud of America again, won't we?
Obama's policy now requires getting past the election controversies quickly so that he can soon begin negotiations with the reelected Ahmadinejad government. This will be difficult as long as opposition protests continue and the government appears to be either unsettled or too brutal to do business with. What Obama needs is a rapid return to peace and quiet in Iran, not continued ferment. His goal must be to deflate the opposition, not to encourage it. And that, by and large, is what he has been doing.
If you find all this disturbing, you should. The worst thing is that this approach will probably not prevent the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. But this is what "realism" is all about. It is what sent Brent Scowcroft to raise a champagne toast to China's leaders in the wake of Tiananmen Square. It is what convinced Gerald Ford not to meet with Alexander Solzhenitsyn at the height of detente. Republicans have traditionally been better at it than Democrats -- though they have rarely been rewarded by the American people at the ballot box, as Ford and George H.W. Bush can attest. We'll see whether President Obama can be just as cold-blooded in pursuit of better relations with an ugly regime, without suffering the same political fate.
COMMENT: What is remarkable is that the press sold Obama to us as an idealistic, more-moral-than-Bush president. He may be idealistic, although I begin to shudder at what his ideals probably are. More moral than Bush? Let's not be silly.
June 17, 2009