Just Saying

June 14th, 2009
With Bush in office, Iran became polarized to the extreme, terror-related Hamas won Palestinian elections, Hezbollah had a controlling coalition in Lebanon. Obama takes office, and very soon after making a brilliant, hopeful, and conciliatory speech in Cairo, Hezbollah loses a key election in Lebanon and Iran's Ahmadinejad has to steal an election in order to keep the more pro-Western Mousavi from winning and transforming the country. Some of this might be coincidence in timing, or representative of changes in progress, but I think it's very hard, if not impossible, to discount Obama's impact on this. Bush galvanized people who hate us, and Obama's talent for words and statesmanship is bringing the Middle East to a more reasonable position. Not that the wingnut echo chamber would ever recognize this; in a few years, if we're seeing a recovering economy, a shrinking deficit, and real progress in the Middle East, they'll give full credit to Bush, and to themselves for “pushing” Obama in the right direction--but to think of Obama as doing any of that, well, their heads would explode. Despite Obama's faults in other areas, he's doing damned well on the diplomacy front, achieving more in five months than Bush did in eight years. Not wholly undoing the damage Bush left behind, but clearly on the right path.

  1. Tim Kane
    June 14th, 2009 at 13:39 | #1

    I would encourage one and all to take a look at travel impresario Rick
    Steves, (of PBS Travel Fame “Rick Steves’ Europe fame) travel documentary on Iran or the notes from his blog:

    http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/beyond/iran.htm

    (btw his books and travel tips are always great – last time I went to Europe on my own, it was juat with one carry on bag – per his instructions – it’s easier to cover more ground, and he showed me how to get by on less clothes, etc…)

    The piece he did on Iran, is 55 minutes, excellent stuff, and is available for free it you google rick steves iran and click video. It’s also available on You Tube in 5 or 6 chunks.

    He is an expert on Europe, claims to know little of Iran. He was invited through the UN, by the government of Iran to produce a travel episode on Iran. His goal was to put a human face on Iran, just in case we went to war with them, so we understood what ‘collateral damage’ meant. He put up the money for the episode himself.

    Okay, all that for the important message.

    The Iranian people are very friendly and they love America and Americans.

    The conflict, then is government to government.*

    My take, then, is the rioting spawning in Iran right now is ‘communication’ by the people against the supreme leader, a cleric. They want more freedom, they want integration with the wider world, they really don’t want to incite conflict. The intensity of the public has to be disturbing to the clerics that really run and control Iran.

    Here is where Obama’s opportunity, then, would seem to arise. In subtle, sophisticated ways, Obama can go over the government’s head and communicate to the moderate Iranians – addressing their aspirations and hopes. In a certain sense, if handled carefully and delicately, Obama could hold more moral authority in Iran than the Islamic clerics who are seen by many as a form of tyranny. This, with time could change the alchemy of Middle Eastern politics.

    If the people of America don’t want war, and the people of Iran don’t want war, then the only source for war incitements is coming from plutocracy, with its own agenda. Extreme conservatives in Iran benefit from an enemy, just as they do in the United States and in Israel. But the rest of us have no practical need for enemies. Hate mongering and enemy making is what sent that guy into the Holocaust Museum and the other guy who killed Dr. Tiller. It’s a manipulation of the masses by a set of would be plutocrats to serve their purposes.

    (Steves contemplated this some in his blog – a most interesting thought: ‘Preparing for this adventure, I’ve been thinking about the similarities between three countries that are, or have been, notorious thorns in America’s side: Nicaragua, Cuba, and Iran. In each of them, we supported an American-business-friendly dictator who was ultimately thrown out by the poor people in that country: Somoza, Battista and the Shah. Then we proceeded to demonize the dictator’s successor and traumatize their people with economic embargos and noisy saber rattling. In the next 10 days, I hope to learn more about why Iranians chant “Death to America.”‘ )

  2. stevetv
    June 16th, 2009 at 00:20 | #2

    Obama needs to do double-duty diplomacy in Europe. They just shifted to the right after some recent elections.

  3. Luis
    June 16th, 2009 at 10:09 | #3

    Steve: we’ve been watching Bill Maher, then? Yeah, the elections shifted right there, though for independent reasons. But then, Obama wasn’t focusing his diplomacy there and he probably wouldn’t have nearly as much influence anyway. Obama’s specific power in diplomacy is much greater in the Middle East, where the contrast to Bush is far sharper, and Obama’s Muslim roots mean quite a bit.

    Not to mention that a shift toward pro-Westernism in the Middle East is far more significant than a shift to the right in Europe. Hey, they have socialized medicine, so they’re all Communists anyway!

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