don’t just do something, sit there
Props on the title go to Eunomia commenter Grumpy Old Man who was commenting on the second of two very strong posts from Daniel Larison regarding the Iranian riots. Larison worries that too much enthusiasm over these elections will invariably lead to our doing something stupid – some statement or symbolic gesture, such as Obama wearing a green tie (the color of political Islam) out of solidarity and thereby further propagating the myth that he is in fact a Muslim. Obama’s a sharp guy, though. I doubt he’d do anything quite so silly, though he really ought to wear a green tie next St. Patrick’s Day. In any case, as Larison notes:
One of the great problems with a foreign policy that takes global “leadership” as a given is that it seems to compel the U.S. government to have an official view on every event and crisis around the world. The idea that there are events that have nothing to do with us, and which we have no business concerning ourselves with, is so alien to our policymakers that I am fairly sure that it never occurs to them. Certainly, if it ever did, they would dismiss it immediately as unacceptable “inaction” in a “time of crisis.” Discretion sometimes truly is the better part of valor.
Now, I admit to having been very caught up in these elections and the subsequent protests, riots, and so forth. I felt that a less hostile Iranian regime would put a damper on all this talk of invasion – both in Israel and in the United States. Then, too, despite my generally non-interventionist stance, I nonetheless feel a great deal of empathy for the people in other parts of the world who feel powerless in their political process. I sympathize with a populace who cares enough to go to these lengths after what they perceive to be a stolen election. Once upon a time Americans had this passion, but we’ve lost it along the way.
My enthusiasm, I think, was mainly one of contrasts. I was enthralled with the flood of information – however scattered and incomplete it may have been – that came in via youtube, twitter and the blogs. The silence on mainstream outlets was deafening. The lack of interest in so many of my fellow citizens was startling. Then again, I remember talking to a young lady just before elections and asking her who she was voting for and she shrugged her shoulders and said she wasn’t interested in politics. So apathy over Iranian elections is hardly surprising.
Then again, I don’t share in the calls for the U.S. to “do something” or make grand, assumptive statements about the gross fraudulence and freedom-hatred of the Iranian state – though obviously Obama was obliged to say something and I think he handled it quite well. There is always room to denounce violence. Whether or not we take the skeptical stance, as Mark has, the fact remains that this is an Iranian affair. I think solidarity and support should be given by devoting our airwaves to actually reporting on what happens. That’s enough. That’s the only way that we can, in the end, form reasonable opinions ourselves.
Between Mark, Daniel, and Sonny you’ve got a pretty strong case for proceeding with caution. I’d only add that we should also proceed with enthusiasm – a healthy enthusiastic pursuit of information. So long as we also understand that we are only observing this as it unfolds – not “leading” or “doing” anything. Enthusiasm for knowledge is exactly what’s led the Dish to such heights these past few days, even if Andrew has made a couple bad policy decisions, and we’re all better informed because of it. And that’s enough.
Pat Buchanan is right on the money here:
The dilemma for America is that the theocracy defines itself and grounds its claim to leadership through its unyielding resistance to the Great Satan — the United States — and to Israel.
Nevertheless, Obama, with his outstretched hand, his message to Iran on its national day, his admission that the United States had a hand in the 1953 coup in Tehran, his assurances that we recognize Iran’s right to nuclear power, succeeded. He stripped the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad of their clinching argument — that America is out to destroy Iran and they are indispensable to Iran’s defense.