In this era of Democratic domination of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, who is the new go-to man for counsel with regard to wise foreign policy strategies?
The former aide to presidents Nixon and Reagan who bid without success for the Republican presidential nod in 1992, 1996 and 2000 has long been a critic of U.S. interventionism — especially in the Middle East and southern Asia. An “old-right” conservative whose views on international affairs bow to the memory of former Ohio Senator Robert Taft Sr., Buchanan is a stalwart critic of foreign adventures. As such, Buchanan has battled the neo-conservative impulse in his own party and beyond its borders, as a commentator and with his contributions to the intellectually-adventurous American Conservative magazine.
So when President Obama shied away from joining other world leaders who have aggressively criticized Iran’s disputed election and condemned post-election violence — an approach The Hill newspaper describes as “hands-off” — he got high marks from Buchanan.
While most Republicans, led by the ever-bombastic John McCain (in alliance with the ever-bloviating Joe Lieberman), have been pillorying Obama for not doing enough, the paleoconservative commentator is hailing Obama as a savvy player on the international stage.
On Friday, Buchanan wrote:
It is impossible to believe a denunciation of the regime by Obama will cause it to stay its hand if it believes its power is imperiled. But it is certain that if Obama denounces Tehran, those demonstrators will be portrayed as dupes and agents of America before and after they meet their fate.
If standing up and denouncing the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad from 7,000 miles away is moral heroism, it is moral heroism at other people’s expense.
That got Democrats all excited.
Declared Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, about as close an Obama ally as you will find in Congress: “It’s an ironic moment in history when I say I agree with Pat Buchanan, but I agree with Pat Buchanan. The president is being very smart and strategic here. Sometimes it’s more important to use a velvet glove than to pound your chest and in this instance the reformers are going to be more effective if no one senses they’re being driven by the west.”
There is room for serious argument about the wisdom of Obama’s stance, especially the president’s suggestion that the U.S. does not see much difference between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Clearly, a great many young Iranians do see a difference — and are risking their lives to press the point — and Obama would do well to reconsider his line.
Additionally, Obama’s caution places him in the unsettling position of suggesting that the United States has only two options: do nothing or meddle aggressively (perhaps even militarily) in the affairs of a repressive country. Obama, in particular, has an international bully pulpit, and he should begin staking out an new high ground for America: where this country’s leaders speak well and wisely on behalf of international democracy without meddling in the affairs of other countries in a manner that discredits the language of freedom.
But that’s not where Obama is going at this point.
He’s following the counsel of diplomats who say any U.S. messaging that suggests a side is being taken will make things worse for the dissenters in Iran. Like it or not, this is a line best articulated by Buchanan, when he argues:
Tehran appears to be facing its Tiananmen moment.
Hundreds of thousands are still demonstrating against Friday’s election and the regime that validated it. They are now being joined by crowds in cities where Baluchi, Arabs, Kurds and Azeris outnumber Persians, thus imperiling the unity of this diverse nation.
It is hard to believe that this theocratic regime, backed by the Revolutionary Guard and clerics, will not do whatever is necessary to preserve its power and national unity.
This is another reason President Obama is right not to declare that the United States is on the side of the demonstrators in Tehran or the other cities – and against the regime.
Should this end in bloodshed, Obama would be blamed for having instigated it, and then abandoned the demonstrators, as Ike’s U.S. Information Agency was blamed for having urged the Hungarians to rise and then left them to their fate.
When Vice President Nixon went to the bridge at Andau to welcome the Hungarian patriots fleeing the bloodbath, many cursed America for having misled them into believing we would be at their side.
If Obama cannot assist the demonstrators, why declare we are with them? That would call into question the nationalist credentials of the protesters by tying them to a power not universally loved in Iran.