So far, the response of the Obama Administration to the Iranian election must be a disappointment to all those who desire freedom for oppressed people around the world. The response has been compared to that of George H.W. Bush to the events preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, which initially was similarly "flat-footed." (tip to Instapundit) This is in marked contrast to Ronald Reagan's insightful encouragement of rebellion against Communism in the 1980s.
Hillary Clinton expresses the wait-and-see approach of the Obama Administration:
"We, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a visit to Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Saturday. "We obviously hope the outcome reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people."
In one sense, this unsatisfactory response is entirely consistent with the nuanced approach that President Obama laid out in his Cairo speech.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.
I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.
So the current position of the Obama Administration follows just what he promised. Obama asserted that "we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election." And the Iranian election through election day was mostly peaceful, so the Obama Administration will not presume to pick the outcome of the election, even if it was indeed stolen.
But if Obama comes to the personal conclusion that the Iranian election was stolen, then what? Again, his Cairo speech provides a possible answer:
(1) Obama will not "welcome" such a government (but he will not necessarily oppose it); and
(2) Obama will retain his personal belief that the Iranian people desire the "freedom to live as you choose."
In his Cairo speech, Obama expressed his opinion that governments that respect rights are "more stable, successful and secure." So far, the Iranian government has not taken this observation to heart.
As with the pirate hostage crisis, I hope that the Administration evolves a better response when they have a day or two to think about it.
If Obama chooses to continue to be bound by the chains of his Cairo speech, two things that Obama will not presume to do is (1) try to pick the winner of the Iranian election and (2) try to impose a democratic system of government on Iran. I certainly wouldn't favor the latter in Iran, but trying to encourage democracy among those fighting for it would seem to be both the right and the smart thing to do.
Those who were disappointed by the lukewarm endorsement of freedom that Obama offered in Cairo should not be surprised by his lukewarm response to a stolen Iranian election. Obama is a man who (whenever possible) chooses his words carefully.
I have no doubt that President Obama genuinely loves this country above all others, but does he understand evil — or how to deal with it?