Pres­i­dents who ‘med­dled’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

As a can­di­date, Pres­i­dent Obama said he be­lieved “words mat­ter” as “cat­a­lysts for change.” As pres­i­dent, not so much. Tak­ing sides in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances is part of the pres­i­den­tial job de­scrip­tion, par­tic­u­larly when Amer­ica’s most ba­sic value — free­dom — is un­der as­sault. Yet, de­spite the blood of in­no­cents flow­ing through Tehran’s streets, Mr. Obama has only mus­tered a few half­hearted words about “bear­ing wit­ness,” as if we were dis­pas­sion­ate ob­servers of free­dom’s strug­gles.

At a mo­ment in Iran for which we’ve been wait­ing 30 years, he mut­tered about not want­ing to “med­dle,” lest he be seen as a nosy Amer­i­can regime changer. He “strongly con­demned” the Ira­nian regime’s crack­down, but then equated it to a “de­bate.” He ref­er­enced “hu­man rights” but will not per­mit them to in­ter­rupt his legacy-scor­ing plan for nu­clear diplo­macy. He stead­fastly re­fuses to take sides when tak­ing sides is both a strate­gic and moral im­per­a­tive.

Lin­ger­ing for too long on the wrong side of his­tory can get un­com­fort­able, and the con­se­quences can be cruel. Mr. Obama can still avoid the Neville Cham­ber­lain ash heap by say­ing some­thing like this:

“Tonight, let me speak di­rectly to the cit­i­zens of Iran: Amer­ica re­spects you, and we re­spect your coun­try. We re­spect your right to choose your own fu­ture and win your own free­dom. And our na­tion hopes one day to be the clos­est of friends with a free and demo­cratic Iran.”

Or: “To the peo­ple of Iran: [. . .] We call on the regime in Tehran to heed your will and to make it­self ac­count­able to you. [. . .] We hear your cries for jus­tice. We share your de­sire for a free and pros­per­ous fu­ture. And as you strug­gle to find your voice [. . .] the United States will stand with you.”If th­ese clar­ion calls of moral sup­port ring fa­mil­iar, it’s be­cause Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush spoke them in 2006 and 2008, re­spec­tively.

Mr. Bush was right, of course, but if Mr. Obama can’t bring him­self to quote him (too soon?), he may want to re­fer in­stead to the words of his po­lit­i­cal he­roes. The pres­i­dents he reveres were just as un­equiv­o­cal in their sup­port of those clam­or­ing for free­dom as was Mr. Bush.

Pres­i­dent Lin­coln took sides in the epic bat­tle of lib­erty ver­sus en­slave­ment. He once said, “Those who deny free­dom to oth­ers de­serve it not for them­selves.” Lin­coln be­lieved so strongly in bring­ing free­dom to the op­pressed that he gave his life for it.

Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt took sides: Al­most a year be­fore the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor, he spoke of “four free­doms,” in­clud­ing “the free­dom of speech and ex­pres­sion — ev­ery­where in the world” and “free­dom from fear [. . .] any­where in the world.”

And fur­ther: “Free­dom means the supremacy of hu­man rights ev­ery­where. [. . .] Our sup­port goes to those who strug­gle to gain those rights or keep them.” Roo- sevelt saw to it that it did.

Pres­i­dent Tru­man took sides: In his 1949 in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, he re­ferred to the mas­sive post­war mo­bi­liza­tion for free­dom’s de­fense and said, “We are aided by all who wish to live in free­dom from fear — even by those who live to­day in fear un­der their own gov­ern­ments. [. . .] We are aided by all who de­sire self-gov­ern­ment and a voice in de­cid­ing their own af­fairs. [. . .] We will ad­vance to­ward a world where man’s free­dom is se­cure. To that end, we will de­vote our strength, our re­sources, and our firm­ness of re­solve.”

And he did: Mr. Tru­man au­tho­rized the Mar­shall Plan and NATO as bul­warks against Soviet ag­gres­sion. Faced with a Soviet block­ade of West Berlin, he or­dered the air­lift of food and sup­plies to the iso­lated part of the city, sav­ing count­less lives and en­sur­ing their free­dom from Soviet dom­i­na­tion. He wasn’t too con­cerned about the per­cep­tion of Amer­i­can “med­dling.”

Pres­i­dent Kennedy took sides: In his 1961 in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, he said, “We shall pay any price, bear any bur­den, meet any hard­ship, sup­port any friend, op­pose any foe, in or­der to as­sure the sur­vival and the suc­cess of lib­erty.”Four months later, he au- tho­rized the in­va­sion of Cuba by U.S.-trained Cuban ex­iles to over­throw the com­mu­nist regime of Fidel Cas­tro. The Bay of Pigs op­er­a­tion was un­suc­cess­ful, but Mr. Kennedy was un­afraid to at­tempt it on be­half of free­dom.

Mr. Obama, mean­while, avoids tak­ing sides be­cause he dreams of be­ing a 21st-cen­tury “Nixon in China,” a his­toric peace­maker who “flips” a for­mer ad­ver­sary and then takes a hero’s stroll through its streets. Noth­ing must be al­lowed to de­rail this stab at a No­bel Peace Prize.

His­tory, how­ever, does not have the pa­tience to in­dulge the pres­i­dent’s self-serv­ing ret­i­cence. It marches on in Iran, in shades of green for the revo­lu­tion and red for the vi­o­lent ef­forts to halt it. The Ira­nian peo­ple may have only got­ten a grudg­ing shout-out from the pres­i­dent, but they now have what Roo­sevelt called “free­dom from fear.”

Mr. Obama may fear the ef­fects of his words, but the peo­ple of Iran are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly fear­less — and will­ing to take sides.

Mon­ica Crow­ley is a na­tion­ally syndicated ra­dio host, a pan­elist on “The McLaugh­lin Group,” and a Fox News con­trib­u­tor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.