Reflections on the Iranian Enigma

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

Thoughts on Iran

1)  Why did we reject the Bush policy of non-engagement with a monster like Ahmadinejad, who oppressed his own and threatened nuclear destruction to Israel? Is it all that moral, or all that wise, or all that much in U.S. realpolitik interests to apologize to a thug? Does it show solidarity with the Iranian people to court a nut? What is so smart in making Iran the center of our attention rather than the Maliki democratic government in Iraq? Hamas rather than democratic Israel? Is what we are now seeing in the streets of Iran proof of all the praise once heaped on theocratic “democratic” Iran by the likes of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and the New York Times?

2) Will someone please tell President Obama that when you send videos to Ahmadinejad, apologize for something that happened over a half-century ago, and ignore serial Iranian killing of Iraqi and American democrats in Iraq, you send a message that implicitly you either approve of him — or are afraid of him? One of two things is happening in Iran: either a boasting, cocky Ahmadinejad rigged the election, without worry that anyone — much less the present U.S. — would care. Or, if the election result is semi-accurate (I doubt it), he energized his base, by showing the rural believers that even much worshipped Barack Hussein Obama was courting their all-wise leader and de facto agreeing to the new Persian Islamic nuclear hegemony.

3) So what constitutes Obama’s morality? Courting the Islamic street by distorting history? Being more critical of one’s own democratic open society than the autocratic Arab governments you seek to placate? Using your middle name abroad to court favor and separate yourself from America’s past, while insisting that those who invoke it at home are as illiberal as you are liberal in broadcasting it?

4) Much of Iran wants what they see going on in Iraq. How odd that the ‘experts’ assured us that Bush had empowered Iran by removing his rival Saddam. Perhaps in the short term — but in the long term TV, radio, and osmosis from free Iraq is proving more destabilizing to the theocracy in Iran than are Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and shaped charged IEDs to Iraq.

5) As Aristotle saw, amorality is as much an absence of moral judgment as it is a commission of sin. When Obama lavishes more attention on Chavez, Castro, Ortega, Ahmadinejad, or a Saudi royal than he does on our struggling democratic friends in Iraq, Israel, Columbia and eastern Europe, he sends a message: ‘I wish to be loved, adored, to be seen as absolutely even-handed, even more than I do to take risks for those of you who bravely risk even more by championing freedom and consensual government.’

6) In Obama’s morally equivalent universe, when all leaders are alike, when there is no moral difference between nations, when a handful of classical texts that survived only in Arabic written by Muslims are equivalent to the entire transmission of classical learning through thousands of manuscripts in Europe, then there is no A or B, just AB, then there is no bad or good, no nothing really. Yes, he certainly is not a “Manichean” like Bush, who saw the world in moral absolutes. Yes, but he is certainly also a moral relativist, who cannot distinguish an Ahmadinejad from a Maliki, a Netanyahu from Abbas, a Chavez from an Uribe.

Everything is contingent on being liked, or rather worshipped. I was proud of Bush when Chavez trashed him, when Ahmadinejad blasted Bush, when Putin slurred Bush — and very worried when they began to court Obama whom they either saw as a patsy to be used or a friend — to be used. Years from now do we really think there will be some great revisionism and the world will come to love the ‘peacemaker’ Chamberlain or Baldwin, and despise the troublemaker Churchill?

I think not.

Obama has applause for the moment, it is true, but for all our sakes, he better start thinking of respect from the ages.

©2009 Victor Davis Hanson

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