George Packer on President Obama’s remarks on Iran:
Obama’s carefully chosen remarks about Iran yesterday made just the right points in just the right tone. And not a moment too soon. He said that the U.S. won’t interfere in Iranian politics, but that the violence inflicted on unarmed demonstrators violates “universal values” and demands a response; that the U.S. didn’t monitor the elections and has no direct evidence of fraud, but circumstances and Iranian public opinion seem to point in that direction; that none of this will change current American policy to seek a dialogue with the regime in Tehran. Finally, and most powerfully, he said: “I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we’ve seen on the television over the last few days. And what I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was. And they should know that the world is watching.”You can read the entire piece here.
Just when Obama seemed to have fallen a step behind events, he emerged from his silence to do what no politician in our time could have managed: emphasize American respect for Iranian sovereignty and yet, in measured terms, make it clear that the U.S. cannot be indifferent to the tragedy unfolding in Iran. He spoke with calm eloquence to the millions of people who have filled the streets at great risk—spoke to their hopes and their courage. He proved that an American President can lend his voice to “universal values” without sounding like a self-righteous fool. And he showed the emptiness of the eternal argument between realism and idealism. When foreign policy is articulated by a thoughtful politician in the middle of an intense and unfolding drama, the abstractions melt away. It’s actually possible to be pragmatic without being indecent. Why shouldn’t it be?
And yet the crisis in Iran has flushed out all the pathologies of American foreign-policy thinking, or feeling, in the post-Bush era. It’s become weirdly difficult for commentators on both the right and the left to have anything close to a normal reaction to what the world is seeing. Instead, everything gets filtered through what you think about Bush, Iraq, Obama, Israel, and other subjects that have extremely tenuous connections to internal politics in Iran and the actions of the people and the state there….