The Virtues of Silence
A former student of mine from Iran heard from his brother for the first time in a couple of days. When my student bemoaned the cautiousness of Obama administration’s statements, his brother confirmed one aspect of Spencer Ackerman’s account of the administration’s behavior, saying that government forces are already accusing protesters of collaborating with the U.S., and that protesters are actually worried that Obama will make an explicit show of support, as that would restore some credibility to what the government has said about the election and, more importantly, could undermine a reform coalition in which some factions are none-too-fond of America.
Everyone prematurely condemning the administration’s apparent silence on this matter may want to rethink the offensive idea that he’s merely “voting ‘present.’“ I’m not saying we should take my student’s brother’s word on this as definitive, but it does make one point absolutely clear: most of the people complaining about the administration’s response are more concerned with playing American politics than the situation on the ground in Iran.
At the risk of not taking my own side in an argument, I’m hesitant to make a statement about people’s “real” motives here. The images coming from Iran are both inspiring and gut wrenching. It’s understandable for Americans to want to plant a flag firmly on the side of the dissidents. But that doesn’t absolve the United States of responsibility for what might happen to those dissidents if it did so.