Someone Forgot to Tell Democracy Activist That Obama’s Terrible on Democracy Promotion
President Obama says some stuff about the need for respecting human rights and the electoral process in Iran. Then the next day he adds, “The easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it’s the U.S. that is encouraging those reformers.” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) finds it all insufficient. Robert Kagan writes that Obama is “objectively on the side of” Ahmadinejad by refusing to say things that will strengthen Ahmadinejad.
Amazingly, someone who doesn’t think Obama’s statements about Iran have been detrimental to democratic impulses is Jack Duvall, the president of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, a non-governmental organization which provides tools and training for political reformers and democracy activists around the world. Duvall told me that Obama’s statement yesterday about Iran was “extraordinary,” in a way that I hadn’t considered. “He shifted the frame,” Duvall noted, “from [the question of] ‘were the elections fradulent’ to ‘what’s the responsibility of the Iranian government for peaceful dissent?’ That lays down a marker going forward: this is how we’re assessing you. He doesn’t have to send that in a giant shell shot out of a Howitzer, but it’s a matter of record.” In fact, Duvall said, Obama’s statement was “the first time you’ve heard a president articulate” that “how governments respond to the clamor of their people to be heard should be a measure of how we assess their legitimacy.” While the Bush administration surely wouldn’t have disagreed, he continued, Obama sharpened the point by “focusing it and giving it such visibility” during the largest protests in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
But I suppose Duvall is objectively on the side of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, too.