Why Make a Demagogue’s Argument for Him?
Fun as it is to laugh at Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), let me return to some of the previous post’s source material, but in a different context. Look at how today’s Iranian-regime tactic is to brand the opposition as American stooges. A prosecutor in Isfahan says it’s religiously permissible to murder “the few elements controlled by foreigners.” State-run media is calling nonexistent American intervention “intolerable.” It should be clear this is a demagogic attempt to discredit a protest movement that’s self-consciously recontextualized the iconography of the Islamic Revolution, and that President Obama’s strategy of staying as far out of the election as possible won’t stop the regime from lying about American involvement.
Michael Ledeen considers that a green light for direct presidential involvement, writing, “stop pretending to be a sweet innocent, and get in there and fight for people who are dying in the name of our values, and who want to be part of our world.” It’s an understandable emotional response — if you’re going to get blamed anyway, why not actually get in the fight? — but it still neglects the actual situation the opposition is in. Consider that if this is going to be a real revolution, it’s going to need to convince people that aren’t already out in the streets to bandwagon with its arguments. And they’ll need to do so by convincing their compatriots that the opposition has a better and more authentic conception of Iranian interests than the regime does. Fewer things could get in the way of growing the movement more robustly than to have the Americans parachute in, even rhetorically, and lend complicating support. Indeed, if Obama were to get involved now, he’d inadvertently validate the regime’s misrepresentations. And that would probably cause at least some protesters pause to wonder if they were giving aid and comfort to a traditionally-hostile foreign entity.
Nationalism is a powerful and volatile thing, in the United States as in Iran. We shouldn’t do anything to get in its way — especially as its magnitude and direction all seem to favor the opposition.