By D. Pontoppidan, Summer Fellow at the Mackinac Center
We’ve all seen what has been described as the “biggest unrest in Iran since 1979” unfold on television for the past week. What we haven’t seen, however, is the United States of America or President Barack Obama take an active stance in the conflict. So far, the world has heard very little from the leader of the free world in the matter of Iran.
This provides grounds for some thoughts over the foreign policy of the current party in power – the Democratic Party.
Historically, the Democratic Party was an interventionist party that believed in spreading freedom around the world. It would seem, however, that it has changed its principles radically since the failure of the Iraq war, and taken a more isolationist stance on foreign issues, which is a shame. As a European, and in particular as a Dane, I have always seen America as a historical liberator of oppressed peoples around the world. FDR to me was never the president of the Great Depression or the president of Social Security, but the president who gave the famous Garden Hose speech to persuade Congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act. FDR’s phenomenal leadership made it possible to persuade a largely isolationist country to lend military equipment, and later manpower, to European countries that defended themselves against the Axis powers. If not for the Democratic Party, I would have been speaking German today – not Danish. That counts for something in my book.
A few weeks ago, President Obama spoke at the 65th anniversary of D-Day and stated: “Friends and veterans, what we cannot forget — what we must not forget — is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century”. This bravery was apparent in the men who died at the front fighting for freedom and democracy – but it was also part of the political leadership and the Democratic Party at the time. And just as it was then, it should be today.
Should we declare war on Iran? No. The price would clearly be too high to pay. But what about taking a stance for democracy? For the past week, the Iranian government has violently and brutally cracked down upon any dissent from peaceful protesters that have protested the disputed results of the Iranian Presidential Elections from June 12 2009. Protesters have been killed and assassinated, political prisoners have been taken, cell phones and internet connections have been shut down, and the Iranian people’s desire for free assembly and free speech is being grossly set aside. What we are seeing unfold is a victory for totalitarianism – not democracy. According to Der Spiegel, as many as 5.000 Lebanese Hezbollah militiamen have been recruited to fight the protesters, happily traveling the distance from Lebanon to Iran to destroy the spirit of democracy and keep an Islamic extremist in power.
Recognizing the right of the Iranian people to have open, democratic elections as well as the right to protest peacefully against blatant electoral fraud would not be a hard thing for the United States to do, but it would be significant in providing a united stand against the corrupt Iranian regime. Echoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the United States could demand that the Iranian election results must be subject to immediate nullification, and that no international country should recognize the results until an international probe into the Presidential election’s process has been conducted. The United States could refuse to speak to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and thereby refuse to recognize him as leader of his country. Through the United Nations’ Security Council, a resolution could be passed imposing sanctions on Iran, or at least it could be attempted. And as a president widely seen by the world community as a symbol of hope and change, Barack Obama could attempt to unite the world just as he united his own country. The statement “Yes we can” did not go around the world because it was a smart campaign slogan. It went global because of its universality and belief in certain basic truths, as fundamental as those described in the Declaration of Independence. The belief that change can be achieved.
To recognize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President is to recognize violence and fraud as valid measures in a country that proclaims itself to be democratic but clearly is not. The Iranian election process, having been manipulated from the beginning, did not intend for Mr. Hossein Mousavi or any other possible reform candidate to win. We now have the chance, however, to help the Iranian people in ensuring a more prosperous future, and rise up against a totalitarian system. I recall the words of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who in his Inaugural Address stated: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty”.
Words of wisdom for the leadership of today.