Opinion: Clueless, Obama Harms the U.S. Without & Within
Imagine, the White House and Iran’s president-elect agree. Both congratulated the Iranian people on their determination to participate in the “political process” of the purported election.
President Bashar al-Assad also voiced his approval, congratulating Hasan Rohani for gaining “the trust of millions of the brotherly Iranian people.” In a televised address following his victory, Rohani “thanked the Iranian people for their huge turnout” in the election, and called on the West to respect Iran.
It didn’t take long for the White House to assure Rohani that “we respect the vote of the Iranian people,” praising their “determination to act to shape their future.”
Iran’s official voters turnout of 72.7% is still smaller than the 100% turnout in North Korea, or 90% in Cuba. But like them, the “political process” and “election” that the White House praised was staged. Each “candidate” played the role scripted by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted saying, “Recently I have heard that a U.S. security official has said they do not accept this election. OK, the hell with you.” Nevertheless, the administration announced, yet again, it was “ready to engage the Iranian government.” Administration officials on Sunday talk shows described Rohani as a “moderate” and a “reformer.” Yet, he has never claimed to be either.
You would think our experience with Iran since 1979 would have taught us something. Still, we go on believing such things as that sanctions will moderate Iranian behavior and that negotiations with the Islamic Republic can bring the same results as negotiations with Western-style democratic countries.
The 237-year-old U.S. is a country made of immigrants from all corners of the world and different cultures, religions, historical experiences, and national identities, yet we do not understand the historical, national, and religious influences on and motivations for political decision-making of countries like China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and even Europe.
Being American is to have a political identity based on Enlightenment values that are not shared by much of the world. Such values as individual human rights and freedoms seem to us universal, recognizable by anyone anywhere as part of their own traditions, as is our enthusiasm for group rights over the past several decades. This sort of thinking is not shared by a good part of the world.
Not surprising therefore is U.S. failure at the “mission” to spread American-style freedom, justice, and democracy the resentment it has generated. In fact, these seem even more out-of place, considering that the U.S. current president and his administration have been methodically tarnishing whatever efforts were made in the past to develop and ingrain a national identity and patriotic pride and reluctance to pursue America’s national interests. The failure to project power coupled with resentment are pushing the degradation of American influence in the world toward completion.
To make decisions that will not come back to bite us and would better serve U.S. interest, it’s essential to understand the different long-term outlook of other nations. Where a confluence of political cultures is possible, it may and should be pursued. Stalwart U.S. backing for other democracies is hardly an “old saw” past its time.
Yes, Americans are tired of foreign wars after Iraq and Afghanistan and there is reluctance to get involved in Syria’s Sushi (Sunni/Shiite) war that has no “good guys” to empathize with. However, the will to project power where the interests of the U.S. and other Western-style democracies are clearly at stake needs to be found again. They are surely not with totalitarian regimes that use the Orwellian meaning of democracy.