It is said that, to Washington’s neoconservative pundits, every problem looks a nail, and they have just the hammer: military force. Washington Post columnist and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer nicely encapsulated this concept last night on Bill O’Reilly’s show when he said that the U.S. should have sent “weaponry” to the pro-democracy movement that erupted in Iran after the fraudulent presidential elections of June 2009.
Krauthammer said that President Obama should have ramped up rhetoric against Iran during the brutal crackdown on the Green Movement — the distinctly non-violent protest movement born out of Mir Hossien Moussavi’s failed 2009 presidential campaign. And when O’Reilly asked what else Obama could have done, Krauthammer said he should have armed the protesters and order a covert war against Iran:
O’REILLY: But what else could he have done except rhetoric?
KRAUTHAMMER: Weaponry — he could have done a lot of things. Rhetoric is one thing and not to support the legitimacy of the regime. Clandestine operations. Why do we have $50 billion in secret operations in the CIA if not for an opportunity like this? He was hands off. He did nothing and we lost one of the great opportunities in history.
Watch the video:
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his ideological comrades have made President Obama’s reaction to the 2009 post-election Iranian government crackdown on Green Movement demonstrators a centerpiece of their criticisms. Romney’s campaign issue page for Iran says Obama “refrained from supporting the nascent Green Movement.” In a Washington Post op-ed, Romney wrote that he would “speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom.”
In reality, Obama didn’t, as Krauthammer put it, “support the legitimacy of the [Iranian] regime.” Daniel Larison has pointed out that, when failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum made the same charge, that unlike many world governments, Obama never recognized the elections. Furthermore, Obama condemned the abuses against demonstrators that June.
But more to the point, one hopes that Romney does not conflate symbolic “fighting” for freedom with literal fighting. Unlike in Syria and Libya, the Green Movement in Iran never took up arms. As Ardeshir Amirarjmand, a top adviser to Moussavi now in exile in France, told an audience at MIT last year, “We do not have any other choice than a nonviolent path toward democracy.” Or, as University of Toronto professor Ramin Jahanbegloo put it, “The Green Movement faces a troubling situation, but it is banking on its strategy of nonviolence as moral capital.” Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi — who, like Iranian civil society as a whole, opposes attacking Iran — told ThinkProgress in 2010 that she disagreed with critics who said that Obama should have spoken more forcefully in support of the Green movement in June 2009.
Krauthammer worries that Obama is not doing enough to support Iran’s democracy movement. But it’s perfectly clear that the Green Movement doesn’t want the kind of support — weapons and covert war — that Krauthammer is offering.