History Doesn’t Repeat, but it May Rhyme

I love my American heritage of freedom and I believe, maybe naively, that liberty is the natural state of humankind, even if most humans still do not enjoy it and we face real world constraints on our actions worldwide.

In the 1980s, the communist empires were cracking. President Reagan needed to negotiate with the regimes withholding freedom from the people of Eastern Europe, but he also never forgot whose side we were on. We negotiated with the rulers, but stood with the people. Many people in the U.S. questioned this stand. They said it was empty rhetoric at best, or maybe even dangerous.

What we say matters. The people of Eastern Europe did not consider it empty rhetoric and it turned out that we achieved greater arms reductions and security than anybody imagined before, so it was neither empty nor dangerous. President Reagan quoted a Russian proverb, “trust but verify.” There could be a corollary, negotiate but don’t forget your values and remember that the ruling regime is not the people.

Today the Iranian people are boldly standing up to the regime that has oppressed them for thirty years. Some are dying at its hands, and yet they persist. The rulers of Iraq are more ruthless than the Polish communists were in the 1980s, but the principle is the same. Our place is with the people of Iran. They are not asking that we intervene or meddle. They just want us to state unequivocally where our own values and ideals stand. If we didn’t do the right thing in 1953, maybe we can do the right thing now.

It was twenty years ago THIS MONTH that Poles elected a non-communist government. Most pundits thought it was a silly dream that would just be crushed, as communist authorities had crushed these sorts of things before. But it endured. The crack in the communist wall that started in Poland spread throughout the whole benighted region. Five months later the Berlin Wall, that horrible symbol of hate and oppression that had stood for almost thirty years, was torn down by the people. Two years after that, the Soviet Union just dissolved and communism, which had ruled so ruthlessly for generations died with a whimper so small that we weren’t even sure it was dead.

I know a lot less about Iran than I do about Poland and I don’t want to overdo the historical parallels. But I do believe that if history does not repeat, it often rhymes. The Iranians are heirs to the ancient Persian traditions of learning and tolerance. In many ways the Mullahs are an alien anomaly that doesn’t fit the illustrious Iranian culture any more than communism fit Poland. Stalin said that imposing communism on Poland was like trying to put a saddle on a cow. He didn’t mean it as a compliment and he did indeed impose it anyway, but culture does matter and old habits have a way of reasserting themselves, especially habits of the heart.

Persian states, ancient, medieval and modern were often models of tolerance, learning and good government of their times. It was Cyrus the Persian who ended the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. Let’s hope the Persian habits of tolerance and openness are indeed habits of the heart. And let’s make sure we know - and they know - and the world knows - that we stand for their freedom and ours.

(Editors Note: Jack was a former prolific writer in this column for several years. He is unable to return to writing here on a regular basis, but, he presented this article for possible publishing as a one time deal.)

Posted by Jack at June 18, 2009 1:13 PM
Comments
Comment #283191

As individuals, yes, let’s do that.

As for the federal government, I think it would be counter-productive. After all, the current regime in Iran derives much of its legitimacy from being the regime that drove out the Shah - the dictator that the United States placed in power after the CIA overthrew the previous democratically-elected government.

If the opposition in Iran is seen in any way as being a tool of the United States, then they lose their legitimacy within their battle for freedom.

I want the Iranian regime to fail, and I would like the people of Iran to know that I personally support their efforts to fight a sham election. However, I don’t want my government to get in the way.

Posted by: LawnBoy at June 18, 2009 2:15 PM
Comment #283195

Reagan was a blundering fool who just happened to came along when the USSR was about to collapse from within due to almost 75 years of economic and ideological rot. It never helps your case to mention or quote him, much as you might think the opposite. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

But to your point, having removed the fluff and guff: “They just want us to state unequivocally where our own values and ideals stand.”

I think you’re wrong about this.

From every source I’ve heard other than Jonah Goldberg, virtually everyone in Iran from top to bottom just want us to butt out.

They appreciate our coming along and taking out their arch-enemy Iraq and they especially appreciate our being unable and/or unwilling to do a good job getting Iraq back on their feet, but they basically do not care one bit what we think.

I’d like to know where exactly, other than your opinion, you’ve gotten this idea; you seem to have failed to provide any source.

Don’t bother listing Jonah Goldberg; he wouldn’t ever admit Obama did anything right.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 18, 2009 3:57 PM
Comment #283203

Sam: “Is the glass half empty or half full?”

Is what glass half empty or half full? What glass are you talking about?

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 18, 2009 6:01 PM
Comment #283212

I’m absolutely an optimist.

But I submit that anyone who would ask “Is the glass half empty or half full?” or someone who would answer that question without knowing specifically to what the asker is referring could only be charitably referred to as insane.

Are you talking about the outlook for the future of the USA? I’d call that at least half full if not nearly full. Or are you talking about the outlook for a stable Iraq in my lifetime? I’d call that a good deal less that half full. That may not be what you call optimism, but it IS something most people refer to as “realism”.

Just because I disagree with the original poster, who is notorious for publishing wild speculation and opinion, does not make my comments negative.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 18, 2009 7:02 PM
Comment #283213

jack

good to see your still alive and well, but as much as i hate to say it i have to side with lawn boy on this one. jeeze siding with lawnboy, and david all in one day, i’m scaring myself.

Posted by: dbs at June 18, 2009 7:02 PM
Comment #283215

Conservatives destroyed America’s ability to stand up for American values in Iran.

The CIA-backed overthrow of a democratic government, the horrendous repression by the US-backed Shah and SAVAK, an American warship shooting down an Iranian airliner just offshore (Over two hundred innocent men, women and children died- if they could be alive to have an opinion today, I bet they would not speak highly of Reagan), American troops invading and occupying two bordering countries, backing the MEK, who committed terrorist bombings in Iran, and more, and more-

Virtually everyone in this country wants to see the same outcome for the Iranians. However, our hopes our ideals and our words have been undermined by the immoral actions of the likes of Reagan and Bush.

It’s not enough to just say the US favors liberty and freedom. Actions abroad need to reflect those ideals. Until then, it would be better to stay on the sidelines.

Posted by: phx8 at June 18, 2009 7:36 PM
Comment #283217

Lawnboy

We have to be careful either way. The Iraqi regime is quickly losing its legitimacy in the eyes of many of its people. Unfortunately, we don’t have the option of staying out. The Mullahs are already blaming us for meddling. The truth is not important to them. They will put us into the role they have determined and tell what lies they can.

Meanwhile, the people are feeling abandoned. I don’t think favoring an unpopular regime in 1953 means we should lay off a despotic regime in again in 2009. It is sort of like repeating the same mistake.

I admit that I am reacting to these events and not calculating all the angles. It just seems like we should be on the side of freedom. And I see it in terms of E.Europe. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t go against them.

Daniel

I got my impressions of what people thought of Ronald Reagan from living in Poland for almost eight years. They seemed to think highly of him. I don’t know. Maybe he just blundered into success, but he did and said the right things for the time.

I got my recent impressions of Iran from talking to young Iranians. In fact, it was their passion that moved me to write this particular piece. I cannot properly describe the mixture of pride and fear I saw in their faces. They reminded me of the earnest young Poles spitting in the face of communism.

This revolution is being carried on the Internet. And that is how we can help. They showed me notes from people in Iraq. They want the world and the U.S. to watch and to be on their side. They don’t really expect us to DO anything, except keep the spotlight on the regime. They think that the attention will save lives, as the even a cruel regime like the one currently in power in Iran is concerned with international public opinion. They would like to kill in private.

One young woman told me that there is no going back for many. They have revealed their faces and the regime will deal with them if they fail. They are afraid it will end badly. Maybe it will be more like the Hungarian uprising than the Polish push to freedom. Nobody knows.

But millions of people are putting their lives on the line. You just have to admire it. Another woman told me about her family. Her parents were afraid that her three brothers would be hurt or killed in demonstrations, so they decided that the whole family would go and live or die together. Others made the same point and there was safety in numbers AND in the attention they were getting through the pictures.

This started as a protest against election fraud. It has grown into something much bigger.

As I wrote, I remember well the late 1980s. I remember all the experts telling us how the Poles would fail and how the people of Eastern Europe fundamentally supported the systems in place. I had to endure countless lectures by “intellectuals” telling me that I didn’t really understand my grandfather’s people. The Poles were not really ready for freedom. “Look at their history;” they told me, “Eastern Europe has always been like that.” “These guys are just dreamers. They have no plan.” Well, those same guys whose cavalry fought German panzers (BTW – they also told me that this was a myth, but have been to the Mokra battlefield where the Polish cavalry defeated the German panzers), whose leadership was massacred by the Soviets in Katyn forest and who dreamed of freedom for generations became free.

Today people say the fall of communism was inevitable. It didn’t look like it back then. Experts did not see it coming. And then it did. By luck, resoluteness, courage and lots of other things we cannot analyze, it happened. Nearly fifty years of oppression was swept away by a mighty wave.

We can disagree about President Reagan and we can disagree about the goodness of the United States. But I admire courage in the service of freedom and that is what I am seeing in Iran. Big things can start in unexpected ways. The harbingers of change are not always recognized and the agents are not always ideal.

You can choose the side you want or choose to be neutral. I chose to be on the side of the Poles in 1989 and I choose to stand with the Iranian people today w/o equivocation. I hope in my small way it makes a difference.

BTW – here are some pictures. http://twitpic.com/7mi3f

Posted by: Jack at June 18, 2009 8:05 PM
Comment #283222

Jack, I agree with your article and Lawnboy’s first comment. The American people can demonstrate their support for the Iranian demonstrators. Pres. Obama and Congress however, have to be aware of the pitfall should the Iranian government halt the protests and demonstrations and continue to govern Iran for the next years or decade or more. Our government has to be able to maintain the option of a working, negotiating, and potentially productive relationship with whomever is ruling in Iran, in order to serve our nation’s best interests.

I hear Republicans in Congress trying to push Obama into that pitfall of condemning Ahmadinejad and supporting the people’s overthrow of their election and government. That is a pitfall, Obama is entirely too smart to walk into.

Our government absolutely must NOT follow the GW Bush policy of meddling in other nation’s internal affairs and relationship between their government and people in an active and militaristic manner. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is a pretty wise saying to bear in mind when discussing international relations.

As a people we can support the Iranian pro-democracy movement with fervor. As a government, we must respect the integrity of their government, as long as it does not pose a threat to our own or homeland. We fought our revolutionary war to attain freedom and independence from an intolerable regime. Iranians have some experience with that as well just a few decades ago. I am encouraged by what I see taking place in Iran so far.

But, I will probably have more reflection on that when the Ayatollah speaks to Iranians at 3:30 this morning our time.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 18, 2009 9:16 PM
Comment #283228

David

We don’t need to take sides in the actual election. We don’t have a dog in that fight. It has gone beyond that. The people are sick of the Mullahs, sick of their mismanagement and sick of the high unemployment and poverty in an oil rich country. When they all came out, they saw the power of the people. The regime might oppress and put them down, but it will never be the same.

We should say that we stand with the people of Iran, that we oppose their oppression and murder, that we believe elections should be fair and that the people have a right to assemble. These are our core principles and basic human rights. We don’t need to clear them with the Iranian rulers. It is not meddling. It is speaking truth. Lord knows our government comments about almost everything else in the world.

Our problem for many years is that we make deals with the rulers against the people. Some of this is unavoidable and I would defend it as such. But when we have really stood tall is when we have stuck by our principles, as in E. Europe in the 1980s. It is unpopular with despots and even at home among some parts of the population, but it is right.

Ironically, we compromised on principles in Iran in 1953 and are still feeling the pain. Let’s learn the lesson. This time maybe we do the right thing and stand with the rights of the people.

Posted by: Jack at June 18, 2009 9:49 PM
Comment #283231

I guess if all you’re saying is that we as individuals should support the Mousavi (sp?) contingent, I have no problem with that, although again I fail to see either a) how that will help or b) what difference our individual support will make. Furthermore, since a) the mullahs are ultimately in control and b) we have no compelling reason to believe Mousavi would be any less crazy than Amadinejad, there may ultimately be no improvement for the Iranians however things turn out. Remember, Mousavi was vetted by the mullahs before the election, so it’s probably like taking your pick among, say, Hannity and O’Reilly for president.

Be that as it may, I’ll admit I jumped to the conclusion (as it appears that others here have also done) that what you were in fact calling for was the Obama administration to come out in support for Mousavi especially in terms of wanting a recount or a do-over such as McCain and any number of right-winger radio and TV babblers have already done.

If that wasn’t your intention, then we agree: Obama is handling this exactly correctly, unlike we probably would have seen the Bush/Cheney cabal do. Shoot, if it was Bush/Cheney still, we would at this point probably already be on the brink of an invasion on the false pretext that one or the other sides had their finger on the WMD button, ready to wipe out DC.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 18, 2009 10:04 PM
Comment #283233

Daniel

I am not saying we should support any candidate. We should support the rights of the Iranian people. This has become bigger than the candidates involved in this particular election.

IMO President Obama will need to get a little more in front of this or else it will run him over. President GHW Bush made the mistake of moderation when talking to the Ukrainians. This was his famous “Chicken Kiev Speech”. He was right, but he was on the wrong side of history and regretted it.

This may be one of the turning points of history. If the Iranian regime resorts to bloody repression, it will be hard for any president to deal with them. If the regimes make compromises, it may well set up an evolutionary process the results in freedom. The Iranians are ready. It is very difficult for authoritarians to make halfway measures. They tend to slip one way or the other.

There is the famous quote from Cicero. Everybody ridiculed Barry Goldwater for saying it. It is a muscular truth but it does apply.”Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Posted by: Jack at June 18, 2009 10:35 PM
Comment #283235

Here are some of the best Twitter feeds - http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/livetweeting-the-revolution.html

Posted by: Jack at June 18, 2009 10:40 PM
Comment #283237

Jack,
“Extremism in the pursuit of liberty…”
So, uh, how did that work out for Cicero? After all, his head and hands ended up being nailed to the Rostra of the Roman Senate.

“We don’t need to take sides in the actual election…” Great comment in your reply to David. Good reading, that.

Really, there is very little difference between left and right on support for a representative democracy in Iran that respects human rights. The only question is how to best help it happen.

Despite the hard feelings most Americans had towards Iran after the Hostage Crisis, Reagan found it in his heart to sell the Iranian mullahs US weapons. Weapons to kill people. You know. Weapons. The profits from the weapons were going to be used by the Reagan administration to blow away Nicarauguan peasants who dared oppose the Somoza dictatorship.

Posted by: phx8 at June 18, 2009 11:30 PM
Comment #283238

“IMO President Obama will need to get a little more in front of this or else it will run him over.”

Meaning what, exactly? It sounds like you’re making a threat when you get right down to it. On the other hand, if you’re really being entirely figurative, it seems getting in front of it would make it far more likely he will be run over than if he was to stay out of the way. What do you mean? Quit pussyfooting around if you really want to have a discussion. Explain why you think he needs to do anything. You’ve yet to do that.

Oh yeah, you seem to think Reagan single-handedly destroyed the Soviet Union just by saying a few words in support of the Poles, so Obama is a failure because he doesn’t emulate your god, right? If he does whatever you seem to think he should do, what makes you think the result won’t be entirely different from what you anticipate will occur?

“This may be one of the turning points of history.”

A truism if ever there was one.

“If the Iranian regime resorts to bloody repression, it will be hard for any president to deal with them.”

What is Obama supposed to do about this?

“If the regimes make compromises, it may well set up an evolutionary process the results in freedom.”

Again, what is Obama supposed to do about this? Here you are pre-supposing only two out of a myriad of possible outcomes to this adventure, yet you’re proposing…. what?

“The Iranians are ready.”

Regardless of what Obama does, they sure seem to be - IF you can believe the story that seems to be portrayed by modern mass media. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who was ever physically present as an event unfolded, then later couldn’t believe the way it was presented by the media.

”Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

So basically, you’re saying the US should just invade and install Mousavi as president of Iran? Nuke the whole place and get it over with? Release H1N1 virus in the presidential residence? Certainly you wouldn’t argue those AREN’T extremism. Certainly you wouldn’t argue those are moderation.

Goldwater was an ideologue who deserved what he got. I ridicule his mindless slogan and your use of it as much now as it was ridiculed 40-45 years ago. Why? Because it’s wrong. It’s like the “pro-life” nuts who think it’s OK to kill doctors, right? It sure is.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 18, 2009 11:32 PM
Comment #283243

It’s good seeing you on aboard Jack .

Posted by: Rodney Brown at June 19, 2009 2:39 AM
Comment #283246

Jack
Wow,it is good to hear from you! I hope you can re-consider and become a regular.
Nice piece. I was especially struck by your call to do the right thing now as opposed to our disgraceful actions in 1953. IMO that means backing off. That means stopping any supplies to Kurdish rebels in Iran. That means stopping any financial aid to the Iranian opposition, no matter how cladestine. If the Mullahs can prove that we gave even five goats to one opposition candidates the legitimacy of the opposition can,with cause, evaporate.

Again,Jack it is nice to hear from you. Out of 500 columns or so you did not once use Rush Limbaugh as a prime source.

Posted by: bills at June 19, 2009 7:04 AM
Comment #283247

Daniel

All he needs do is stand up and be very clear, as even the French have been, that we support the rights of the people to protest and assemble and that repressing them is odious and deplorable. Not so hard. Almost everybody in the civilized world has done it except us. That is the funny thing.

I don’t have much confidence that there is middle ground with the hard liners in Iran. It would be, IMO, very bad to go into negotiations with them very soon after a bloody repression. It would be a hard choice for the President and a lose-lose for him. It is the kind of hard choices presidents make.

But we cannot just go in with the old Monty Python line that we should not “bicker and argue about who killed whom.”

And you ridicule Cicero’s quotation. You would be moderate in the defense of civil rights and just let it go when people were oppressed? You and I differ.

There is much between invasion and acceptance, as President Reagan demonstrated with E. Europe. I used to write for this column and regularly castigated those who claimed we were about the invade Iran. I was right. They were hyperbolic and extreme (although not in the defense of liberty.) Nobody is talking about invading Iran except those who want to set up a straw man to knock down. I acknowledge your victory over the straw man. Now cut it out.

Posted by: Jack at June 19, 2009 7:13 AM
Comment #283254

“Almost everybody in the civilized world has done it except us.”

This statement is completely unsupported and unsupportable. In fact, you know as well as I that NOT anywhere close to everybody in the civilized world has done so. On the other hand, Obama has very clearly expressed concern over the violence and repression that has occurred in the aftermath of the election.

“Nobody is talking about invading Iran…”

You, sir, are the one who advocated extremism, of course without defining what you meant by that.

Are you calling it extremism for Obama to “…stand up and be very clear…that we support the rights of the people to protest and assemble and that repressing them is odious and deplorable”? That seems like a very moderate action, which according to your slogan you abhor. What else would you like him to stand up and clearly say? The sky is blue? The sun rises in the east? 2+2=4?

That crazy lefty looney James Baker says he thinks Obama is doing the right thing. Are you trying to tell me you’re more knowledgeable than James Baker? Didn’t he used to be Secretary of State or some other such insignificant position in the cabinet of your god Reagan’s administration?

And by the way, you really need to give credit to others when you borrow their stuff.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 19, 2009 9:02 AM
Comment #283255

Here’s the link
to the article about James Baker.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 19, 2009 9:09 AM
Comment #283258

I mean, let’s face it: your basic beef with Obama and anyone else in any situation is that they aren’t Reagan. If they’re Republican, they can be excused a lot of things, but bottom line is Obama’s not Reagan so nothing he has done, is doing or will ever do - was, is or ever will be right. We can all save a lot of time if you’ll just admit this.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 19, 2009 9:37 AM
Comment #283261


Hi Jack, good to hear from you.

I have found very little reason to praise Obama. I think he is a weak president, unable to handle the corporate corrupted members of his own party.

Having said that, IMO, Obama is doing the right thing in reguards to Iran. If the demonstrations continue, the Mulah’s will crack down and they probably will try to blame us for the aftermath.

The Iranian leadership has tried hard to force their way into a leadership role in the world and especially the Muslem world. It is going to be hard for the Iranians to make the charge that America is responsible stick considering how Obama has handled this. Even most Muslems will see through that charade.

I believe this is going to be a major setback for the leaders of Iran. This may be the begining of the end for them.

Posted by: jlw at June 19, 2009 11:23 AM
Comment #283268

Jack, We the people are Standing with the Iranian people. Our media, blogs, and news is filled with American support for the Iranian people.

OUR PRESIDENT, however, has to stand with the best interests of THE AMERICAN people, and that means maintaining the position and ability going forward to work for our interests with WHOMEVER is governing in Iran.

Republicans over the last 9 years never seem to get this one right. America first. Not Iran. America first, not Iraq. Americans first, not the people of other lands. Your last president put other nation’s people, freedom, and financial condition first, and look what happened to America and Americans.

Get with the program. Support YOUR president, YOUR country, and YOUR people by respecting Obama’s decision to maintain potential diplomatic and constructive relations going forward with Iran on America’s behalf, regardless of whom is governing in Iran.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 19, 2009 1:11 PM
Comment #283273

Didn’t this happen about 10 years ago? They were protesting for reforms, freedom of the press or something and everyone thought that was going to be the end of the Supremes. That is until the students started “disappearing.” I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in these protests changing too much.

Posted by: George at June 19, 2009 2:39 PM
Comment #283289

Daniel

I am sorry that I didn’t read the Wally blog. I don’t know why you chose that obscure thing. In my own Google search, I find my title is very much like something Mark Twain said. At least attribute it to somebody important. I probably read it and remembered is vaguely, but I wasn’t thinking of it at the time. Big deal. I am not sorry if it bothers you. I don’t check every sentence I write on Google to see if somebody has said it first. Sometimes I paraphrase and those with enough erudition can get the reference.
Re the Reagan parallel, I also didn’t read that article. It is a similar thought because it makes sense. I wrote another similar thought in Feb 2007. It was one of the many times I explained why invading Iran would be a bad idea and President Bush would never do it. I don’t suppose I am the first person to think of anything.

Re James Baker – if you are so interested in Googling my references, maybe you want to check into the reference to Chicken Kiev. Baker was the brains behind that rather timid homage to the old regime in the Soviet Union.

Re Obama saying he deplores violence etc – it is indeed a low hurdle. Maybe he should hop over it. I wonder why he is still obfuscating.

I don’t expect Obama to be like Reagan. We will not soon see a man like Reagan again. But we might at least reach the French standard.French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier:
“France condemns the brutal repression of peaceful protests and the repeated attacks on the liberty of the press and freedom of speech.”

Jwl

The Iranian tyrants will blame us not matter what. They already are. We may as well stand with the people of Iran. There is really nothing to lose except the goodwill of tyrants who have never indicated any good will toward us.

David

I always support my president and as you know I am willing to suffer discomfort and danger in the service of my country. If the situation goes to hell, I may get to do it again, so I do have some skin in the game. As an American, however, I urge my president to do what I think in this case is both the ethical choice and the choice that is better for our country in the long run.

I understand the President’s postion to a point. We should not make or imply promises we won’t keep, such as we did in Hungary or with the Kurds. But I think our words do matter, and we are not on the right side at this time.

IMO – a more moderate and democratic Iran would almost immediately solve or mitigate many of our pressing international problems. After the fall of Soviet communism, you recall, European terrorism virtually ended. The Soviet certainly were not behind all the trouble, but w/o the financing and safe havens it couldn’t survive. The fall of Iranian tyranny will have a similar effect on the Middle East.

George

I am afraid you may be right. The Iranian regime is very cruel. But I hope not and I don’t think our silence will buy success.

BillS

I have listened to Rush only maybe one or two times in my life. He is an entertainer and not generally to my taste. I do respect is evident ability to scare liberals, however.

I really cannot come back regularly. My wife contributes sometimes, however, so I am not completly gone. She is smarter than I am, at least that what she tells me, and a bit more conservative.

BTW - As a resident of the Phillipines, think about how useful American moral support was to the fall of Marcos. Reagan, you recall, was also timid at first. But George Shultz stiffened his spine.

Posted by: Jack at June 19, 2009 7:58 PM
Comment #283293

Jack

Marcos was also a US creation. Shultz was just being pragmatic. We quite often back stab former puppet allies. Noriega and Saddam come to mind. Ahh,the Great Game continues.
My reference to he who shall not be named was an illustration of some really poorly thought out columns on the Red side,often more propaganda that an attempt at discourse.

Posted by: bills at June 20, 2009 6:17 AM
Comment #283302

“I am sorry that I didn’t read the Wally blog. I don’t know why you chose that obscure thing.”

Probably because a) it was the first Google hit on “history rhymes” and b) the clown on THAT “obscure” blog had the class to give credit where credit is due, unlike you. I wasn’t crediting the blogger with the phrase, I was crediting him for crediting Twain with having coined the phrase. Is the difference not obvious or should I explain further?

“Re James Baker, blah, blah, blah”

OK, so you continue insisting you know better than James Baker about these things. That is simply astonishing, and, in my opinion, completely unwarranted. Unless you’ve got senior federal-level credentials you’ve failed to disclose, you’re (to credit Lloyd Bentsen) no James Baker.

“Obama saying he deplores violence etc – it is indeed a low hurdle. Maybe he should hop over it. I wonder why he is still obfuscating.”

You really need to avoid using words you don’t understand. If Obama was obfuscating, he would

obfuscate
Verb
[-cating, -cated] Formal to make something unnecessarily difficult to understand [Latin ob- (intensive) + fuscare to blacken]

He’s very clear about what he’s saying, far more so than the functionally-illiterate Bush or your Alzheimer’s-addled god Reagan ever dreamed of doing. What he says is clear, it’s just not what you or the rest of you chicken-hawk neo-cons want him to say. He may not be saying what you want him to say but that’s not obfuscation.

“I don’t expect Obama to be like Reagan.”

You may not expect him to be like Reagan but you wouldn’t credit him for doing anything right unless he was just like Reagan.

“We will not soon see a man like Reagan again.”

And I sincerely thank God for that. The man was a train-wreck that people like you for some reason look up to like a god.

“But we might at least reach the French standard. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier:
“France condemns the brutal repression of peaceful protests and the repeated attacks on the liberty of the press and freedom of speech.””

Well, you know in the first place that’s not all that different from what Obama said. He didn’t obviously use those exact words, but that’s in essence what he said. In the second place, you can see that this guy having said what he said seems to have had little or no effect on the situation in Iran. Finally, and most importantly, last I heard, this guy is not president/premier/prime minister of France, is he? It’s one thing for the “French Foreign Ministry spokesman” to say something like this but an entirely different thing for THE top guy to say something like this. Shoot, this guy isn’t even the foreign minister, he’s a flunky spokesman for the foreign minister.

Now that, Jack, is obfuscation - making it sound like the entire government of France is united in outrage to the exclusion of any other issue, when in fact it’s just some PR guy.

Nice try, though. What did the Canadian Minister of Fisheries spokesman say? What about the Sri Lankan deputy minister of post, telegraph and zeppelin schedules spokesman? Now those would have some real impact.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 20, 2009 12:29 PM
Comment #283314

Daniel

I just don’t check all my sentences in a blog that is not an academic paper. You will notice a general lack of footnotes. As an educated man, I have read a lot. But as a human being I sometimes don’t recall exactly where every idea came from and sometimes they come from multiple sources. You can think what you want about me. I know I have developed a distinct impression of your strengths and weaknesses and our differences.

You seem to want to make this about me or my knowledge. I have experience that gives me the some standing to talk about this subject. You can have your dictionaries and anthologies of famous quotations and find your authorities there.

I also am less impressed by authority. I don’t defer to James Baker because he held a high rank in previous administrations. Most people I know think the Chicken Kiev incident was a mistake. Frankly, I am surprised that someone would try to pull rank using Baker like that.

I have used the work obfuscate the way I meant to use it. The president has made statements, IMO, that make it difficult to see where he stands and conceal what he may think. You may disagree. But trying to prove your point with dictionary authority is very amusing. I used to try to do that with my father when I was a young man. I scored in the 99th percentile on the verbal part of my GMAT, so I thought I was pretty smart with words. My father, a HS drop out, explained to me that there was nothing worse than a educated fool. After I spent a little more time in the real world, he explained, I would develop my own views and maybe not be so tied to the book learnin’. I didn’t believe him at the time. My opinion of him has improves (I think Mark Twain said something about that too.)

The search mechanisms of the Internet make it possible to achieve the attributes of an educated fool even w/o the education part. I sometimes still fall into that trap, but maybe less often than some others.

Let me sum up in my simple way what I think about Iran and try to figure out what you don’t like.

The people of Iran are bravely rising up against a regime that has oppressed them for a long time. Many have been beaten and arrested. Some have been killed. I think we Americans should state unequivocally that we stand with the Iranian people. Many Americans have done so. Our government, IMO, has been ambivalent. I hope they will catch up. The young Iranians I spoke with and the stories they told me about the events there and their families made it hard for me to sit back and say nothing, which is why I felt compelled to write. I remember my own experience with Poland and it seems that they feel now how I felt then.

Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2009 2:40 PM
Comment #283316

“The people of Iran are bravely rising up against a regime that has oppressed them for a long time. Many have been beaten and arrested. Some have been killed. I think we Americans should state unequivocally that we stand with the Iranian people. Many Americans have done so.”

No problems so far.

“Our government, IMO, has been ambivalent. I hope they will catch up.”

You have offered an opinion with no support. In fact, again, you’ve offered an opinion that is unsupportable except to merely say “This is what I…” (meaning you) “…think.” Since you’ve offered no support, you’re right that it becomes a debate about you and your knowledge. I, on the other hand, offered an endorsement of Obama’s position by a highly knowledgeable and experienced individual who served in the cabinet of your god Reagan, and all you can do is focus on one other occasion you happen to disagree with him about. Nothing about his lack of knowledge or experience, nothing about the incorrectness of his logic, nothing about “Reagan never made a mistake, except about Baker”, just - he (arguably) made a mistake once, so his opinion is worthless. I disagree with you.

“The young Iranians I spoke with and the stories they told me about the events there and their families made it hard for me to sit back and say nothing, which is why I felt compelled to write. I remember my own experience with Poland and it seems that they feel now how I felt then.”

I have no problems with this. It doesn’t make your unsupported and unsupportable contention that Obama needs to do something different any more acceptable, but I have no problem with it.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 20, 2009 3:10 PM
Comment #283319

I guess better late than never Jack, now it’s turning into a bloodbath http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090620/pl_afp/iranpoliticsusobama_20090620190121 The Supreme Leader Of Iran Ought To Be Ashamed.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at June 20, 2009 3:32 PM
Comment #283320

Daniel

Yes - that is what I think. You can compare what the President has said with comments of others and come to YOUR conclusions. BTW - I heard a Obama statement a couple of minutes ago and he seems to be catching up. Good.

YOu are more impressed by authority than I am. I do not defer to James Baker or anybody else. I assess what they say and then come to my decision.

I have never met or ever heard about somebody who has never been wrong. I do honestly understand where you are coming from on this. I am a free man. I respect the opinions of many, but I am not in the thrall of their authority. Reagan was a great man, but he was a man and he made mistakes. I understand nuance. Don’t you?

I choose. Since you are so fond of Googling for lines, Google Emerson re authority and choice. It is that choice thing that might be confusing you.

You disagree that the President should say something stronger. Evidently even the President now thinks he needs to be stronger as his latest statements indicate.

These are all areas of debate and judgement. You seem to be looking for some sort of absolute. You won’t get it.

Something else for you to look up on your Google is “Scholasticism”. That seems to be the system you are trying to use by lining up authority and finding THE truth. I don’t hold with that system and if you want to debate in that framework, I suggest you find someone who cares.

Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2009 3:41 PM
Comment #283323

Jack said: “I heard a Obama statement a couple of minutes ago and he seems to be catching up.”

Deliberately, Jack. With thorough weighing of the present and future consequences of HIS actions and words, and placing such actions in context with his obligations and responsibilities for America and Americans, first.

Rather refreshing don’t you think, as opposed to committing to saber rattling and war without necessity, without careful consideration of all the consequences and costs, and benefits, and without a plan?

I am all for the Iranian people seeking independence from their Theocracy and toward one person, one vote democracy government, which we don’t even have here. But, the Iranians need to fight their own revolution. If it looks like they could win, and we have cut our deficit to near zero, and our economy is on a sound path to the future, and we have extricated ourselves from the bulk of the costs of Iraq, and Afghanistan-Pakistan picture improves, THEN it might make sense to American interests to provide concrete tangible aid to the Iranian revolution, IF INVITED to do so.

To listen to so many Republicans one would think they are chomping the bit to get involved in yet another civil war. Obama has shown himself to be the right leader for American foreign policy at this time, hands down, so far. Appropriate and considered, are the words I would choose to define his foreign policy to date.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 20, 2009 4:53 PM
Comment #283325

David

The President is catching up with America and the world. What it reminds me of is President GHW Bush’s Chicken Kiev speech. When the Soviet Empire was crashing, he was a little slow off the mark. It turned out okay and this might too.

I think it was our duty as Americans and lovers of freedom to get out ahead of our President, if necessary, and pull him along and I think that is what happened. That is the beauty of democracy as opposed to one man rule.

BTW - Not to make too much of your side comment “which we don’t even have here” but I define the the term broadly as the consent of the governed, including reasonalbe majority rule and reasonalbe minority rights. Althought I use democracy very broadly, as most people do, to cover all sorts of variations on that theme. I cannot think of even one real world example of a “true” democracy, if we want to be strict about it and that is as it should be.

One person one vote is a theoretical goal, but not practically achievable. Attempts at “true” democracy tend to end badly or we have, as in many new democracies, one man, one vote, one time.

Let’s not saddle the Iranians, or ourselves, with some metaphysical ideal that has never been sustainably achieved in groups larger than one.

Anyway, President Obama is on the way to doing the right thing. Let’s keep an eye on it.

Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2009 5:59 PM
Comment #283326

Being a Republican Jack, I understand why you would spin his responses as ‘catching up’ to the rest of the world’s emotional ‘KNEE JERK’ responses.

The people of the world have that luxury. The President of the U.S. should not. The words and actions of the President of the U.S. potentially carry far reaching and enormous consequences, present and future. They must be weighed and considered when time permits. In this situation, time has permitted, and Obama has observed due diligence to his role as POTUS.

GW Bush has a lot to learn from Barack Obama.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 20, 2009 6:51 PM
Comment #283329

David , baby steps If GW was even half the man his Dad was he would have been five times better than himself.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at June 20, 2009 8:04 PM
Comment #283330

David

President Bush is only of historical interest here. He also had a hands off policy toward Iran. The only people who didn’t understand this were some Americans who believed Iranian propaganda. They predicted an American invasion dozens of the last zero times it happened.

President Obama is doing the right thing. I do have my own point of view and you can take it or leave it, but IMO the Iranian unrest is an inconvenice for him. He wanted to deal with the regime and will find it more difficult to shake their bloody hands. This doesn’t fit the script.

During the Bush time, many Americans convinced themselves that the problem was just with Bush. We find that some of our problems are just our problems. The Iranian regime, North Korea, Hugo Chavez and others are against America. The current president makes not very much difference to their goals. This is what we are learning again. We have to learn it again every 4-8 years.

President Obama also faces the problem of every president. They all want to address domestic problems, but they all get sucked into foreign affairs.

We agree (I think) that the Iranians have and should have the lead in their own affairs. We (the US) do have an interst in that the Iranian regime is a big sponsor of terrorism that affects us. And we do have a moral interest in expressing our own values. Lord knows, the rest of the world feels free to criticize us. It is useful to point out that in the last couple of days the Iranian regime has arrested, imprisoned, tortured more people than the total population of the prison at Guantanamo. And they have killed many more than the zero killed in the Abu Ghraib scandal or Guantanamo.

Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2009 9:26 PM
Comment #283331

Jack,

“It is useful to point out that in the last couple of days the Iranian regime has arrested, imprisoned, tortured more people than the total population of the prison at Guantanamo. And they have killed many more than the zero killed in the Abu Ghraib scandal or Guantanamo.”

Shall we compare America’s actions to those of Iran?

Last time I checked Iran doesn’t claim to be for “Liberty and Justice for all”, nor does Iran claim to be for free speech.
IMHO Obama is right to slow play any reaction to the violence taking place in Iran.
Despite what the leader of France says, Obama’s hand is forced by circumstances handed to him, and must see the bigger picture.
France isn’t leading military actions in 2 countries that border Iran, and doesn’t need to strike a balance with the world’s Muslims in order to facilitate the fight against the war on terror.

BTW, good to see you back, no matter how temporary it might be.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at June 20, 2009 10:01 PM
Comment #283332

Rocky

I might be coming to Arizona in October/November. If I do, I will give you a call. Hope you will be around.

The President is doing okay as of today. But I think he was more carried by events than directing them. In this case, it didn’t cause any harm.

The interesting thing this time is the new media. If not for that, the Iranian tyrants would have killed and tortured and the world would have paid as much attention as we do to the carnage in the Congo.

I just felt bad about our initial weak responses. I am not saying we should act agressively. But we can state our own values and should have done that sooner.

The comparison I made are only to show the relative risks and dangers. We sometimes lose sight reality. We are too busy beating up on ourselves to notice the bad guys beating up and killing so many others.

Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2009 10:25 PM
Comment #283335

Jack,

“I might be coming to Arizona in October/November. If I do, I will give you a call. Hope you will be around.”

My cell # is the same, I will look forward to it.

BTW, right now I am at the Wisconsin Dells working on a job.
Curious, I got here and thought of your life in Wisconsin, and here you are.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at June 20, 2009 10:58 PM
Comment #283336

Yeah - Wisconsin is still my home state. Home is a fluid concept for guys like me, but I am really starting to like Virginia.

Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2009 11:13 PM
Comment #283340

Jack,

“We are too busy beating up on ourselves to notice the bad guys beating up and killing so many others.”

There will always be bad guys. That’s a fairly easy ideal to live up to.

The ideals we claim are much harder to accomplish.

No matter what happens, Iran will probably be a much different place after this.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at June 20, 2009 11:28 PM
Comment #283341

Rocky

I have spent the last days talking to Iranians. They have that mix of hope and fear. Iran will be a different place and I think it has gone too far to be turned around, but that is more hope than prediction.

It seems to me that the dice have been tossed, but they are still tumbling in the air. I think that the outcome now is just unknowable.

IMO - The future will be better than the past because it really cannot get much worse than it was with Iran. The Iranian regime was just horrible. If they reestablish power - the worst case scenario - they will still be horrible but weakened. In a middle case, a form of the regime will remain, but it will be chastized and more open. I don’t think we will get anything like a real democracy right away, but it could set the process in motion that will lead to a reasonable result.

The fall of the Soviet Empire surprised all the experts. Maybe the Iranian rot is deeper than the experts think.

Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2009 11:46 PM
Comment #283379

“President Obama is doing the right thing.”

He is and has been doing the right thing.

Finally, you admit what practically everyone else could plainly see all along. I never thought I’d see the day.

Posted by: Daniel Defoe at June 21, 2009 10:30 PM
Comment #283540

Interesting story re one of the young men murdered by the Iranian authorities:

“Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.”

They charge families for killing their kids.

Posted by: Jack at June 24, 2009 8:33 PM
Comment #283607

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/25/obama.iran.ahmadinejad/index.html >The Iranian leader says Obama more or less equals Bush. The problem with negotiating with international thugs is that they don’t really want to negotiate. They just score PR points off of us.

I know it is frustrating, but sometimes you just cannot accomplish much by being reasonable and friendly. It is like talking to a coiled rattlesnake.

Posted by: Jack at June 25, 2009 9:18 PM
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