Assigned Reading: Mark Steyn: Neutrality Isn’t an Option
(FROM: National Review)
From the phenomenal Mr. Steyn:
The polite explanation for Barack Obama’s diffidence on Iran is that he doesn’t want to give the mullahs the excuse to say the Great Satan is meddling in Tehran’s affairs. So the president’s official position is that he’s modestly encouraged by the regime’s supposed interest in investigating some of the allegations of fraud. Also, he’s heartened to hear that OJ is looking for the real killers. “You’ve seen in Iran,” explained President Obama, “some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election . . . ”
“Supreme Leader”? I thought that was official house style for Barack Obama at Newsweek and MSNBC. But no. It’s also the title held by Ayatollah Khamenei for the last couple of decades. If it sounds odd from the lips of an American president, that’s because none has ever been as deferential in observing the Islamic republic’s dictatorial protocol. Like President Obama’s deep, ostentatious bow to the king of Saudi Arabia, it signals a fresh start in our relations with the Muslim world, “mutually respectful” and unilaterally fawning.
In 1982, Ronald Reagan threw his weight, and the weight of the United States of America, behind Solidarnosc, the Solidarity Movement growing in Poland. Solidarnosc was essentially the first volley in the fight against Soviet Power in Europe, and had been delegalized and banned by a Polish government wilting under pressure from Moscow. Reagan’s decisive action, imposing sanctions which forced the Polish government to soften policies which had led to the imprisonment of leader and future Polish president Lech Walesa, which in turn facilitated the growth of the movement at the forefront of spurning communism in Europe.
These photos are from the monument at Solidarity Square in Gdansk, where countless workers had been killed, where others bravely stood fast in opposing Soviet control. I was in Gdansk in 2005–a family friend of my wife’s helped ferry food and water to striking workers back then, and was kind enough to give us a tour–and will be there again in a little less than a month. The respect and admiration exhibited by the Polish people toward Ronald Reagan is incredible. A testament to how principles and values can triumph over all.
Shortly after Reagan’s death, Lech Walesa penned a commentary for The Wall Street Journal entitled “In Solidarity: The Polish people, hungry for justice, preferred ‘cowboys’ over communists.” An excerpt:
When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can’t be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.
Poles fought for their freedom for so many years that they hold in special esteem those who backed them in their struggle. Support was the test of friendship. President Reagan was such a friend. His policy of aiding democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe in the dark days of the Cold War meant a lot to us. We knew he believed in a few simple principles such as human rights, democracy and civil society. He was someone who was convinced that the citizen is not for the state, but vice-versa, and that freedom is an innate right.
I often wondered why Ronald Reagan did this, taking the risks he did, in supporting us at Solidarity, as well as dissident movements in other countries behind the Iron Curtain, while pushing a defense buildup that pushed the Soviet economy over the brink. Let’s remember that it was a time of recession in the U.S. and a time when the American public was more interested in their own domestic affairs. It took a leader with a vision to convince them that there are greater things worth fighting for. Did he seek any profit in such a policy? Though our freedom movements were in line with the foreign policy of the United States, I doubt it.
I distinguish between two kinds of politicians. There are those who view politics as a tactical game, a game in which they do not reveal any individuality, in which they lose their own face. There are, however, leaders for whom politics is a means of defending and furthering values. For them, it is a moral pursuit. They do so because the values they cherish are endangered. They’re convinced that there are values worth living for, and even values worth dying for. Otherwise they would consider their life and work pointless. Only such politicians are great politicians and Ronald Reagan was one of them.
If he vows to act decisively, supporting the people of Iran, Barack Obama could earn similar respect and admiration from those in Tehran as well.
Now is not the time to merely vote “present.” Now is not the time for the typical moral equivalency test, nor for talking from both sides of the presidential mouth. Now is the time to speak and act and move from principle. Now is the time to promote freedom, to take a stand alongside the oppressed and repressed people of Iran.
Whether or not this American administration backs Mir-Houssein Mousavi is inconsequential; what is imperative, however, is that America and an American president once again throw its considerable weight behind the people, and let Iranians decide their own fate, just as Ronald Reagan’s power and influence and faith permitted Solidarnosc to facilitate the ability for Poles to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to be free.
I’ll be in Poland from July 16 to August 3. Some of our time will be spent in Gdansk. Most of it will be spent in rural areas near the Baltic Sea. All of it will be time for me to completely unplug–no computer, no phone, no Blackberry–, decompress, enjoy family, and think long and hard about what it means to love and live for freedom in America.
That nation is free in part because of an American president who was so rooted in solid values and beliefs and unshakable principles that he was able to act swiftly and decisively when needed. Barack Obama has an opportunity to be Ronald Reagan to Mousavi’s Lech Walesa or, apart from Mousavi, to the Iranian people’s Solidarnosc. My prayer for the people of Iran is that he reaches within himself and does the right thing.