Barack Obama and Iran’s Solidarnosc

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.

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Comments

  1. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    The monument consists of much, much more. It really is one of those places which is solemn, but simultaneously brings a smile knowing the end result of what happens there.

    And, Gail, right now I *think* that Robert Wallace is going to fill in for me. He and I don't see eye to eye on everything, of course, but I trust his judgment and have faith in his abilities.

  2. Robert Wallace says:

    As I've said elsewhere, Jeff, Poland just isn't the same as Iran.

    Here are some major differences;

    1. Our sanctions had an impact on Poland. We don't have that kind of leverage on Iran.
    2. Our covert guys were in excellent position to help the Poles. We've got no one in Iran.
    3. The Poles didn't mind accepting help from Europe/US because they consider themselves part of the West. Iran considers itself Persian, not Western.
    4. We hadn't overthrown a democratically elected government in Poland and then installed a ruthless tyrant in his place just a few decades before the Polish protests. We did in Iran.

    If the Iranians protesters ask for our help, we'd have a very good reason to provide it. But it's not even clear we could help out with action even if we wanted to.

    So why give a big speech we can't back up in any way knowing full-well that the speech will just blow up in our faces anyway?

  3. Robert Wallace says:

    Oh, and much as I love Mark Steyn, he's a twit in this case. Just look at his explanation of Khamanei's statement that "The most evil of them all is the British government". He writes:

    "Her Majesty’s Government brought this on themselves by allowing their shoot-from-the-lip prime minister to issue saber-rattling threats like: “The regime must address the serious questions which have been asked about the conduct of the Iranian elections.”"

    Steyn is either stupid or dumb. The Brits bled the Iranians dry for decades – refusing out of greed and racism – to even negotiate with the Iranians over the use of Iranian oil. So, fed up, the Iranians finally kicked the Brits out and took control of their own natural resources. So the Brits went and convinced the Americans – who had excellent relations with pro-American Iran – that something had to be done.

    So we got the CIAs first overthrow of a democratically elected government as Mosaddeq was removed from power and we installed a bloodthirsty tyrant in his wake.

    Gee – what would make Iran think the Brits were evil… decades of abuse and deprivation? convincing Iran's friend the US to betray the people of Iran? instigating a coup that led to a ruthless dictatorship?

    or some commend from the current British PM.

    Gee…

  4. Let us move forward says:

    I visited Gdansk as the guest of some residents. It is interesting that I was shown Lech Walesa's house but not this monument.

    It is also interesting that this monument consists of three crosses with anchors nailed to each one.

  5. Gail B says:

    "no computer, no phone, no Blackberry–,"

    –Oh, no!

    Jeff, what are you going to do about America's Right? Who's going to take our pulse during your absence, to ensure we survive while you're away?

    "Gee Can I Go Too?" was the message on the cover for the spare tire on the back of a gorgeous motor camper ahead of me on the road some years ago.

    This is the first time I've thought about moving to Poland (based on what you wrote), to escape what's happening here in America.

    This was a great piece. Thanks. And, you're dead right about it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Obama is NO Ronald Reagan…I think he is reluctant to comment on the situation in Iran because he may one day be faced with similar demonstrations and perhaps he would handle them the same way.

  7. Robert Wallace says:

    Lilly-

    "If the people of Iran doesn't want our help/support or care what we think, WHY are most of their signs written in English?"

    The fact that we call it "English" and not "American" should be your first clue that they aren't trying to send a message to Washington DC. Iranians speak Farsi. Their Arab neighbors speak Arabic. The Chinese speak Mandarin and Cantonese. South America speaks Portugese and Spanish. Europe speaks their mix of languages – including English.

    So if you want to get a message out to all these people, do you write it in Farsi?

    Or English?

    The Iranian protesters are broadcasting to the *world*. Not the United States. You have to have an insanely Americo-centric world view to think any time someone says something in English it means they are talking to the United States. English is the default language when people who speak different languages try to communicate. I even knew successful marriages while I lived in Europe where husband and wife spoke English because they didn't know each other's native languages.

    Finally: if they spoke English, wrote signs in English, and wanted American help: why not just say so? On the sign? In English?

  8. Kathy says:

    Jeff, where's my post?

  9. Lilly says:

    Just one thing to add that I heard on Hannity today.
    If the people of Iran doesn't want our help/support or care what we think, WHY are most of their signs written in English? Just a thought.

  10. Lilly says:

    Robert-
    Point taken, but it is OUR language not the worlds. It's not "American" (kind of like the "Austrian" gaffe) and ours is different then the UK's (have friend's and relatives there).
    You are being very defensive on this one and that is your right but I think Jeff is right on this one and am watching the history of Iran/Iran/Afghanistan/taliban on the history channel right now. Reminds me how naive and un-informed I was when I was younger thinking it was half way around the world and didn't effect us. What we do/say today, does effect our kids tomorrow/future.

  11. Kathy says:

    What gives, Jeff? The Washington Times published my post on the hypocrisy of our Congress and the Iranian "revolution". Don't know why you are chilling discussion on that. You aren't going to get much traffic playing it safe. Your blogger comments were pretty high at one time. Not now. If you aren't willing to allow dissenting comments, you will be preaching just to yourself. Take care.

  12. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    Kathy — I only reject comments if there are threats to public officials or other truly coarse language. As long as the first of that criteria wasn't in your comment, there must be some other explanation.

    Furthermore, I haven't rejected a single comment today, and I don't think I rejected any over the weekend.

    – Jeff

  13. Kathy says:

    Okay. If you didn't reject it, here it is again:

    Any sane person would have a great deal of empathy for the Iranians who are simply wanting an open and democratic society. My comment has to do with what I see as the utter hypocrisy on the part of our own country, and Congress in particular, in this matter.

    For nearly a year now, serious questions have been raised about the constitutionality of Barack Obama to serve as President. With the prostituted U.S. media, lily-livered and impotent Congress, and a deranged electorate which would vote for a man for all the wrong reasons, WE are the ones who have a very serious problem with our Constitutional Republic. Those pointing a finger at Iran have four other digits pointing back at them!

    The Iranian Revolution that is currently underway is a great foil for those in this country who are, and have been, desperately seeking to keep the lid on the ineligibility of the man who now sits in the Oval Office. It is a very effective distraction for the media to go crazy on this issue, but the bloody hypocrites have openly admitted to "being in bed" with Obama, and having been pimped out to "The One", have likely forever lost intelligent and free-thinking Americans everywhere.

    And our Congressmen! After having petitioning our ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES over and over and over again, have done absolutely NOTHING about our own 900-lb gorilla in the White House!

    I say it is time we had our own (peaceful) revolution to support and defend our Constitution and quit trying to deflect attention away from the nefarious and audacious AMERICAN coup d'etat that has, and continues to be, flaunted with arrogant disregard for the rule of law in this country!

    The Iranian students have a lesson for all of us complacent, willfully ignorant, and gullible Americans. And, oh by the way, I think the reason the limp-wristed creep in the WH has been so "timid" in not supporting the Iranian students with a strong voice is because, perhaps as part of his Clowen-Howard-Alinsky-marxist tactics AGAINST US CITIZENS, he has a plan up his sleeve to use the very same gestapo tactics the Iranian mullahs are using on their citizens!

    Call me right-wing extremist if you want, but I am not a hypocrite!

  14. chi hair straightener says:

    I have a story chi flat irons, one mother says she’s aware something is very wrong, but she doesn’t want to hear about it because she just wants to “be with her children and see them grow up happy.” I tell her runescape gold, “But, if we don’t stop this, your children may not get to grow up at all.” so basically, she’s using her kids as an excuse for her own inability to face reality.

  15. chi hair straightener says:

    I have a story.one mother says she’s aware something is very wrong, but she doesn’t want to hear about it because she just wants to “be with her children and see them grow up happy.” I tell her ,“But, if we don’t stop this, your children may not get to grow up at all.” so basically, she’s using her kids as an excuse for her own inability to face reality.

  16. Robert Wallace says:

    Lilly-

    "but it is OUR language not the worlds"

    You think the English language belongs to us? I don't even know how to respond to that. I mean for starters, it's *English*, not American. The differences between the two are minor. A few spelling changes and some different vocabulary. Sort of like "soda" vs. "pop" but more of it.

    I haven't seen many of the signs from Iran, but I'd wager it's impossible to tell if they are in American English or English English because the two are indistinguishable unless your sign includes words like "centre/center" or "honour/honor".

    More importantly, however, language isn't something that someone can "own". English is the lingua franca of the world. That's just how it is. You want to communicate across international borders? Use English.

    So if the Iranians are writing signs in English all we can conclude is that they want to be heard across international borders.

    Not that they are asking the US for aid.

  17. Gail B says:

    Is Robert going to post the comments, too?

    And what about if we want to bring something to HIS attention–the only email address we have is yours.

    Does anyone else feel like we're being left with a babysitter (not a negative) while parents are out of town?

  18. Still a Patriot says:

    Hi Jeff -
    I don't believe Obama is capable of doing the "right" thing. He always has a sinister agenda behind his decisions, all of which are probably dictated to him.

    "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."
    So is Mike Huckabee.

    I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing & blessed vacation – you deserve it!

    Susan

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