Hanson’s new article is supposed to be a list of “legitimate” criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy, so it’s significant that many of the things Hanson mentions are little more than nonsense and bad recycled talking points from years ago. Here is Hanson on Obama’s response to the Iranian election protests:
President Obama was quiet when nearly 1 million Iranian protesters hit the streets in the spring of 2009, almost as if he felt his own multicultural bona fides should be given a chance to finesse the Khomeinist theocracy — or as if the pro-democracy protesters were some sort of inauthentic neocons. It was a shameful decision at a rare time when the Iranian people were looking for pro-democracy affirmation — offering the last chance to stop the Iranian bomb without some sort of military intervention.
Is there anything in this statement that isn’t misleading or unfounded? Let’s see. The Iranian protests started in mid-June immediately after the June 12 election, so to call it the spring of 2009 is just barely accurate. Most of the protests took place in the summer and fall, and continued on into the following year. Multiculturalism has nothing to do with any of this. This is an old Hanson favorite, which he includes in foreign policy arguments for no apparent reason. Obama’s response wasn’t as vocal as many Iran hawks would like, but he wasn’t “quiet,” either. He opted not to insert the U.S. into the middle of another country’s internal political dispute, which is a perfectly reasonable position to take, but he condemned the Iranian crackdown fairly early on.
One of the reasons why it was better that the U.S. remained aloof from the dispute is precisely because the protesters weren’t Western-backed puppets. It would have done them no favors with the rest of their countrymen to make a huge show of American support for them. As it happened, the Green movement didn’t want U.S. backing. If the movement had received U.S. backing, it is doubtful that the movement would have been significantly more successful than it was. It is absurd to think that the movement’s success in protesting Ahmadinejad’s re-election would have had any effect on Iran’s nuclear program. The Green movement was focused on their political grievances against the current leadership. It was not seeking to alter Iranian nuclear or foreign policies, and it wasn’t trying to overthrow the government.
Hanson’s passage on Iran is just a series of false or misleading statements. If there is a legitimate criticism of Obama’s response to the Iranian election protests, Hanson doesn’t make it. What he does say damages the credibility of whatever legitimate criticism one might make.