Mostly overlooked in all the scrutiny of Ryan’s speech has been the tedious claim repeated by John McCain earlier last night:
[T]he president missed an historic opportunity to throw America’s full moral support behind an Iranian revolution that shared one of our highest interests, ridding Iran of a brutal dictatorship that terrorized the Middle East and threatens the world.
The Green movement was not a revolutionary movement intent on regime change. Its leaders were not seeking to dismantle the existing political system, but to seek redress within it. There was no chance that it was going to result in “ridding Iran of a brutal dictatorship” in the sense that it would have caused the current regime to fall. This is a ridiculous myth that Iran hawks have been cultivating since 2009. Most Iranian protesters were not seeking the same goal as Americans interested in regime change.
Putting America’s “full moral support” behind the movement would not have changed the outcome. At best, the outcome would have been much the same, and American rhetorical support for the protesters would have proven to be entirely without substance. The same people who now berate Obama for doing too little in Syria would still be berating him for “abandoning” the protesters in Iran. At worst, it could have conceivably made the crackdown even more brutal and violent than it was.
Even if the Green movement’s leaders had been successful on their own terms, it would have had no obvious consequences for U.S.-Iranian relations or U.S. policy towards Iran. Iran’s nuclear program would not have been halted or dismantled, and Iran’s foreign policy and power projection in the region would have remained much the same. It might have been somewhat more difficult to rally international support for sanctions on Iran with Mousavi in the mostly powerless presidency, but that would have been just about the only difference that touches on anything related to the U.S.