Andrew Sullivan’s blogging on the past week’s events in Iran has been indispensable, but his latest bit of advice for President Obama is much less so:
What the president must do is refuse to recognize the sham government and demand an inquiry into the election.
No, he mustn’t. By my lights at least, the thing for Obama to do is to give no indication at all that his administration cares one way or another about the outcome of this election, as it’s only in this way that he can keep this situation from becoming, in Andrew’s own words, “the Iran-vs.-America” story that Ahmadinejad would clearly love it to turn into. Indeed, if the Obama administration finds that it just can’t keep its mouth shut, the best course of action would likely be the one that Thoreau decided would be too tricksy for one Joe Biden:
2) Infidel kryptonite, saying that Ahmadinejad is a swell guy and you’re delighted that he won.Wait, scratch that, you’d just screw it up.
As Thoreau suggests, the reason for such an approach to the situation is not just that U.S. interests in this matter don’t clearly come down on one side as opposed to the other, but also that the near-guaranteed blowback from any visible American intervention would involve mass popular uprisings giving expression to sentiments directly opposed to the ones currently being voiced. If, at the behest of the U.S., there is an inquiry into the election and Mousavi comes out ahead, what do you think would be the reaction in the Iranian streets? The streets of Cairo or Baghdad or Kabul? How about among the other governments of the region?
Getting things straight in Iran is a task for Iran, and perhaps – perhaps – also for the UN or the EU. Given the sad history of American meddling in the region, this is the perfect time for our president to sit quietly on the sidelines.