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History Abuse: Tony Blankley

Note: This post was written on July 5th and being automatically posted by WordPress. If I don’t mention a major happening in Iran since then, that’s why. As this as entry is being posted, I’m currently winging my way to the ALA conference in Chicago where I hope to be blogging from if I have connectivity.


One of my favorite podcasts is a KCRW show called “Left, Right and Center.” A show that bills itself as a “Refreshing alternative to the screaming talking heads of most political commentary shows.” For the most part, they deliver and if you’re interested in politics, I’d recommend the podcast.

Awhile back I was listening to the June 19, 2009 show that featured discussion of Obama’s actions with regard to the Iran protests. After some praise by other commentators for Obama’s initial refuse to give the Iranian gov’t propaganda points by fully embracing the protesters, Tony Blankley of the Washington Times made a heavy sigh and said something like, “It’s a good thing that LaFayette didn’t feel like he needed to stay above the fray.” He then went on to offer two examples of where Presidents needed to be prodded into supporting opposition movements: President Reagan with the Phillipines and President Bush with Poland’s Solidarity movement.

For reasons I’ll get to in a moment, I don’t think any of these three situations are remotely appropriate to apply to Iran. In fact, I think it’s an abuse of history to say that since public support was provided in these instances, the public support of the US government should have been given to the Iranian protestors.

But first I’d like to say that overall, I respect Mr. Blankley. I strongly appreciate that he is willing to acknowledge when his party makes mistakes. He has also been known to concede that Democrats occaisionally do something right. This gives most of his statements more credibility with me than the legions in both parties whose chant is “We’re Right, They’re Wrong!” Most of the time even if I don’t agree with Mr. Blankley, I understand his reasoning and understand how a person of good will could hold that position.

In the current case though, I think he’s wrong. I don’t know if it is overreaching or bad analogies or something else entirely, but the pieces simply don’t fit in the way Mr. Blankley would like them to.

All three situations (American Colonies, Philipines, Poland) have one thing in common — all three opposition movements asked for outside help. Lafayette was only in America because the French government sent him there after we asked for help.  The Philipine opposition repeatedly asked us to support the democratic movement over Marcos, our gov’t funded dictator. I’m not as clear about whether Lech Walesa ever directly ask us specifically for assistance, but he did call on other Western countries for help and so did the Vatican and its Polish pope.

By contrast, official representatives of the Iranian opposition have not asked us for help and Mousavi’s statements as late as July 5th go out of their way to say that his movement is NOT supported by foreign elements of any kind. He and his allies clearly seem to view Western support as a hardship and a propaganda coup for the gov’t. President Obama understood this. The US House of Representatives did not.

There are more differences. In each of the cases cited by Mr. Blankley, the foreign power helping the opposition was well respected. While hard to believe now, the American Colonists admired France as a beacon of civilization and an important world counterbalance to the British Empire. The Filipino people have never forgotten MacArthur and had frequent interchange with the United States. While they didn’t like our support for Marcos, they appreciated us. Likewise, most of the Polish people were Western oriented and saw the US as possible saviors from Soviet occupation. In contrast, while many Iranians seem to appreciate Western culture, large majorities continue to view the US and UK with great suspicion and haven’t forgotten that we deposed their last democratic government and gave them the Shah. If that’s the kind of help they think we’ll offer, it’s not surprising they’re turning it down.

Finally, in all three situations, the foreign power had leverage and extra capability. France had a fleet to send to the colonies. Marcos could not survive without our vast economic and military assistance. NATO had massed troops on hair-trigger alert to run through flat country into Poland.

We don’t have any ties to Iran so we have no economic leverage. We cannot use our forces in Iraq to invade Iran for a number of reasons — geography (high mountains not good for tanks, as Saddam found out), the Status of Forces Agreement which prohibits Iraq from being used as a base for attacking other countries, and strong support for Iran’s shia from Iraq’s shia. What’s left is bombing Iran. And every aerial bombing campaign since WWII has indicated that death from the skies usually bonds people to their regime. They blame the bombers, not their own government. So, no leverage that I can see.

That’s why I think these three examples are an abuse of history. Do you see how any of these apply to Iran? Can you cite an example where the opposition didn’t want help and got it anyway? Did it go well?

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