1. I am not convinced that the recent election in Iran was "stolen." First of all, Iranian elections are NOT "free" elections (as we generally understand that notion). As a result of the unorthodox nature of an Iranian canvass, it is nearly impossible to obtain much perspective on what exactly happened there. Moreover, there was some polling prior to voting that indicated incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really was the overwhelming choice of the electorate. Evidently, there is a very large constituency of hardliners in the Iranian electorate who are just as nutty as their fearless leader. Maybe he really won. Maybe he cheated. Who knows? Does it matter? Not Really. Why?

2. Whether the election was stolen is beside the point for at least two reasons.

--The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a position of very limited authority. Under the Iranian constitution, the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has final authority over all internal and foreign policies (including the judicial system), control of all of the armed forces (internal and external), and control of all state media. Khamenei has served as Supreme Leader since 1989, when he replaced the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (remember him?), whose term commenced with the Revolution he orchestrated (1979), and lasted until his death in 1989. There are no popular elections or term limits for the Supreme Leader. Get the picture?

--Just as there is very little significance to the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is very little difference between the incumbent and the chief challenger. Mir Hossein Mousavi is not the Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel of Iran (at least not until this election).

So, who cares if an election for an office that has little meaning--between two Mullah-approved candidates who do not differ in any significant way--was stolen?

What is important?

3. The West is seeing the real Iran. George Bush and his 2002 "Axis of Evil" declaration seems much less kooky this summer. It will be exceedingly hard to refer to Iran as the "Islamic Republic" without irony ever again.

4. Even More Important: Right now, the election is NOT the thing. Right now, the Revolution is the thing. Regardless of whether the election was legitimate or fraudulent, the Islamic Republic of Iran is at a crossroads. Ironically, it does not take a majority to have a democratic revolution. You will recall the famous observation from John Adams in which he estimated that 1/3 of the colonists were for revolution, 1/3 were loyal to the Crown, and 1/3 were waiting to see which way the wind blew.

Revolutions are often accomplished with an inspired or infuriated coterie of believers, while the vast majority of citizens stand on the sidelines agape. There is almost certainly a city-country divide here (conservatives versus moderns). This may be much more of a "Tehranian" Revolt than a greater Iranian Revolution. However, that may not be so important. Something may be happening here that has very little to do with the late election or the will of the majority—but that does not mean that this massive action might not be the beginning of transformation.

What Should Obama Do?

5. To an extent, I am NOT completely disgusted with the President's response (or lack of response). In fact, I am glad he did not stake American prestige on an assertion that the election was rigged. As I say, I am not sure anybody knows that right now—or will ever know.

The silence on the unrest is more problematic. On one hand, the traditional saber-rattling and gnashing of teeth on the part of the United States in these situations is never determinative. We huff and puff--but we never blow anybody's house down. In a way, the President's decision NOT to employ that set piece of American foreign policy is somewhat refreshing. It is something of a relief to admit that we are merely bystanders in this internal Iranian drama.

On the other hand, it feels a bit un-American not to cheer on a people's revolution in the heart of an oppressive regime hostile to the United States. We love this kind of thing. We have rhetorically supported the fight for liberty in places all over the globe for more than two-hundred years. We should also note that we have myriad evidence that statements of support provide much appreciated comfort to the lonely dissident.

It really says something about the President that his heart does not override his rigorous New Left intellectual training. Once again, Barack Obama Americanism is almost the polar opposite of the flag-waving Reaganesque patriotism conservatives like me love so much.