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.
Both Farmer and I have posted on Obama's Cairo speech.

As I read it, I was jarred by some of the historical assertions, but had other fish to fry and did not pursue all of them. For example, Obama credited Islamic civilization for printing and for the compass. My memory said that China usually is credited. Someone has now done the checking and Gateway Pundit has the story. The comments also contain much good information.

Bottom line: Obama's speechwriters need a better researcher. Many of these historical assertions are wrong, others are dubious. I wonder what CNN's reaction would have been had GWB given this speech?
A Tale of Two Speeches

I watched President Obama this morning at Colleville-Sur-Mer (and I have read the text of his remarks once through). It was an adequate speech. The President appeared stately and properly reverent behind his teleprompters. He hit the requisite notes in praise of bravery and sacrifice.

Having said that, it is safe to predict that no one will ever place this address on a "Barack Obama's Greatest Hits" ipod collection. For me , the remarks were not especially resonant. He did not "hook" me--as he so often does when operating at full power.

But, then, of course, there is a gold standard by which all D-Day remembrances should and will be judged--and, through the magic of the internet, that shining moment in presidential oratory is everywhere you look this morning: Ronald Reagan's outstanding 40th Anniversary commemoration to "the Boys of Pointe du Hoc" and the fight for democracy.

If you have not seen it lately (watch it here via RCP and courtesy of the Reagan Library). Watch it. Seriously.

It is easy to forget the majesty of Reagan. It is easy to forget the dignity of the man. It is easy to forget that he did not work off a teleprompter. Rather, he carried the text of his speeches on 3X5 cards, which he would transport in the front pocket of his suit coat. It is easy to forget the passion with which he delivered a speech about the United States of America and the larger fight for human freedom.

Along with individual bravery and collective sacrifice from the democratic nations of the world, Ronald Reagan suggested strongly that the hand of Providence affected the outcome of the Longest Day. He unabashedly seemed to believe that God was on our side. Without apology or equivocation, he boldly asserted that the United States was on the side of the angels in 1944 and 1984.

It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

Barack Obama also emphasized individuals coming together to stand up to EVIL embodied in an "ideology sought to subjugate, humiliate, and exterminate...and perpetrate murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior."

But he stopped short of drawing too many grand conclusions. The meaning of D-Day?

For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance. Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man or woman. It has always been up to us.

Yes we can?

In the end, RR placed the great challenge of his time, the Cold War, in the context of a long and righteous struggle for freedom. BHO, on the other hand, alludes to but fails to identify the "hardships and struggles of our time," and he consciously avoids any macro value judgments about righteousness.

To put it mildly, these two leaders perceive their respective historical moments in fundamentally different ways.
Here is the full text of Obama's Cairo speech. I want to look at a few falsehoods in this speech, and ask the question if perhaps they may be useful.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

"Mutual respect." Islam (meaning here the Q'uran and the sayings of Mohammad) does not teach mutual respect between Muslims and non-Muslims. Instead, Muslims are to make no friends from among those on the outside, and are to view those on the outside as being in the Realm of War, adversaries to be converted or conquered.

"progress" Islam, by its nature tends to be backward looking. The life of Mohammad, and the first Muslim society created during Mohammad's lifetime, are regarded as the exemplars of human life for all time. Historically, Islamic societies have not been at the forefront of modern science and technology.

"tolerance and the dignity of all human beings." No, Islam does not teach this. Muslims and Muslim society is held to be superior. Christians and Jews are "People of the Book," but within Islamic society are to have a circumscribed existence as dhimmis--second-class citizens with fewer privileges and a special tax. Others, pagans or Hindus, have roles as either converts or slaves (or dead). Although during Islamic rule in India Hindus were given a dhimmi status. Also, Islam, from the Q'uran forward, stresses male-superiority and female inferiority.

Are these useful falsehoods? Maybe. But only to Muslim audiences, if and only if, they can be persuasive to Muslims who wish to remake their religion. For Westeners these falsehoods are dangerous since they confuse our view of the historical reality.

"As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality."

"The light of learning" was taken over from the Greeks as Islamic forces conquered the Greek and Christian Byzantine Empire, not generated by Muslims. We also should give credit to the refugee scholars from conquered areas who migrated to the West, especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

"Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality." No it has not. See above on the relation taught, and practiced between Muslims and non-Muslims. Regarding race, Muslim societies normally have looked to black Africa for their slaves. Arabs today tend to look down upon blacks.

"I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library."

"Treaty of Tripoli in 1796" was negotiated after the siezures of American ships in the Mediterranean by the Barbary States. The treaty was broken by these states which led to the armed conflict between the U.S. and these piratical regimes. When John Adams wrote, the U.S. had no hostile designes on any powers in the Old World that would leave us alone.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

See above. Indonesia in the days Obama was there was a different sort of place. The Islam of Indonesia was fairly tolerant not because it was true to its Islamic roots, but because it ignored them. Syncretism and coexistence are a departure from traditional Islam, and the Islamic revival today in Indonesia in returning to the roots of Islam is resulting in far less syncretism and tolerance.

I second Farmer in noting that there is much in this speech that is very good. But, I also believe that truth is the only way forward.
Off the top of my head:

When Texas A&M plays my beloved Baylor Bears, I am completely comfortable demonstrating my frothing hatred for the dreadful Aggies. When A&M plays Missouri or Nebraska, I almost always root for the Aggies. When A&M plays Ohio State, I love the Aggies.

When a sitting President of the United States travels to a foreign land and delivers a speech on behalf of US, regardless of party affiliation, I am totally "USA! USA! USA!" I just can't help myself.

AND THIS PRESIDENT CAN DELIVER A SPEECH!!! Hot damn, son, you really did sell your soul to the Devil.

Of course, not everyone agrees. When GMA asked conservative commentator Sean Hannity for his immediate reaction this morning following the speech, Hannity recited the same criticism he delivered on his radio show yesterday afternoon in advance of the speech (virtually word for word). Suffice it say that the President's address did not change Hannity's mind.

Some thoughts:

1. I have said similar things before, but thus far this president is absolutely stellar at representing the United States of America. He is suave and articulate. He exudes confidence and style. He fully comprehends the potent symbolism of a President of the United States traveling abroad. On a purely superficial level, he is Reagan-like in his capacity to command the world stage.

2. The content of this speech was almost identical to the policies of the last administration. Nothing new here. Aside from the perhaps gratuitous admission of "torture," followed by a quasi justification-slash-apology for the practice, George Bush or Condi Rice could have given this speech.

An Aside: having said that, I have no doubt that Barack Obama forever will be known in popular history as the president who first suggested a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. So it goes.

3. It is good for American presidents to go through the motions of articulating a rational case for peace and goodwill in front of audiences traditionally hostile to those public virtues. Based on past performance, it seems unlikely that his eloquence will transform the hearts and minds of the Middle East. Time will tell. But anything is possible. Stranger things have happened. There are other forces at work (some of them set in motion by the previous administration) that may combine to form a "complicated web of contingency" that moves history.

4. Good Cop; Bad Cop. With a few exceptions, American foreign policy since World War II has remained essentially consistent over time regardless of presidential elections. In terms of goals and interests, very little has changed since January 20th. However, this president has the advantage of being a very popular and charismatic president following a president who lacked those assets. We will have to wait and see how President Obama makes use of these slightly improved circumstances.

One thing worth noting: his adoring audience in Cairo went wild when he told them what they wanted to hear (America and Israel were not without faults)--but there was a deafening silence in the auditorium when he explained how they could be the "change they sought." This president has his work cut out for him. But I wish him well.

BOTTOM LINE: big political triumph for the President (at least in the short term).
Muslims attack Hare Krisna center in Bangladesh. Must be grievances over the Crusades, or maybe Hare Krisna support for Israel.

Muslims in the Palestianian Authority desecrate Christian graves. Must have been self-defence, or maybe the dead provoked the peaceful Muslims.

Copts continue to be harassed in Egypt. Must be the usual tensions between a new immigrant community and the established society. No wait, the Copts were in Egypt before Mohammad.

Remember, the one using the terms must define their meaning. When Muslims call Islam The Religion of Peace, they mean the "peace" of submission. If you refuse to submit, things are not so peaceful.
"Let me say this as clearly as I can," Obama said. "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical ... in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."

The U.S. president is trying to mend fences with a Muslim world that felt it had been blamed by America for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

From AP via Breitbart via Drudge. Full story.

Islam is by its nature expansive through conquest. Both the Qu'ran, the life of Mohammad, and history demonstrate this. Those closest to the core of Islam are those who recognize jihad as an imperative. Periodic revivals of Islam result in violence.

If Muslims wish to demonstrate good faith in proving to the world their peaceful intentions, then I post this challenge that I wish Obama had made while in Turkey. Return Hagia Sophia to the Christian Church and end all restrictions on Christians. That would be a start.

For more that 1000 years Holy Wisdom [Hagia Sophia] served as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Constantinople as well as the church of the Byzantine court but that function came to an end on May 29, 1453, when the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror seized the Imperial City and converted the Great Church into his mosque. It remained a mosque until 1935 when Turkish head-of-state Mustafa Kemal converted it into a museum. Years later the plaster which had been applied by the Muslims to cover the icons was removed revealing for the first time to modern eyes the extent of the desecration perpetrated by the Muslims in their effort to render the structure appropriate for their own purposes.
One of the ironies expressed by Reinhold Niebuhr in his classic The Irony of American History was that there was a certain similarity between Western liberal ideology and Communist ideology. Both believed that, given the right conditions and methods, mankind can be controlled by an elite class for the betterment of all.

Writing in the midst of the Cold War, Niebuhr made a very clear distinction between the two ideologies. The methods of the communists he viewed as nefarious, while he believed that the potential excesses of liberal ideology had been tempered by practicality born of experience.

According to Niebuhr, one of the characteristics of irony is that it is generally unnoticed. It results from a sort of double-think. In the case of the example above, the greatest irony is that the aspects of Communism which were most decried by the West had their basis in the West’s own ideology, a fact not noted by most critics of Communism.

In modern American politics, there is just as big of an ironic disconnect between Republican/conservative ideology in foreign and domestic affairs.

As a general rule of principle, Republicans distrust the ability of government to efficiently improve the lives of its citizens. Reduce taxes, cut off handouts, let individuals in the market decide what's best: these are the rallying cries of most conservative Republicans. This is in opposition to the ideology of modern liberal Democrats, who view a government of enlightened leaders as capable of improving the lives of their fellow countrymen through the application of sagacious policies.

In foreign policy, however, the basic ideology of the Bush administration was nearly identical to those aspects of Democratic domestic policy which were most roundly condemned by conservatives. In part, the invasion of Iraq was driven by the belief that the application of sagacious policies by an elite (Americans, in this case) would improve the lives of Iraqis. [Yes, of course, there were other reasons for the invasion. But the reasons given by the administration changed so often I figure one is as good as the other.]

Republicans seem just as inclined as Democrats to carry out intrusive policies designed for the betterment of the less fortunate. The main difference seems to be that Democrats focus these policies on (or force these policies on, depending on your view) American citizens, whereas Republicans give Americans the benefit of the doubt in solving their own problems and instead focus/force policies on an international level.

I don’t know if this is due to a sense of American exceptionalism, a compulsion to spread democracy as quickly as possible, or something else. Importantly, I’m not even saying this is necessarily a bad thing.

It’s just ironic.

[note: I know this idea isn’t original to me. Many foreign policy conservatives have distanced themselves from Bush’s actions, labeling him and his team as neo-conservative, neo-Wilsonian, etc. – anything but “conservative.” They’ve obviously recognized the irony.]
Story here. While the story stresses that the Chinese government has not been linked directly to this spying effort, the targets--the Dalai Lama's organization and also India-- are suggestive of government activity. Plus, China is not a free society and the Chinese government goes to great efforts to monitor the internet traffic of its citizens.
I haven't had much good to say about the Obama administration, and do not anticipate much change in the future. So I better give an 'atta-boy when I can.

A few days ago I posted on the world challenges facing Obama, and how world leaders were testing him.

Apparently he has decided to show some resolve. We knew he had it in him after watching his conduct of the
campaign against the Clintons. After all, he's a Chicago pol.

U.S. Warships Head for South China Sea Link from Drudge.

UPDATE: The Chinese are now playing hardball. Today they are expressing doubt about buying more U.S. Treasuries. Coincidence. Not on your life. See my earlier post about the leverage we have given China with our debt.

Sometimes I hate being right.