Why 'democracy' is a dirty wordIn Wednesday's Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby explains that 'democracy' has become a dirty word in the Obama White House. According to Jeff and others, that's why the Obama administration has been so 'low key' in identifying with the revolutionaries in Iran (Hat Tip: NY Nana).
With whom should America stand - the bloody tyranny or the people opposing it? For most Americans the question answers itself, which is why both houses of Congress voted all but unanimously last week to condemn the Iranian government and support the protesters’ embrace of human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
So why was President Obama’s response initially so ambivalent? Why was he more interested in preserving “dialogue’’ with Iran’s dictatorial rulers than in providing moral support for their freedom-seeking subjects? Why did it take him until yesterday to declare that Americans are “appalled and outraged’’ by Iran’s crackdown and to “strongly condemn’’ the vicious attacks on peaceful dissenters?
A disconcerting answer to those questions appears in the new issue of Commentary, where Johns Hopkins University scholar Joshua Muravchik isolates the most striking feature of the young Obama administration’s foreign policy: “its indifference to the issues of human rights and democracy.’’
In an essay titled “The Abandonment of Democracy,’’ Muravchik - the author, most recently, of “The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East’’ - observes that every president since Jimmy Carter has made the advancement of democracy and human rights one of his foreign-policy objectives. Now, he writes, “this tradition has been ruptured by the Obama administration.’’
Obama may see himself as the un-Bush, cool to democracy because his predecessor was so keen for it. But to millions of subjugated human beings, he is the leader of the free world - an avatar of the democratic freedoms they hunger for. On the streets of Iran recently, many protesters held signs reading “Where Is My Vote?’’ There are limits to what the American president can do for Iran’s beleaguered democrats. But is it too much to ask that he take their question seriously?I have two other explanations for why the Obama administration is so apathetic towards democracy. Let's take the one that does not directly involve Israel first.
President Obama has described himself as a 'citizen of the world.' In doing so, he is characterizing himself as what we would call a multi-culturalist. But he's not just someone who is tolerant of other cultures - he's a dogmatic multi-culturalist and his 'tolerance' extends to different forms of government. In Obama's world, all forms of government and all governments are equal. None is any better than the others.
Winston Churchill (Obama's anti-hero in more ways than one) is known to have quipped that liberal democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. Obama disagrees with that statement. He would argue that democracy is a form of government that is no better nor worse than the others. Once one accepts that statement, there is no advantage to be gained by promoting democracy. Each form of government is to be treated as equally meitorious and is to be dealt with on its own terms.
That may be one explanation for why Obama has eschewed regime change in Iran, and why his 2010 budget cuts all funding for pro-Democracy movements in Iran. It would also explain why former Republican Presidential candidate John McCain said on Tuesday that he cannot figure out what side Obama is on in Iran. Well, of course he can't. Obama isn't on either side.
The second explanation for Obama's disdain for democracy is that if Obama valued democracy, he would also have to value and acknowledge its only true practitioner in the Middle East. Yes, Israel. While I realize that coming from someone who lives in Israel, this may seem to be a self-centered statement, the fact remains that the only specific foreign policy goal that the Obama administration has articulated is to endanger the State of Israel's continued existence by creating a 'Palestinian state.' Supporting democracy in the Middle East starts with supporting the continued secure existence of the State of Israel. Nothing could be further from Barack Obama's foreign policy goals.