Here's George Will on ABC yesterday calling right wing criticism of President Obama's measured response to the Iranian protest movement "foolish."
George Will's memory might reach back all the way to the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Mine only goes back as far as such events as Czechoslovakia in 1968; Poland in 1981; and China in 1989. All these popular protests were met with savage government repression, which is the phase that we are seeing in Iran right now. In none of these cases did negative worldwide opinion prove much of a deterrent to the government crackdown. The world's disapproval did not stop Russian tanks from rolling into Prague, or stop the government of Poland from instituting martial law, or stop the Chinese government from massacring protesters in Tienanmen Square. In all of these cases, however, popular protests still had the effect of tarnishing the government's legitimacy, and in some cases this led to real change. That also seems to be happening in Iran right now, though this protest movement is still in its infancy. All of these movements were built on and derive the power from, grassroots support, not outside intervention. That seems particularly true in Iran, where the government derives much of its support from demonizing Western nations, particularly the United States.
People who want to second guess what the United States is now doing to help the Iranian democratic movement of 2009 succeed should really think more carefully about the limits of our ability to do that. And about the possibility that our efforts could be counter-productive.