Obama and Oslo: A Tough President for Tough Times

In Oslo, President Obama showed that he is more about humility than hubris and, in so doing, demonstrated why the committee gave him the Nobel Peace Prize, even if in Obama’s own characterization it could be viewed as premature:

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize — Schweitzer and King, Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight.

Yet, Obama has demonstrated how a world leader can be strong both militarily and diplomatically, without turning the free world against America as George W. did.

What surprises our politicians on both sides of the aisle is how tough this president is. He’s no wimp when it comes to using military force. In fact, he has been criticized, from the left, for sounding hawkish.

But he came to his “surge” decision in Afghanistan with the professorial scrutiny — contrary to W. — for which he is famous.
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What Would the New Iran Look Like?

Excitement spills from the font of freedom fighting in Iran. But so do questions.

How different, for example, would a Moussavi regime be, from Ahmadinejad? And, even if it’s much better, would his policies be reformist enough for the people. Would the clerics still be supreme? Would they still control the militias? Would women be given the freedoms they seek? Would the regime be friendly to the West? Would it recognize Israel? Would a second movement, revolution even, be implemented?

Certainly, none of these questions should deter support for the people of Iran. Certainly, Iranians cannot answer these questions right now. What we do know is that freedom is forming in Iran. But we can’t know for sure what a new regime would look like.

That may explain President Obama’s careful approach. At first blush, his cool hand feels disappointing. Isn’t this the moment to step up to the plate, like McCain and many others are saying?

Perhaps Maureen Dowd’s Sunday column provides perspective on this “cool hand”:

…some Americans fear that President Obama is too prone to negotiation, comity and splitting the difference, that he could have been tougher on avaricious banks and vicious Iranian dictators.

While Dowd’s piece takes off, so to speak, on the “fly” incident (president kills fly on camera; comics kill audiences on late night tv), she divulges how half the president’s aides:

…are more caught up in the myth and magic, feeling that Mr. Obama summons the three-point swishes when he needs them; that his popularity is not so fragile; that the president’s unparalleled vision and buzzer-beating will shape fate.

If half of Obama’s aides are 100 percent right, the president may prove to be ahead of many of us on Iran versus behind us.
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Moon Landing in Iran

The riveting events in Iran could be compared to the moon landing in 1969. Perhaps because they are world changing, keeping the planet on the edge of its seat, so to speak, wondering what will be?

They are very different, yet they are also similar. The moon landing had nothing but upside, launching the imagination of mankind, exciting us with what could be.

Yet the same could be said for the circumstances in Iran. After all, the Iranian people have harnessed the power of technology, brought it to a new level, caused us to feel the world will never be the same again.

In Iran, dictators may fall at the hands of the people. And, in this case, their hands are nothing more than their voices. Perhaps never again will strongmen be able to suppress the voice of a willful people. It sets the mind and heart to reeling.

It’s 1969 all over again. Isn’t it?

Excerpt:
The riveting events in Iran compare to those of the moon landing in 1969: world changing, exhilarating, setting the mind and heart to reeling.
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Iran: Washington Responsible For Post-Election Protests


No surprise here. Simple bait and blame. Obama is taking the right stand for the time being. He shouldn’t play into Ahmadinejad ‘s or Khamenei’s hands. Besides, a strong hand right now by the U.S. might actually turn off the Iranian street. I venture they want freedom and world support, but likely don’t want to look like U.S. shills either. They need to establish their own autonomous voice.
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Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Bait and Blame in Iran

Surprise, surprise. Khamenei whitewashes, err, sanctions election of Ahmadinejad, warning opposition leaders that they will be “responsible for bloodshed and chaos,” if they don’t shut down opposition rallies. The blame baiting continues, following accusations from Iranian leaders of U.S. intervention. According to today’s HuffPost:

Iran directly accused the United States of meddling in the deepening crisis over a disputed presidential election and broadened its media clampdown Wednesday to include blogs and news Web sites. But protesters took to the streets in growing defiance of the country’s Islamic rulers.

In contrast, there may be division in the mullah ranks. The Lede blog recounts New York Times U.N. Correspondent Neil MacFarquhar’s report of an underlying power struggle among Iran’s clerics. He notes that lead cleric and former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Moussavi supporter, may play a pivotal role:

One of the country’s most influential clerics, Mr. Rafsanjani has been notably silent since Mr. Ahmadinejad was declared the winner last week, and there has been speculation that Mr. Rafsanjani is in Qum trying to muster clerical opposition to the country’s leaders. But those reports are difficult to confirm with any authority.

Mr. Rafsanjani leads the 86-member Assembly of Experts, whose duties include endorsing the performance of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Saturday called the election’s outcome “a divine blessing.” In theory, the group has the power to remove him, but that has never been done and any attempt to do so would probably further inflame the situation, analysts said.

The analysts say about a third of the Assembly members are loyal to Mr. Rafsanjani. Of the other members, perhaps a quarter are considered loyal to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a mentor to Mr. Ahmadinejad and a staunchly conservative figure who has suggested that allowing the public a voice in elections serves only to sully God’s laws. The rest are viewed as independents who could vote either way.

Meanwhile, Middle East expert Fawaz A. Gerges discussed social underpinnings in Iran yesterday morning on CNN, with John Roberts. A Sarah Lawrence professor, Gerges explained that young women and youth in general want more reforms than even the opposition leader Moussavi offers. He is an excellent source for cultural analysis in Iran. Gerges is a frequent CNN guest. Check out this transcript page from the day of the Iranian election. In it, Gerge provides good background on the workings of Iran’s culture today.
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Twitter Nation

What to make of this freshet of posts raining down on us on Iran? Here in America, we are naturally excited by any peoples taking to the street in the face of stolen elections, repression, state murder. Furthermore, to see technology level brutality and class the way it has flattened major incumbent industries like music and journalism is downright heady.

Now Twitter, for one, an almost so-yesterday communications channel has suddenly been pressed into the service of freedom. Just a few weeks back Ashton Kutcher was turning the mini blog into a joke. Then this week, the U.S. State Department convinced Twitter to delay a scheduled maintenance downtime, to keep the Iranian movement of packets and pixels from shutting down. The CIA is likely stepping up efforts to recruit social-media gurus with the urgency of the Yankees seeking a starting pitcher in late July. Name your price.

Maybe YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are the newest class of drones. Maybe the people of the world are the new army. And no one saw this coming. Even the relatively progressive CNN was left clueless in the rush, failing to compete with the reportage from the electronic front over the weekend. The Grey Lady, too, has had scant front-page real estate devoted to these events, handling them instead in The Lede, their news blog (which is itself well done).

As a pr guy, I read the journal Ragan.com daily. For months Twitter has dominated the headlines. Yes, because it is a useful tool, but more because it made for trendy headlines. So, where are they now? Today’s e-mail newsletter contains no Twitter coverage. I suppose they don’t do revolution.

Now for an over view of today’s coverage:

HuffPost’s Nico Pitney is leading the field, tirelessly collecting and analyzing coverage from all media and social-media quarters. Late this afternoon he posted a heated debate between American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, the Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan and a Twitterer named khoobehi. It all started with Pletka’s op-ed piece in the New York Times that minimized the five-day-old Iranian uprising as “little more than a symbolic protest” that was “crushed by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.” Sullivan uncovered her neocon pedigree and suspect motives, while this khoobehi character managed via tweets to get Pletka to backpedal a tad.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on the social media phenom:

A couple of Twitter feeds have become virtual media offices for the supporters of the leading opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi. One feed, mousavi1388 (1388 is the year in the Persian calendar), is filled with news of protests and exhortations to keep up the fight, in Persian and in English. It has more than 7,000 followers.

BTW, mousavi1388 doubled his followers since the Times’ citation this morning.

Update: the Twitter maintenance occurred early this evening.
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Twitter to Ahmadinejad: ‘Tear Down this Wall’

Where’s Don Johnson when you need him? It was Don and New-Wave South Beach deco that brought down “the Wall.” You know, the one in Berlin. Reagan? Nah. That’s a bunch of Republican rubbish.

No kidding. An AP story back in 1989 made a case for how the fall of the Berlin Wall was largely due to yearning among West Berliners for the good life, the goodies, in particular, portrayed in the seminal “Miami Vice,” which breached the Wall via satellite transmissions from the West. It was technology, after all, killed the beast — iron-fisted communism, in the case.

Now, the new Iron Curtain that is being spun around Iran is already threatened by technology. This time in the form of YouTube, Facebook, and, yes, the Almighty Twitter.

Isn’t it fitting on the day that freedom-starved Iranians harnessed Twitter and YouTube to tell its story to the world, the Associated Press’ Stylebook sanctioned the lowercasing of the verb form of Twitter (as in to tweet) and the noun form (as in a tweet). On this momentous day, they should have declared them all caps.
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Guantanamo By Any Other Name

Maybe it’s because I grew up down the road from the Riverdale synagogues that were targeted in the just-thwarted terrorist plot. Maybe it’s because I now live down the road from Newburgh, where the terrorist thugs live and where they also intended to take out Air Force aircraft. Or maybe it’s because my friend Richie and I commanded the 40th Street Pier, which was used as a temporary supply depot during the Sept. 11 rescue operation.

Maybe it’s because my city — where I played hardball, drove taxis, wrote news stories — was once again the target of jihadists.

Maybe that’s why I don’t want to see the inhabitants of Guantanamo dispersed in prison yards across the county. The Newburgh knuckleheads — the gang that couldn’t bomb straight — formed in state prison yards, homegrown thugs with a freedom-chip on their shoulders.

Honestly, I don’t think Congress, overall, will let it happen. I think my countrymen simply feel too uncomfortable with the dispersion plan. I respect President Obama for trying to “mop up” behind the Guantanamo mess. But his terming opposition to prisoner dispersion fear-mongering is unfair. Shouldn’t we fear the enemy within. Shouldn’t we be vigilant.

Richie and I stood deep in the days old debris of The World Trade Center, twisted girders, dust of sheetrock and bone, tower-sheathing reaching like a macabre-cathedral into the dark sky. You don’t forget. You never forget. This enemy doesn’t. This enemy won’t. Remember, they hit the towers seven years early, only to return, after we all went to sleep. There’s no sleeping anymore. Not eight years after Sept. 11. Not twenty-eight.

But I have a plan for Guantanamo. It’s simple. Change the name as we change the plan and the strategy, as we remain vigilant on our shores.
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The Center Must Hold

A mere year’s commitment by a number of Democrats to funding operations in Afghanistan would be a joke if it weren’t so sad.

Mostly House Dems are making such signals, and not only from liberal quarters, as reported by David M. Herszenhorn in the New York Times.

So why bother? Sure, Afghanistan’s going to be some tough sledding, but upping the ante on fighting only to cut and run is certainly partisan, but also both cowardly and disloyal to the President, the troops and the American people.

Yeats’ “The Second Coming,” was written to describe Europe following World War I. If “the centre cannot hold” again, it will be reprinting widely.
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