Like many Americans on both sides of the political aisle, I follow the events in Iran sensing we are witnessing something of great historical significance. It reminds me of the fall of 1989 when I would return home from work and flip on CNN (then the only 24-hour cable news network) to learn of the events in eastern and central Europe. That year, the dominoes fell one by one, with freedom triumphing in the nations of the then-Warsaw Pact. But, earlier that year the Chinese Government repressed a similar uprising for freedom in Tiananmen Square.
In other words, rallies such as those taking place across Iran, do not always bring down tyrannical regimes. Americans, liberal as well as conservative, Democrat as well as Republican hope for the best (as happened in such nations as Poland, Hungary, then former Czechoslovakia) and fear for the worst (China). John Steele Gordon sums it up:
It is too soon to know if this will be a repeat of Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in 1989 or Republic Square, Bucharest, a few months later. But the vast majority of the American people are hoping it’s the latter, with similar results for the tyrants.
There’s hope this is more like Europe than China. Twenty years ago, when Chinese students rallied in Tiananmen Square, they were, as I recall, largely alone. Similar uprisings did not take place across the People’s Republic. But, we have reports of rallies all over Iran. While we may have video primarily from Tehran, this is far more widespread than just one anti-government rally in the capital of the nation in question.
And while Americans of all political stripes are speaking out in favor of the demonstrators, the Administration has been as lukewarm in praising their resistance to tyranny as was the James Baker State Department in 1989. Neither the incumbent President nor the then-Secretary of State seemed to understand the animating idea of the American Republic.
Some will say, we don’t want to undermine the ongoing revolution by “meddling,” but even before Obama’s somewhat stronger statement a few days ago, the Iranian oligarchs accused us of meddling. Officials in the Obama Administration need understand that their prejudices notwithstanding, people in oppressed nations still look to the American ideal for inspiration. A statement from the President, not just released, but spoken, in support of their goals of a free and democratic Iran, would let them know that the people of the United States stand with them, emboldening them to fight for their freedom.
As the Gipper’s criticism of Communism emboldened those suffering under Soviet rule.
Jennifer Rubin’s quip gets at what hinders Administration officials:
Perhaps if they did not assume everyone thinks as poorly of America as they do these officials would have more confidence and adopt some of the suggested steps for aiding the protesters.
Perhaps, if they weren’t trying so hard not to be George W. Bush, they might better understand the ideals of our great nation–and what exactly that good man was trying to promote, albeit clumsily at times.