The year of living fecklessly

The year of living feckl

By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
December 27, 2009 22:05
3 minute read.
d?cor mural

d?cor mural. (photo credit: DR)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not just reject US President Barack Obama's latest feckless floating nuclear deadline. He spat on it, declaring that Iran "will continue resisting" until the US has gotten rid of its 8,000 nuclear warheads. So ends 2009, the year of "engagement," of the extended hand, of the gratuitous apology - and of spinning centrifuges, two-stage rockets and a secret enrichment facility that brought Iran materially closer to becoming a nuclear power. We lost a year. But it was not just any year. It was a year of spectacularly squandered opportunity. In Iran, it was a year of revolution, beginning with a contested election and culminating this week in huge demonstrations mourning the death of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri - and demanding no longer a recount of the stolen election but the overthrow of the clerical dictatorship. Obama responded by distancing himself from this new birth of freedom. First, scandalous silence. Then, a few grudging words. Then relentless engagement with the murderous regime. With offer after offer, gesture after gesture - to not Iran, but the "Islamic Republic of Iran," as Obama ever so respectfully called these clerical fascists - the US conferred legitimacy on a regime desperate to regain it. Why is this so important? Because revolutions succeed at that singular moment, that imperceptible historical inflection, when the people, and particularly those in power, realize that the regime has lost the mandate of heaven. With this weakening dictatorship desperate for affirmation, why is the US repeatedly offering just such affirmation? APART FROM ostracizing and delegitimizing these gangsters, we should be encouraging and reinforcing the demonstrators. This is no trivial matter. When pursued, beaten, arrested and imprisoned, dissidents can easily succumb to feelings of despair and isolation. Natan Sharansky testified to the electric effect Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire speech had on lifting spirits in the Gulag. The news was spread cell to cell in code tapped on the walls. They knew they weren't alone, that America was committed to their cause. Yet so aloof has Obama been that on Hate America Day (November 4, the anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy in Teheran), pro-American counterdemonstrators chanted "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them," i.e., their oppressors. Such cool indifference is more than a betrayal of our values. It's a strategic blunder of the first order. Forget about human rights. Assume you care only about the nuclear issue. How to defuse it? Negotiations are going nowhere, and whatever UN sanctions we might get will be weak, partial, grudging and late. The only real hope is regime change. The revered and widely supported Montazeri had actually issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons. And even if a successor government were to act otherwise, the nuclear threat would be highly attenuated because it's not the weapon but the regime that creates the danger. (Think India or Britain, for example.) Any proliferation is troubling, but a nonaggressive pro-Western Teheran would completely change the strategic equation and make the threat minimal and manageable. What should we do? Pressure from without - cutting off gasoline supplies, for example - to complement and reinforce pressure from within. The pressure should be aimed not at changing the current regime's nuclear policy - that will never happen - but at helping change the regime itself. Give the kind of covert support to assist dissident communication and circumvent censorship that, for example, we gave Solidarity in Poland during the 1980s. (In those days that meant broadcasting equipment and copying machines.) But of equal importance is robust rhetorical and diplomatic support from the very highest level: full-throated denunciation of the regime's savagery and persecution. In detail - highlighting cases, the way Western leaders adopted the causes of Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov during the rise of the dissident movement that helped bring down the Soviet empire. Will this revolution succeed? The odds are long but the reward immense. Its ripple effects would extend from Afghanistan to Iraq (in both conflicts, Iran actively supports insurgents who have long been killing Americans and their allies) to Lebanon and Gaza where Iran's proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas, are arming for war. One way or the other, Iran will dominate 2010. Either there will be an Israeli attack or Iran will arrive at - or cross - the nuclear threshold. Unless revolution intervenes. Which is why to fail to do everything in our power to support this popular revolt is unforgivable. Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated Washington Post columnist.

Related Content

OVERVIEW OF the Human Rights Council at the UNHRC
July 22, 2018
EU member states should follow the US and leave the UNHRC

By TOMAS ZDECHOVSKY