Barack Obama is the king of the world. The mega-celebrity of the 21st century enjoys unprecedented affection all over the universe and solid political support in the United States. His party controls both houses of Congress, and he himself has the American media swooning. With the exception of one pariah vice president (Dick Cheney) and one pariah television network (Fox), nobody dares to criticize him.
Obama conquered the world this spring, and the world is still conquered. Since World War II there has not been a president like Obama in the White House who can do whatever he desires in Washington.
And yet, this past week has cracked the U.S. president. The paralysis that seized the king of the world in the face of Iranian evil has exposed a scratch in his Teflon coating for the first time.
The warrior of Chicago's acceptance of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's religious fascism is hard to digest. It is hard to understand and excuse the exaggerated caution exercised by the leader of the free world with the despots of Tehran. It is even harder to forgive the way he turned his back on the demonstrators for freedom who risked their lives - and sometimes even sacrificed them - for the values he is supposed to represent. The Blackberry president did not heed the distress of the Twitter rebels. In his first test Obama stumbled morally.
The reason Obama behaved as he did is simple: George W. Bush. Obama the statesman has been guided by his determination to be the opposite of his predecessor.
Bush entered Iraq, so Obama will leave Iraq. Bush established Guantanamo, so Obama will close Guantanamo. Bush approved torture, so Obama forbids torture. Bush was hostile to Hugo Chavez, so Obama is chummy with the Venezuelan president. Bush threatened the Saudi king, so Obama bowed down before the Saudi king. Bush demanded that the Arab-Muslim world change, so Obama accepts it as is. Bush believed that the fate of despotic Islamic regimes should be the same as that of despotic Soviet regimes, so Obama believes that despotic Islamic regimes are no less legitimate than patronizing white democracies.
It is entirely clear what would have happened this week had Bush still been president. He would have sided determinedly with the friends of Neda Agha-Soltan and condemned Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He would have made it clear that the United States will have nothing to do with an evil regime that is trying to obtain nuclear weapons while oppressing its citizens. He would have exploited the historic opportunity to isolate the ayatollahs and undermine their rule.
But just because Bush would have behaved that way, Obama did the opposite. He stammered and hesitated and apologized, and did nothing. When history came to stare him in the face, Obama lowered his eyes.
The problem is not only a personal one. The fashionable left has a weakness for third-world tyrants. Just as the Israeli left is forgiving toward the tyranny of Hamas, the American left is forgiving toward the tyranny of the Revolutionary Guard. Just as Israeli liberals turn a blind eye to the persecution of women, homosexuals and other minorities in Arab countries, American liberals turn a blind eye to any oppression that is not Western.
Due to a profound sense of guilt for the white man's sins, the politically correct left is incapable of properly confronting the sins of a non-white person. The result is patently immoral: It is the very people who consider themselves obligated to the third world who are turning their backs on the victims of oppression there. It is the champions of human rights who are abandoning the Middle East's residents to the mercies of despots.
The same Jimmy Carter whose diplomatic blindness enabled Khomeini to take control of Iran, thus condemning it to 30 years of oppression, is not going to Tehran this week to wash away his sins. Instead he dares to report to Hamastan in order to strengthen the discrimination by Hamas.
Obama is not Carter. He is an ethical, realistic and intelligent person. The hope that he has aroused in the world is not without foundation. But this hope will not be realized if he fails in Iran. In order to succeed there, Obama must stretch out a hand not to the oppressors in Iran but to the oppressed.
He must stand not alongside the religious dictatorship but alongside the courageous rebellion. If he does not do so, the fate of the incumbent Democratic president will be similar to that of the Democratic president of the 1970s. He will quickly lose his moral authority and even bear responsibility for a historic missed opportunity.
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