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June 17, 2009

Reagan v Obama: How To Handle Tyranny

The crackdown continues

International human rights organizations said Wednesday that many prominent activists and politicians have been arrested in response to protests over the Iran's disputed election.

Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights, said he had spoken with family members and colleagues of people who have been arrested or disappeared and was told that there were at least 200 across the country.

IranCrowd_3  06-16-09

IranCrowd_1  06-16-09

IranCrowd_2  06-16-09

Yet President Obama refuses to take a stand for freedom

Stephen Hayes says it best

President Obama said that he admired the protesters, not that he supported them. He refused to say anything at all that might have been understood as a direct criticism of the plainly fraudulent election. (On Tuesday, in his most aggressive statement, he said he joins the rest of the world in its "deep concern" about the election.) And by pretending that the coming "investigation" of perceived "irregularities" might actually be a serious undertaking, he strengthened the position of a criminal regime--or, as he prefers, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As I outlined yesterday and the day before, rather than taking a stand our president issues mealymouthed statements and talks in that strange bureaucratic language that sounds like it came from a computerized phrase generator.

Once Upon A Time

On December 13, 1981 the Polish government declared martial law, and General Wojciech Jaruzelski took over the government. The Solidarity trade union was banned, and its leaders, most notably Lech Wałęsa, were arrested and thrown into prison.

Ronald Reagan official photo as President

Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and he wasn't having any of it. Less than a week later he said this during a press conference:

All the information that we have confirms that the imposition of martial law in Poland has led to the arrest and confinement, in prisons and detention camps, of thousands of Polish trade union leaders and intellectuals. Factories are being seized by security forces and workers beaten.

These acts make plain there's been a sharp reversal of the movement toward a freer society that has been underway in Poland for the past year and a half. Coercion and violation of human rights on a massive scale have taken the place of negotiation and compromise. All of this is in gross violation of the Helsinki Pact, to which Poland is a signatory.

It would be naive to think this could happen without the full knowledge and the support of the Soviet Union. We're not naive. We view the current situation in Poland in the gravest of terms, particularly the increasing use of force against an unarmed population and violations of the basic civil rights of the Polish people.

Violence invites violence and threatens to plunge Poland into chaos. We call upon all free people to join in urging the Government of Poland to reestablish conditions that will make constructive negotiations and compromise possible.

Certainly, it will be impossible for us to continue trying to help Poland solve its economic problems while martial law is imposed on the people of Poland, thousands are imprisoned, and the legal rights of free trade unions -- previously granted by the government -- are now denied. We've always been ready to do our share to assist Poland in overcoming its economic difficulties, but only if the Polish people are permitted to resolve their own problems free of internal coercion and outside intervention.

Our nation was born in resistance to arbitrary power and has been repeatedly enriched by immigrants from Poland and other great nations of Europe. So we feel a special kinship with the Polish people in their struggle against Soviet opposition to their reforms.

The Polish nation, speaking through Solidarity, has provided one of the brightest, bravest moments of modern history. The people of Poland are giving us an imperishable example of courage and devotion to the values of freedom in the face of relentless opposition. Left to themselves, the Polish people would enjoy a new birth of freedom. But there are those who oppose the idea of freedom, who are intolerant of national independence, and hostile to the European values of democracy and the rule of law.

Two Decembers ago, freedom was lost in Afghanistan; this Christmas, it's at stake in Poland. But the torch of liberty is hot. It warms those who hold it high. It burns those who try to extinguish it.

On December 23 he gave an address to the nation in which he said:

I want emphatically to state tonight that if the outrages in Poland do not cease, we cannot and will not conduct ``business as usual'' with the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them. Make no mistake, their crime will cost them dearly in their future dealings with America and free peoples everywhere. I do not make this statement lightly or without serious reflection.

But "business as usual" is what Obama is all about. In his case it is keeping his campaign promise of negotiations with out preconditions.

Reagan had it right. Almost immediately after his inauguration he "...met with his senior foreign policy advisers to discuss how to undermine Communist power in Poland and discourage Soviet intervention." Negotiations with the communists were at times necessary, but were not viewed as strategies in and of themselves. Overthrowing the communists was.

Obama should take a cue from Reagan and adopt a similar policy with regard to Iran.

Posted by Tom at June 17, 2009 9:45 PM

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Reagan understood the value of freedom. That's a language that is alien to a statist like Obama.

And recall that at the time, the libs warned Reagan not to go too far because it might complicate arms control negotiations. It didn't.

Now, the Iranians are complaining that Obama is meddling in their affairs when he bent over backwards to avoid doing so.

Obama is playing it safe in hopes that he will get a worthless agreement on nukes with the Iranians. He won't.

Meanwhile, an historic and rare opportunity to SOLVE the Iranian problem altogether is being passed over.

As I said in my post on this subject, Obama is even making Carter's foreign policy look good by comparison.

Posted by: Mike's America at June 18, 2009 12:52 AM

You state, with typical mindless right wing belligerence: " Negotiations with the communists were at times necessary, but were not viewed as strategies in and of themselves. Overthrowing the communists was.

Obama should take a cue from Reagan and adopt a similar policy with regard to Iran."

Mike, we already overthrew their government, in the 1950's. We replaced it with a vicious dictator who we kept in power with billions of dollars of military aid. You may not want to remember that, but believe me, the Iranian people do. That's why we do not have the freedom to act as Reagan did with Poland- whoever we support will be regarded by the Iranian people as a likely enemy, and with good cause.

By the way, when Jaruzelski heard Reagan's words, I guess he just quit his office and went home, right? Because I don't remember Reagan's belligerence having one shred of an effect on the fall of the Communist Polish government. The Polish people did that on their own, and with some luck, the Iranian people will do the same. Now, that's real democracy.

Posted by: Green Eagle at June 18, 2009 7:58 PM

Excellent post!! There is a huge chasm between what Reagan and Obama would do on a host of issues.

Posted by: Dee at June 19, 2009 1:55 AM

Thank you for stopping by, everyone.

Green Eagle - Saying that the Polish people overthrew the communists on their own shows an ignorance of history that is breathtaking.

As Carl Bernstein relates in an article that originally appeared in TIME Magazine:

Reagan and the Pope spent only a few minutes reviewing events in the Middle East. Instead they remained focused on a subject much closer to their heart: Poland and the Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe. In that meeting, Reagan and the Pope agreed to undertake a clandestine campaign to hasten the dissolution of the communist empire. Declares Richard Allen, Reagan's first National Security Adviser: "This was one of the great secret alliances of all time."

The operation was focused on Poland, the most populous of the Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe and the birthplace of John Paul II. Both the Pope and the President were convinced that Poland could be broken out of the Soviet orbit if the Vatican and the U.S. committed their resources to destabilizing the Polish government and keeping the outlawed Solidarity movement alive after the declaration of martial law in 1981.

Until Solidarity's legal status was restored in 1989 it flourished underground, supplied, nurtured and advised largely by the network established under the auspices of Reagan and John Paul II. Tons of equipment -- fax machines (the first in Poland), printing presses, transmitters, telephones, shortwave radios, video cameras, photocopiers, telex machines, computers, word processors -- were smuggled into Poland via channels established by priests and American agents and representatives of the AFL-CIO and European labor movements. Money for the banned union came from CIA funds, the National Endowment for Democracy, secret accounts in the Vatican and Western trade unions.

Lech Walesa and other leaders of Solidarity received strategic advice -- often conveyed by priests or American and European labor experts working undercover in Poland -- that reflected the thinking of the Vatican and the Reagan Administration. As the effectiveness of the resistance grew, the stream of information to the West about the internal decisions of the Polish government and the contents of Warsaw's communications with Moscow became a flood. The details came not only from priests but also from spies within the Polish government.

Not to take anything away from the Polish people, for they were quite brave. But it is factually incorrect to say they overthrew the communists on their own.

Second, there is a certain moral clarity in calling evil for what it is. The left led the way in denouncing apartheid South Africa, and we on the right lagged. We were wrong then and you were right.

Rhetoric from the West, coupled with sanctions, brought down apartheid. We can do likewise with Iran. Just sitting back and telling the Iranians they have do to it all themselves strikes me at rather heartless.

Further, Reagan's words gave imprisoned dissidents heart, and hope for the future. Anatoly Sharansky (now Natan Sharansky) spent eight years in the gulag. When he was there, Reagan gave his famous "evil empire" speech. Western liberals were appalled, but Sharansky and other imprisoned dissidents had a different reaction:

Q:Were there any particular Reagan moments that you can recall being sources of strength or encouragement to you and your colleagues?

Sharansky: I have to laugh. People who take freedom for granted, Ronald Reagan for granted, always ask such questions. Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union.

So what a U.S. president says is closely monitored by dissidents in totalitarian countries. What he says can either give them hope, or demoralize them.

More here on how it was Reagan's efforts that brought down the Soviet Empire.

Finally, contrary to what you say it is not clear as to how much the CIA really had to do with bringing down Mohammed Mossadegh.

But it doesn't matter. One, unless you can produce a reliable poll I have no evidence to believe that "whoever we support will be regarded by the Iranian people as a likely enemy."

More, like all liberals you love to bring up past US sins (real and imagined) because you like to wallow in guilt. You like feeling guilty about past U.S. transgressions. And you use that guilt to paralyze us into inaction, which is your real goal.

Posted by: Tom the Redhunter at June 19, 2009 9:53 PM


1. There is no doubt whatsoever that the U. S. overthrew the Mossadegh government, because it was contemplating nationalizing its oil resources.

2. The government we installed in Mossadegh's place was as evil as any of the ones you mention, but we didn't care about that as long as we got what we wanted. That's not liberal wallowing in guilt, it's the truth.

3. I know it is part of the Reagan hagiography to claim he singlehandedly conquered communism, but in truth, the Polish people simply stopped going along with the program, at a time the Soviets were too weak to act like they did in Prague and Budapest when similar threats to their hegemony occurred. I am a pretty hard core left winger, by the way (in case you didn't notice,) but I still can recognize that the Soviet control of Eastern Europe in the postwar era was a tragic deal for many of the people there. I think you should realize also that big talk from 7,000 miles away doesn't do much to give people their freedom.

Now, still, Iran is a special case. If you can imagine Britain in, say, 1820 trying to exert pressure on us to pick a certain government, I think you know the kind of outrage that would have produced, and the effect it would have had on Britain's favored candidate. The same is true in Iran. It is not a matter of guilt, but of recognizing that our antidemocratic actions in the 1950's still have consequences today. I think it is fair and reasonable to state that.

Posted by: Green Eagle at June 20, 2009 1:51 AM

Thank you again for stopping by, Green Eagle, and for leaving your thoughts. I'll take your argument under consideration.

fyi, my policy is to let my guests have the last word. Since I already responded to your first set of remarks, I'll let your last comment go without a response.

Posted by: Tom the Redhunter at June 20, 2009 2:56 PM

Green Eagle: I wasn't alive when we assisted the coup in Iran during the early 1950's.

But I was alive when Reagan made strong statements in support of freedom behind the Iron Curtain and I recall how lefties fought against such a strong declaration of our values and support at every available opportunity.

You folks were wrong then and you are wrong now.

Perhaps you have forgotten all those lessons we learned since you obviously have a distorted view of that history to begin with.

Now we face the problem of how to assist in the dismantling of the "Iran Curtain" and once again, you people trot out the same distortions and half truths to support the same policy of appeasement and indifference to freedom loving people that was such a monstrous failure in the 20th Century.

Apparently you people care more what the dictators of Iran think than what the people yearning for freedom are dying while expressing in the streets.

Posted by: Mike's America at June 21, 2009 11:15 PM

We have a dear friend who is 52 years old and from Iran. She is very saddened and upset with the current situation in Iran. However, she did make it clear to us the the average Iranian does want freedom, but hates the U.S. She voted for McCain, but says Obama is doing the right thing by staying out of it. She thinks that because of the actions of the regime, that the Iranians will overthrow the supreme leader, and install a more diplomatic one.

Posted by: Blackkid at June 28, 2009 8:53 AM

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