As you may have noticed, domestic hawks spent much of the weekend loudly demanding that Barack Obama, on behalf of the United States, bluntly take sides in a foreign electoral controversy. Victor David Hanson, without a trace of irony, tries to explain why this would be just dandy with some examples that are perhaps a bit more on-the-nose than he intended:
In 2004 the Kerry campaign made a big deal over the Iranians’ stated preference for Bush (e.g., the Kerry campaign responded: ”It is telling that this president has received the endorsement of a member of the axis of evil.”) The same year British subjects were hectoring voters of swing-state Ohio not to vote for Bush. In 2008, Palestinians were manning phone banks on the West Bank to raise money for Obama.
And of course, none of his domestic political evidence concluded they could use this against him! Iranian dissidents themselves seemed conspicuously less eager for such overt “help,” but who were they to quibble with Bill Kristol?
It turns out that while all this was going on, the State Department was—quietly and without fanfare—calling up Twitter, which had effectively become critical infrastructure for the opposition, to delay a maintenance outage scheduled for peek Iranian tweeting-hours. That may not have been why there was a delay, but it does suggest that perhaps the administration is finding subtle ways to support democratic openness without a lot of counterproductive bluster that would conjure bad memories of U.S. interference in other countries’ choice of leaders. They’d probably have more instruments for gentle pressure if we weren’t already totally disengaged from Iran—the trouble with making a big show of utterly shunning bad regimes is that you’ve got nowhere to go when there’s a propitious occasion to give them a nudge in a healthier direction—but for all we know they’re doing other similarly subtle, unobtrusive stuff behind the scenes. It’s almost as if they’re more concerned with what actually contributes to human rights in Iran than with what provides the best fap-fodder for hawks at home. Crazy.