Policy vs. Posturing

Governing should be about determining the best policies for a given situation and using influence to get those policies enacted. The policies themselves should be effective at handling the situation. The job of our elected officials is to govern. These seem axiomatic, but as simple as these concepts are, we seem to have a lot of elected officials who don’t realize what their job is.

The Iranian electoral crisis revealed another side of Washington politics that is all too common – posturing. Senate Republicans, including John McCain, suggested that Obama should “… speak out that this is a corrupt, fraud, sham of an election.” It is likely true that the elections were a sham, but McCain’s position is simply politics without policy. The question that reporters did not ask of John McCain is “Then what?” If the Americans become of the focus of what is essentially an internal struggle within Iran, then we detract from the dissenters. If we have learned anything about Middle East culture, we know that Arabs will close ranks against a foreign enemy. The Supreme Leader of Iran tried to bait the West into becoming the issue, but Obama didn’t take the bait. I must say, it’s nice to have an adult in the White House.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress did take the bait. They passed a resolution 405 to 1 in support of the demonstrators. Obviously, that number means both Democrats and Republicans. The resolution was passed in the Senate later in the day.

Other than looking like tough guys, what conceivable positive policy outcome would result from American taking a strong stand against Iran’s electoral fraud? I don’t think any except the whackiest of neo-cons think this is reason enough for the United States to take military action against Iran.  I am not sure economic sanctions make sense. If this is just the use of rhetoric against Iran, then we need to look at recent history.

On February 15, 1991, President George H.W. Bush encouraged the Shia of Iraq to rise up against Saddam Hussein. They responded with an intifadha, but the U.S. government did not back them up militarily. They were quickly overpowered by the Iraqi Republican Guard with significant loss of Iraqi life.

Words do matter. Rhetoric for the sake of posturing is irresponsible when it applied to situations as hot as the electoral uprising in Iran.

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