Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 09:05 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 09:05 | SYDNEY

Iran: Obama didn't fail or succeed


Sam Roggeveen


26 June 2009 14:35

When assessing whether the Obama Administration should have adopted a more aggressive stance against Iran, there is only one question that needs to be answered: would it have helped?

Andrew says bluntly that the Obama Administration's Iran policy is a failure, but he's more equivocal when it comes to recommending an alternative policy. He will only say that a more assertive rhetorical stance against the mullahs and security forces 'might' have made a difference.

It is too much to demand certainty from Andrew on this point — nobody can say for sure what the effects of an alternative US policy might have been. But by the same logic, Andrew ought to be slightly more charitable toward Obama's actual policy. How can he be so sure that it failed? Isn't it equally likely it had very little effect at all, and that it was actually beyond Obama's powers to decisively influence events?

But, says Andrew, whether it had any material effect or not, at least his preferred policy would have been 'in keeping with (America's) longstanding values and idealism'. Sure, but it's not as if Obama betrayed those ideals; it's more that he made a judgment about how much good it would do to trumpet them to the world in these circumstances.

Clearly he decided that it wouldn't do the Iranians much good for him to interfere, so to speak out in those circumstances would have been an empty gesture that might have made Obama feel virtuous but to no concrete end. That he resisted this impulse (to which John McCain succumbed) shows some maturity.