Obama's Right: Pragmatism Is Only Way

It may anger neocons, but he should keep his hands clean: Stephens
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2009 7:02 AM CDT
A supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi shouts from the crowd amidst a festive atmosphere at an election rally at the Heidarnia stadium in Tehran, Iran, in this June 9, 2009 file photo.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama and his team clearly want to support the Iranian opposition, writes Philip Stephens, and Republicans such as John McCain have hammered the president for not condemning an election viewed as a sham. But for the Financial Times columnist, Obama is striking a shrewd balance between idealism and real-world politics. Obama knows, he writes, that "overt US backing for Mousavi would hand a weapon to Ahmadinejad."

Obama's "carefully calibrated response" has put him at odds with neoconservatives, whose endorsement of "democracy at the point of a gun" has been an abject failure. The best the president can do, as he showed in his Cairo speech, is to establish a relationship based on mutual interests, not saber-rattling. Obama may be playing it safe, Stephens writes, but "the hawks in Washington decrying diplomacy have no credible alternative."