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Going Neocon

12:41 PM, Jun 24, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Reihan Salam writes at the Daily Beast:

And though Obama couldn't bring himself to acknowledge McCain's influence, or even that his script has changed at all as events have unfolded, it's clear Obama has come around to a darker view of Iran's rulers. Just as Obama was hilariously reluctant to concede that he might have been wrong to oppose the military surge in Iraq in 2006, he now insists that his statements have been utterly consistent.

Yet his statements haven't been consistent for the good and understandable reason that the White House is trying to thread an unthreadable needle. No one doubts that the president wants to condemn the crackdown in Tehran, yet he's also hoping to cut a deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The trouble is that Obama fundamentally misreads the Islamic Republic, just as he once misread Iraq and Afghanistan. To his credit, however, the president eventually reversed course on both fronts, without ever saying so. On Iraq, he retained many of the architects of George W. Bush's post-surge strategy. In Afghanistan, he abandoned early efforts to "lower our sights" in favor of a robust expansion of the American role in strengthening the country's security forces, winning him praise from his erstwhile neoconservative enemies.

Slowly, the president's embrace of crabbed realism is coming undone.

There is a huge gap between Obama's soaring rhetoric during the campaign and the hyper-realism of his foreign policy as president. Hayes went through Obama's Berlin speech yesterday noting the enormous discrepancy between his rhetoric then and now, and Greg Pollowitz pulls another bit of Obama's campaign trail rhetoric: "Change is realizing that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy-tough, direct diplomacy where the president of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for." Can any Obama supporter claim with a straight face that this president hasn't been afraid to let the petty dictators in Iran "know where America stands."

Obama's "realist" foreign policy has already proved an overcorrection from the Bush years and is so at odds with the rhetoric of his campaign and his self-image as a crusader for justice -- it's unsustainable. Even Steve Clemons is going neocon in response to events in Iran. The president can't be that far behind.