Jonah Goldberg

Here is the one immutable fact of Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda as it relates to Iran: It's over. The rule book he came in with is as irrelevant as a tourist guide to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

If the forces of reform and democracy win, Obama's plan to negotiate with the regime is moot, for the regime will be gone. And if the forces of reform are crushed into submission by the regime, Obama's plan is moot, because the regime will still be there.

Politics and decency will simply demand that the world condemn or shun the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei if they come out on top. Even the most soulless realists will be repulsed by the blood on the regime's collective hands.

Before June 12, Obama's eagerness to negotiate with Ahmadinejad -- ridiculed by his conservative critics -- was hailed by the establishment and the left as proof of his high-minded faith in diplomacy, a healthy antidote to George W. Bush's allegedly close-minded approach.

But now, if the clerical junta prevails, anyone who shakes hands with Ahmadinejad will have a hard time washing the blood off his own hands.

What is dismaying is how reluctant the administration has been to accept this. As even some of Obama's most stalwart defenders are admitting, the president was caught flat-footed by the events in Iran. There's no shame in that; everyone was surprised.

His initial instinct, according to Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post, was to cling "to the pre-election paramount goal of keeping alive the chances for a nuclear deal with any government in Tehran." To that end, Obama said there was little difference between Mir Hossein Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, and he refrained from "meddling." Within a week, he gave a full-throated denunciation of the regime's clampdown and a statement of support for the protesters. But he only did so after the Europeans and our own Congress.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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