Perhaps embracing the concept of "regime change" spooks the Obama administration. It's awfully reminiscent of George W. Bush. But one great failure of the Bush administration was its second-term fecklessness with respect to Iran. Bush kicked the Iran can down the road. Does Obama want an achievement that eluded Bush? Regime change in Iran -- that would be an Obama administration achievement that Joe Biden, and the rest of us, could really celebrate.
This is an issue Kristol actually cares about, and thus we are seeing not the machinations of Kristol the political strategist but a window into his actual thinking. It's kind of strange. Kristol argues that a successful Green revolution in Iran would be "an Obama administration achievement." And certainly, if it happens, it would be a development of enormous important, quite possibly the most positive world development that will have occurred during Obama's presidency. What's puzzles me, though, is Kristol's belief that this could be an Obama achievement. The independence of India was a major historical development, but I wouldn't consider it a Truman administration achievement.
Nowhere in his column does Kristol suggest what Obama could do to help even at the margins to bring it about. I haven't seen any remotely convincing argument anywhere else that the United States could play more than the most marginal role in helping the Greens. I am by no means a fatalist about the uses of American power -- in fact, I reside toward the optimistic end of the spectrum in assessing the possibilities of American power to effect positive change abroad, just as I do regarding the domestic analogue. And if the Greens were fighting a guerrilla war, well, sure, we could arm them. But effecting regime change in a country where the opposition is relying upon non-violent means -- and especially in a country where we remain unpopular -- seems beyond our reach.
Kristol doesn't even feel compelled to explain what the U.S. could do to ensure the Green revolution's success. He simply assumes that if the government makes "regime change" its avowed policy, then it just happens. This is one of the most bizarre and perplexing aspects of neoconservative ideology.