Three things that strike me about the so-called "debate" over Obama's response to the demonstrations and crack down in Iran:
1. When similar things occurred in this country, i.e. demonstrations for Civil Rights, against the war in Viet Nam, for women or gay rights, against a current administration's policies or vote rigging (as in Iran) etc. and our government violently repressed it, as in Kent State where National Guardsmen shot and killed students, and the photograph of a young girl screaming over the dead body of a fellow student became as famous as the recent one of the young girl dying in the streets of Tehran, the rightwingers in this country defended the National Guardsmen much the same way rightwingers in Iran are doing—"the demonstrators were throwing rocks", or "destroying property", it's all being caused by "outside agitators" or foreign "Communists" or etc. and the military or police (as in the case of the Democratic Convention in Chicago in '68) had no recourse but to beat people and shoot and kill people, etc.
2. It was our government, through the CIA and other agencies, that (as I wrote in a post a few days ago) overthrew the democratically elected Mossadegh (under Eisenhower, a Republican) government in Iran that led to the installation of the shah that led to his repressive regime that gave rise to the islamasists revolt that led to the repressive government in Iran today, etc. And it was our government that supplied Saddam Hussein with much of his military weapons etc. and the jihadists in Afghanistan etc. etc. In other words, it's been the meddling of our government in the affairs of Iran and other Middle eastern countries that has led to this debacle, and in each instant our government thought it was making things better but only worsened the situation (i.e. the Iraq invasion etc.).
3. Repression works. Unfortunately. We are seeing that now in Iran. A lot of talking heads on our news programs are predicting a drawn out bloody confrontation, or an uprising, or some kind of continuation of what we saw last week in Iran, but that's not always the case. The deaths at Kent State and elsewhere during the protests against the Viet Nam War did lead to bigger demonstrations for a brief period, but also led to a lot of people withdrawing from the protests out of fear or frustration or feelings of futility, as it also led to a small faction becoming more violent in response to the government's use of violence. There was a poster created right after Kent State of the photo of that girl screaming over the dead body of her fellow student and it said: NEVER FORGET. But most did, and relatively quickly. In less than a decade Ronald Reagan was elected president, a rightwinger who while Governor of California ordered police and military troops to repress demonstrations, and in the case of People's Park in Berkeley, they even used live ammunition, to keep people from growing flowers in an abandoned lot!
Or take the case of the famous shot of the Chinese man holding those two shopping bags and stopping that tank in Tieneman Square. He symbolized resistance to the government crackdown on the demonstrations for more democracy. But the reality is, the crackdown worked. No more demonstrations like that occurred after the police and military used violence to disperse the crowd, arrested and hounded the demonstrators and their leaders, and did such a thorough job, the movement collapsed (as our government did with The Black Panthers and SDS and SNCC etc.) and today most young people in China don't even know what happened, nor are even aware of that brave man who faced down a tank to try and give them more democracy, which they didn't get and don't seem to care about as long as they have economic freedom to buy MacDonald's and Buicks and Coca-Cola etc.
Repression doesn't work in the long run, Obama is right in quoting Martin Luther King Jr. about the arc of history bending toward justice. But in the short run, it often works wonders for repressive rightwing regimes, whether Chinese, Iranian, or American.