The Path to Tehran

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As far as I can tell, most if not all of the leading neoconservative intellectuals and opinion makers have at the very least listed the unrest in Iran as one of several reasons for not engaging the Iranian regime.

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I think Daniel Larison does a fine job of addressing one of Andrew Sullivan's readers regarding the Iranian Green Movement's future, so I would rather address some of the other points made by Sullivan in the same post. He writes:

It's a funny thing. Some neocons seem almost ambivalent about a revolution in Iran because it might lead to a nuclear-armed Iran not led by theo-fascists - which would complicate Israel's diplomatic and military position in the region. And many realists don't see a revolution because they remain wedded to the idea of the Iranian red staters rallying to their fundies the way Southerners rally to Cheney and Palin. Or perhaps because there's some kind of realist super-frisson in negotiating with the likes of Khamenei. I don't know. Skepticism is totally valid; but the measure of assurance that nothing has changed strikes me as off-base.

Dictionary.com tells me that frisson means "a sudden, passing sensation of excitement." I don't know that this is how I would describe the cold reality of negotiating with a regime's obvious leader -- much as we do with every other undemocratic or outright oppressive regime -- but how others get their kicks is really none of my business.

Moreover, is it a "realist super-frisson" when the United States does business with and/or engages China, Egypt, Russia, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Georgia and so on?

And who exactly are these neoconservatives doubting the spirit and efficacy of the Green Movement? Name names, please. As far as I can tell, most if not all of the leading neoconservative intellectuals and opinion makers have at the very least listed the unrest in Iran as one of several reasons for not engaging the Iranian regime. Their rhetoric sounds very similar to Andrew's, only we know what the former's intentions are: Regime change, be it through the support of revolution or outright attack.

But what does Sullivan hope to see in Iran? He goes on:

For what it's worth,I believe that a democratic revolution in Iran is both possible and would be the single most transformative event in global politics since the end of the Cold War. Especially for the US. I sure don't believe we should take it for granted; but I also see what is in front of us.

I happen to agree, but unlike Sullivan, I don't believe American policy toward Iran should be dramatically affected by the ebbs and flows of Iranian unrest. I've made the case before, so I'll keep it shorter here: if Iran gets the bomb I believe it will enable the regime to crackdown on dissidents with never before seen impunity. Thus, to accept a nuclear-armed Iran and hope for the best, as Andrew seems resigned to doing, strikes me as wrongheaded and harmful for everyone invested in a better Iran--both inside and outside of the country.

Meanwhile, we get a lot of pomp and punditry on Iran's pending Prague Spring, but few substantive policy suggestions for the United States. And I fear what we are seeing here is a repeat of the kind of rhetorical buildup that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Many well-intentioned analysts and foreign policy wonks made strange bedfellows at the time with a longstanding neoconservative agenda to topple Saddam Hussein, thus providing cover for Democrats and otherwise skeptical officials to support the invasion.

I think what The Daily Dish has done to educate its many, many readers on Iran's rich history, culture and politics is an overall good thing (this, in part, is also why I believe it makes sense to engage him on the topic so often--if you care about Iran, Andrew Sullivan matters). My hope though is that they can temper some of that enthusiasm in 2010 with a more sober debate on American policy alternatives, and not, as Laura Rozen recently noted, enable a war policy concocted in part by those with the best of intentions.

(AP Photo)

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