Walter Russell Mead on Iran policy.
Walter Russell Mead traces the history of peace movement appeasement through the 1920s to today's challenge of dealing with Iran:
President Obama is going to have a tough time with this one. His current policy of seeking sanctions while gathering international support is less a policy than a way of marking time. There is no clear and obvious way forward, and Iran is doing everything it can (with Hamas, with Turkish and Brazilian diplomacy, with anything else it can gin up) to muddy the waters and throw the US off-track. As President Obama and Secretary Clinton try to make the agonizing decisions that almost inevitably lie ahead, Iâ??m afraid the appeasers will be back. We can neither threaten Iran now nor seek regime change, they will say. Itâ??s all our fault anyway because we outraged Iranian nationalism by our thoughtless acts in the past. If we can simply understand Iranâ??s legitimate concerns and give it what it rightfully wants then it will calm down. After all, it is only aggressive and hostile because the poor dears feel so threatened.
These arguments have led to millions of deaths and launched world wars in the past. Neither President Obama nor anybody else should listen to them this time unless those who make them show that they are aware of the disastrous results of this counsel in the former times and have prepared detailed and convincing arguments about why this time is different â?? and why this particular tiger is really a kitten who just needs to be loved.
This seems like a rather unfair standard to me, but if we're going to be setting ground rules for debating what to do about Iran's nuclear program, I think a few additional ones are in order. First, it's not enough to cast aside the administration's strategy as inadequate if you won't offer one of your own. Second, if those who are more or less okay with the administration's policy are expected to own up to the views of other people who lived in the 1920s on an issue that is, at best, marginally relevant to the present situation it seems only fair that Mead and others who agree with him own up to their own views on far more recent and relevant history - like the invasion of Iraq. If supporting sanctions and containment for Iran makes you a "goo goo genocidaire" with blood dripping from your hands, then perhaps Mead can offer some kind of moral analogy for those who championed a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, to say nothing of American and coalition casualties and the billions wasted trying to patch the place up.
Third, if you're going to dismiss arguments about dealing with Iran you should tackle all of them in a fair-minded fashion. There may be some who fret that the "poor dears" in Tehran are just misunderstood kittens reacting to American aggression, but there are others who have a very clear understanding of the nature of the Iranian regime but are nonetheless unwilling to launch a war against the Islamic Republic, given the costs and uncertainties such a venture would entail. That position is a bit harder to demagogue, but it seems like the more serious argument.