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Tilting at Windmills

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June 11, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IT'S LIKE 2002 ALL OVER AGAIN....Matt Yglesias is annoyed at Kenneth Baer for his drive-by libel of Ezra Klein in the latest issue of Democracy, and who can blame him? It's odious. Still, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? I figure Ezra has committed himself to a long career of being on the receiving end of this kind of stuff from National Review and its ilk, so he might as well get used to it now.

But there's actually a more remarkable aspect to Baer's piece than this. The subject is Iran, and here's the sum total of what he has to say:

In Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, Israel is again staring down a possible existential threat, and the United States is once more facing a serious challenge to its interests in the region....But it would be a disservice to our progressive ideals if we allowed disgust with the Bush Administration to lead to a softness toward totalitarian, anti-egalitarian, atavistic regimes and movements.

....Once again, the Middle East and its lone democracy are threatened....At a moment like this, to defend American interests and the values we stand for, progressives should heed the sage words of [Wayne] Morse and not use anger at one war as an excuse to blink when confronting a future threat head on.

This is remarkably content-free coming from a "Journal of Ideas." If Baer thinks we ought to invade Iran, he should say so. If not, he should tell us exactly what he thinks us progressives are getting wrong. Iran may be a nasty, repressive, and terrorist-supporting theocracy, but just saying so hardly amounts to a coherent critique of progressive foreign policy. Next time, more substance and less random contempt, please.

Kevin Drum 12:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (67)

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Comments

"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran"

That phrase alone is a lie. He doesn't have much power.

Posted by: david mizner on June 11, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Morons.

Jeebus, like Israel hasn't faced existential risks every day. "Must nuke all Arab states to protect One True Democracy!"

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on June 11, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Backing LIEberman without saying so. If we want Iran to become a real democracy AGAIN, we will maintain contact without attacking. If our "leaders" really only want constant turmoil, our soldiers will invade (more than we have so far, per Sy Hirsch), mostly by bombing, and unite the people in opposition to us. Which do you bet w wants to do?

Posted by: BearCountry on June 11, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

To which one can add: to be more supportive of the idea of confronting Iran with unspecified military measures--which is presumably what Baer is urging--is to be more supportive of, and to help create a climate receptive to, whatever military measures against Iran the Bush administration would like to take.

Posted by: J on June 11, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kenneth Baer, of DLC fame and Lieberman centrism, is now akin to the National Review and its "ilk"?

My, oh my, bipartisanship just ain't what it used to be.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on June 11, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Next time, more substance and less random contempt, please."

Hahaha. You do know this was written in TNR right? I couldn't help but think:

"Hey rhino, next time more reasoned debate and less aggressive territorial charging behavior please."

"Hey drug addict, more financial prudence and less drug splurge and binge sessions please."

"Hey shark, fish are friends not food; more being friends and less eating other fish please."

Perhaps you should also request a pony. Or a cat-pony, a tiny horse that is trained to ride cats around on it's back. That would be cool.

Posted by: IMU on June 11, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Baer comes awfully close to admitting that he wants the US to go to war in the interests of Israel, so he is showing more honesty than Lieberman.

Posted by: Laney on June 11, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know Bruce, what's the difference? The mindless neoconservatism with no heed of history, reality or humanity is pretty much the same.

By the way: Lieberman has long been supported by Buckley and the National Review (look up his first race against Weiker, if you doubt it). So it's not like there's been a giant realignment or anything.

Posted by: noltf on June 11, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

is iran an "existential threat" to either israel or the US? i see that Baer equivocates with a "possible", but is this even close to being true?

Posted by: lawrence on June 11, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Middle East and its lone democracy

by lone does he mean US Puppet?

What about all those purple fingers in Iraq?
How about those guys we didn't like who were elected by the Palestinians? Turkey? All those other places that have elections, whether we like the outcomes or not?

Really, why bother even reading anything else he has to say?

Posted by: Martin on June 11, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Matt and Ezra get it exactly right: Baer is using precisely the same "experts" who got it wrong in Iraq, Baer is using precisely the same arguments that were so dreadfully wrong with respect to Iraq, and Baer is using precisely the same demonization strategy for those who disagree with him that was employed so effectively, and ultimately disastrously, in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Posted by: PaulB on June 11, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Baer conveniently ignores the other “totalitarian, anti-egalitarian and atavistic" regimes that the U.S. appears to be fine playing pattycake with, such as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. He also fails to mention, in citing the 1967 Six Day War as an exemplar, the Israeli attack on the U.S.S Liberty, which killed 34 American sailors. With “friends” like this, who really needs to go looking for new enemies???

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 11, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Iran may be a nasty, repressive, and terrorist-supporting theocracy," or Iran may be a limited democracy, which has killed many less people than Israel and the US over the past two and half decades, and has transferred some of its wealth to the service of its citizens. Iran has definitely not contributed as much to terrorism as the US or Israel. Nevertheless, Iran poses no existential threat to either the US or Israel, so it does not merit the aggression, including the threat of nuclear attack, that it garners from conservatives, neo-conservatives, liberals and progressives, most of whom have been compromised by allegiance to Israel or Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Brojo on June 11, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

The coherent critique of progressive foreign policy lies in the Iraq War. In this war, Americans were marched into a war against an enemy that did not attack us and posed no threat to our vital interests. The rationale behind the Iraq War was the belief that American should wage war for democracy everywhere. This belief in crusading for democracy was founded in liberal traditions.

President Bush has wished to be compared to Reagan and Truman, and has at times been compared to his fellow Texan, Johnson. But Bush has most in common with Woodrow Wilson. Their foreign policies are identical. Both declared it was the U.S.'s duty to wage war for the establishment of democracy around the world, and that the U.S. must permanently and consistently intervene around the world, even when no vital interest was at stake.

Now, as the Iraq War is in the midst of its fifth year, this type of foreign policy is being rejected by the American people. Americans are now understanding, as Iraqi insurgents continue to gain strength, that the only proven way to win wars and establish peace and order is to pound the enemy into submission, regardless of civilian casaulties or damage to civilian infrastructure. War is not won by building schools; war is won by burning them down, and everything else that may aid the enemy.

Because, if war is to be successful, war must be fought brutally, Americans see no justification in making such a moral sacrifice for the sake of spreading democracy. It makes no sense to many Americans to kill a large number of an oppressed population in order to bring the democracy they may or may not keep, and many Americans do not feel that the U.S. should sacrifice the significant number of her own troops and treasure (if the war is to be won) in order to fight for the interests of foreigners who will ultimately act on their own interests, no matter how alluring the idea of a "world of law" or "world of democracy" may be.

Americans have decided: because war must be fought brutally and expensively to be won, the U.S. must extricate herself from the entanglements around the globe that may lead to unnecessary war.

The reason why this threatens progressive foreign policy is because the progressives were both the original interventionists and have, up to the present day, made repeated interventionist blunders. Wilson brought crusading for democracy to life. John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson blundered into Vietnam. Jimmy Carter's "human-rights" driven foreign policy undermined U.S. allies while causing little damage to our Soviet enemies, who were far more tyrannical when it came to human rights. Bill Clinton expanded NATO and waged a completely unnecessary war in Yugoslavia. The results of these two blunders were tens of thousands of civilian deaths as well as the beginning of the driving of Russia into China's arms, which George W. Bush has been sadly intent on finishing. When George W. Bush asked Congress for a blank check to wage war with Iraq, prominent progressives, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, and Joseph Biden, three of which are now candidates for 2008, voted in favor. Today, various progressive organizations are pressing Americans to "take action" in Darfur. In short, wage another war in a region of the world where no vital interest is at stake.

It is interventionism that has been discredited by the Bush Administration. The three prominent Democratic candidates, however, Edwards, Hillary, and Obama, are all interventionists, and are likely to support the same war guarantees, alliances, "humanitarian" interventions, and entanglements that can and will lead to war.

While it is true Giuliani, McCain, and Romney are the same way, their campaigns are beginning to deteriorate as the traditionalist, anti-war Texas Congressman Ron Paul continues to lead a rebellion against the GOP establishment at the grassroots and on the internet. Ron Paul stands for an end to unnecessary intervention altogether, no matter how noble the causes leading to war may seem.

If the Republicans go with the interventionists, than the Democrats may and probably will be able to win promising, at least, more competent intervention. But if the rebellion takes back the GOP, and Ron Paul becomes nominated, the Democrats might find themselves losing in 2008...for being too much like Bush.

Posted by: brian on June 11, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Once again, the Middle East and its lone democracy are threatened

You know, Israel's being a "democracy" hasn't exactly prevented it from oppressing another people for 40 years, nor from stealing their lands, nor from enabling an ugly group of theocratic, thuggish, and racist settlers. Maybe, just maybe, being a democracy by itself isn't all it's cracked up to be?

Somebody tell me why we Americans should be supporting this nasty little nation, only to expose ourselves to the very hatred that that nation itself inspires in the region in which it engages in its viciousness? (Please don't say it's because its enemies are even uglier -- why should WE get our hands dirty in this sordid fight?)

Posted by: frankly0 on June 11, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Gawd, I'd be happy if these idiots just dropped the "only democracy in the middle east" slur.

Posted by: Disputo on June 11, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Trinity: "You've been down that road Neo. You know where it ends."

Apparently the Bush administration is just buying off the media completely (bastards) and is repeating the propaganda blast they used before Iraq. Unless it's a political tactic we should all brace ourselves for Shock & Awe II - Bring on the Navy & Air power.

Posted by: MarkH on June 11, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

If Baer thinks we ought to invade Iran, he should say so. If not, he should tell us exactly what he thinks us progressives are getting wrong.

Fair enough. Baer should say what he thinks we should do about Iran.

While we're at it, I would invite people on this board to say what they think we should do about Iran.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 11, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Grammar tip:

"..,If not, he should tell us exactly what he thinks WE [not US] progressives are getting wrong..."

This is a common mistake. If you're not certain whether to use WE or US, just ask yourself what you would use without the modifying noun. In addition, change the pronoun; what if the subject was only Kevin--"he should tell us exactly what he thinks I [not ME] am getting wrong..."

Posted by: mrjauk on June 11, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK
....If the Republicans go with the interventionists,.... But if...Ron Paul becomes nominated, the Democrats might find themselves losing in 2008...for being too much like Bush brian at 1:27 PM
Wilson went to war because of attacks on Americans and American interest by Germany. It is in no way analogous to Bush's attack on Iraq which is completely unjustified.

You also ignore facts that other interventions in Korea by Truman was in direct response to Republican claims of "soft on communism" mostly from McCarthy and his ally, Nixon. Eisenhower began the policy of siding with the French in Vietnam. Neither Carter's rights based policy lead to problems nor was the intervention in Serbia a disaster. It was a success.

I have no idea what makes you think that Russia has been driven into China's arms. They were allies in the Cold War and are less so now.

...I would invite people on this board to say what they think we should do about Iran. ex-laxat 1:48 PM
Give me Bush's salary and I'll explain it to ya. Posted by: Mike on June 11, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

totalitarian, anti-egalitarian and atavistic Israel is not a democracy - though it has no "right" to exist, it has learned well the lessons of its oppressors. Iran is not the problem, Israel, is The Enemy.

Posted by: Thomas Ware on June 11, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK
They were allies in the Cold War and are less so now.

Russia and Communist China were bitter enemies in the latter half of the Cold War, and are much more friendly now than they were then.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 11, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

"only democracy in the Middle East"

Since our greatest success in Iraq is the establishment of a democratic government, Baer must be asserting that Israel is no longer a democracy. Stop the presses!!!

Posted by: xtalguy on June 11, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

While we're at it, I would invite people on this board to say what they think we should do about Iran.
Posted by: ex-liberal on June 11, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Nuke 'em (because we don't have enough troops to invade, you silly ninny!). Kill every last man, woman, and child of them. (otherwise, their descendants will be coming over here to wreak terrorism on us).

Put them all to the sword.

But we know that your man BUSH does not have the cujones or the political capital to actually DO this. So, the more realistic option is to just forget about them. Because you don't want to just poke your stick in the hornet's nest (as idiot BUSH did in Iraq). You've got to either completely wipe it out, or leave it alone.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 11, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK
But it would be a disservice to our progressive ideals if we allowed disgust with the Bush Administration to lead to a softness toward totalitarian, anti-egalitarian, atavistic regimes and movements.

I agree. Bush and the rest of his administration should be removed from office as quickly as possible, due my having to stare down a probable existential threat to my country.

Posted by: grape_crush on June 11, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK
But it would be a disservice to our progressive ideals if we allowed disgust with the Bush Administration to lead to a softness toward totalitarian, anti-egalitarian, atavistic regimes and movements.

I agree. Bush and the rest of his administration should be removed from office as quickly as possible, due my having to stare down a probable existential threat to my country.

Posted by: grape_crush on June 11, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

That's so clever, I had to say it twice!

Not really. Funny how things like that happen.

Posted by: grape_crush on June 11, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and by the way; for those of you who are interested in the USS Liberty Incident, the NSA just did a document dump for an FOIA request:

http://cryptome.org/nsa-liberty.htm

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 11, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

While we're at it, I would invite people on this board to say what they think we should do about Iran.

What they always do. Pretend the problem doesn't exist. That there is no weapons program there, that Iran isn't a repressive society, and that they are completely harmless and non-aggressive unless provoked by Evil Amerika.

This approach worked for them through most of the Cold War. In between virulent attacks on the U.S. and Israel, of course.

Posted by: elmendorf on June 11, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

elmendorf, which Iran are you talking about?
Mossadegh's secular socialist democratic Iran?
The CIA's Shah Pahlevi secret-police state Iran?
Khomeini's revolutionary theocratic Iran?
Khameini's theocratic realpolitik Iran?

Makes me wonder, how much noise would the bomb-Iran types make if it were G.E. helping set up their nuclear power program instead of the Russians.
We(the US, and American fascist-wanna-bes) were fine with Iran pursuing nuclear power in the 70's, in fact they were going to get help with funding it from the US taxpayers. Even though the reactors we wanted to sell them could have been used to produce weapons-grade fissionables.
It's just amazing what a difference one little right-wing dictator can make on foreign policy and popular(if ill-informed) sentiment.

Posted by: kenga on June 11, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I would invite people on this board to say what they think Iran should do about the US.

Posted by: Brojo on June 11, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Mmmm.

Does a "possible existential threat" exist by the mere possibility of its being, or does it not exist as it is a mere possibility not yet affirmed. Certainbly it has not yet experienced its existence and, of course, a threat may nopt be capable of experiencing its existence?

Mmm. I is therefore I ought to be.

Christ's sake. Drop this pretentious and inaccurate use of existential. It's become as fashionable nad as over- and improperly uised as "perfect storm".

Do y'all mean a possible threat to the existence of Israel? A possible threat to Israel's existence?

Posted by: notthere on June 11, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

This approach worked for them through most of the Cold War. . . .
Posted by: elmendorf on June 11, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Except, of course, when the US overthrew Iran's democratically elected government, and installed the corrupt, brutal, repressive torture regime of the Shah, whose backlash created the Theocracy they're enjoying today.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 11, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Pretend the problem doesn't exist.

Usually, the problem doesn't exist until the Republicans deploy their foreign "policy".

Exhibit A...Iraq

Posted by: ckelly on June 11, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

elmendorf, which Iran are you talking about?

The one that's there right now, making nuclear material while I'm writing this.

The Shah is dead. So are Mossadegh and Eisenhower. But by all means, keep dancing. Maybe we should bring up Persia and the Spartans while we're at it.

Posted by: elmendorf on June 11, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

The one that's there right now, making nuclear material while I'm writing this.

And years woefully behind Pakistan, India, and probably North Korea too. Not to mention Israel. What should we do about all of them?

Posted by: ckelly on June 11, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Jeebus, if you want to set your locks alight over something, get excited about the fact that China is going to have a blue-water navy a full five years before the Iranians have nukes.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 11, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

I would invite people on this board to say what they think Iran should do about the US.

Defend themselves against the continuing US jihad against Islamic control of oil by building a nuclear weapon inventory?

Posted by: Disputo on June 11, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I see, so Iran under those widely differing regimes over time was nonetheless so monolithic that today's Iran behaves exactly the same!
Thanks for clearing that up.

Let me ask you a question.
If it was agreed in 1975 that Iran had such a pressing need for nuclear power that GE and the US government were cooperating to help provide it to the Shah's regime, how is it that some 30 years later, with Iran's oil reserves depleted by 30 years of extraction, there is no legitimate need for nuclear power?

Another question: which nation metaphorically ass-fscked the other: U.S.A. or Iran? (to be clear, I'm not talking about trashing an embassy, I'm talking about overthrowing a democratically elected government.)

Posted by: kenga on June 11, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Another question: which nation metaphorically ass-fscked the other: U.S.A. or Iran? (to be clear, I'm not talking about trashing an embassy, I'm talking about overthrowing a democratically elected government.)

There is some evidence that Iran is responsible for Bush v. Gore.

Posted by: Disputo on June 11, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

The fact is, if Baer had had any good arguments he would have used them. People who resort to skewing the evidence, ignoring arguments, conflation etc. do so because they have to. And they have to because they lack any powerful rational arguments.

As soon as you catch someone doing this kind of thing, you know they don't have any real evidence. This is I figured out that Bush had no real evidence about WMD. As soon as I found out he was lying about the aluminum tubes, I knew the rest of his case had to be bunk or he wouldn't have jeopardized it by lying on top.

Posted by: Monarchomach on June 11, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

elmendorf, get it straight. Iran already has nuclear material. lots of it.
The brou-ha-ha is about the fact that they are experimenting with enriching it, in small quantities, as a proof--of-concept. Said enrichment could, ostensibly, be for purposes of developing a uranium based atomic bomb - which as signatories to the Non-Proliferation treaty, they have agreed to not do. It can also be used as fuel for more advanced reactors which generate power for peaceful uses - which they have a right to do under the Non-Proliferation treaty.

Posted by: kenga on June 11, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

There is some evidence that Iran is responsible for Bush v. Gore.

And now we bring the derangement full circle.

What's really funny is that after Iran deploys their first nuke, none of you will ever admit to ever thinking anything except "we knew it all along."

Posted by: elmendorf on June 11, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

China is going to have a blue-water navy a full five years before the Iranians have nukes.
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 11, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

But China does business with us. Even lends us money.

There is some evidence that Iran is responsible for Bush v. Gore.
Posted by: Disputo on June 11, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, the worse outrage was the outcome of how they interfered in Carter v. Reagan. Absolutely screwed our nation over for probably a half a century or more (if we ever recover from Reaganism).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 11, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Jeebus, if you want to set your locks alight over something, get excited about the fact that China is going to have a blue-water navy a full five years before the Iranians have nukes.

What's to get excited about? I think that GHWB's reaction to Tiananmen lo those many moons ago thoroughly plowed the path for wingnuts to welcome their future Chinese overlords.

Posted by: Disputo on June 11, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, the worse outrage was the outcome of how they interfered in Carter v. Reagan. Absolutely screwed our nation over for probably a half a century or more (if we ever recover from Reaganism).

I can't agree that Reagan was worse than GWB, HOWEVER, without Reagan there would have been no GWB, so I do agree that that is the greater crime.

Posted by: Disputo on June 11, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, I'm not falling for this.

There is some evidence that Iran is responsible for Bush v. Gore.

If Iran had been helpful in getting Bush and Cheney installed, there's no way they'd be so ungrateful as to make threatening noises. Why, all that would do is give the repressive regime an excuse to crack down on reformists, and promote nationalist sentiments among the fence-sitters.

I mean, that would be as counter-intuitive as Israel helping sell weapons to Khomeini!

Posted by: kenga on June 11, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS, fortunately it takes a lot more to make an efficient and effective blue water navy than building the ships. But yes, we should be concerned. And since when was this administration operating in the present reality?

Posted by: notthere on June 11, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Too complicated, too insider.

Posted by: Matt on June 11, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

In between virulent attacks on the U.S. and Israel, of course.

Since the 1979 embassy takeover what, specifically, Iranian attacks on the US are you talking about? Because I can't think of any in the last 28 years.

Posted by: Stefan on June 11, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

virulent attacks on the U.S. and Israel

Iran is not a pathogen.

The US is a parasite of other nations, though.

Posted by: Brojo on June 11, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK
Since the 1979 embassy takeover what, specifically, Iranian attacks on the US are you talking about?

Well, an Iranian mine attacked the USS Samuel B. Roberts when it was participating in the US effort to secure the flow of oil funding Iraq's unprovoked war of aggression against Iran.

And Iran Air 655 attacked the USS Vincennes when it intruded in Iranian territorial waters (also as part of the US effort to guarantee Iraqi victory in that unprovoked war of aggression), and would have destroyed the cruiser if it hadn't been shot down.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 11, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

from the Baer piece: One prominent blogger, Ezra Klein, wrote, in a post titled "Autocratic Iran?" that the "attempt to make the country look like some sort of tyrannical, dictatorial regime is just another element of the war propaganda."

And you are criticizing Baer? You should be criticizing Klein. It's exactly that sort of idiocy that Baer is warning against.

Next time you write that talking with Iran can do no harm, remember what you quoted from Baer: it would be a disservice to our progressive ideals if we allowed disgust with the Bush Administration to lead to a softness toward totalitarian, anti-egalitarian, atavistic regimes and movements. The actual nature of the government of Iraq guarantees that in some circumstances talking with Iran can do harm, and make a real attempt to discern whether you face those circumstances.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on June 11, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

"What's really funny is that after Iran deploys their first nuke, none of you will ever admit to ever thinking anything except 'we knew it all along.'"

Dear heart, few people on this board (or anywhere else, for that matter) are denying that Iran may (repeat: may) be working toward developing a nuclear weapon. Instead of attacking arguments we are not making, why don't you attack those we actually are? These include, but are not limited to:

1. We really don't know whether Iran is truly working toward developing a nuclear weapon or not. Our intelligence on this sucks.

2. We are fairly certain that Iran is years away from being able to develop a nuclear weapon, if it truly intends to do so, which means that we have time to try a number of approaches.

3. Iranian society is not monolithic and Ahmadinejad does not have dictatorial powers, regardless of his rhetoric.

4. Refusing to talk to Iran is stupid. There is no downside to talking to them; there are any number of potential downsides to refusing to do so.

5. Going to war with Iran could, and likely would, have disastrous consequences to a region that's already dangerously destabilized thanks to our monumentally stupid war in Iraq.

6. Going to war with Iran is monumentally stupid given how overstretched our military currently is.

7. Baer's argument is sophomoric, hyperbolic, insulting, and unrealistic.

8. Baer employs most of the same techniques that led to the monumentally stupid Iraq invasion.

And that's just a start. Notice how none of these arguments bear any resemblance at all to any of the strawman arguments you've come up with.

Posted by: PaulB on June 11, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

You should be criticizing Klein. It's exactly that sort of idiocy that Baer is warning against.

Well, there is some idiocy around here that needs to be warned against, but Ezra isn't the source.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on June 11, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

PaulB, you are claiming that if Iran nuked Tel Aviv tomorrow, you and many other commentators here would say: "I'm stunned and amazed. Most of what I believed and said was wrong. I'm going to rethink my entire position"? I don't believe you or anyone else here would do anything of the kind.

Posted by: y81 on June 11, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

y81, if Israel nuked Tehran tomorrow, many conservatives would say Israel needs to nuke Damascus next, then Mecca, then etc.

I will not be stunned or amazed of your insatiable desire for mass murder.

Posted by: Brojo on June 11, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Missed out of the conversation here is WHY Israel is the only country in the region recognized as being democratic (although Palestinian exiles would no doubt disagree).

Iran used to be a democracy until the CIA decided that a dictatorship would be more convenient and arranged the coup which installed the Shah as absolute monarch.

Iran will get its bomb, Israel will no longer be able to consider itself the regional superpower. But the chances of an actual nuclear war are very small.

Attacking Iran only makes sense if you beleive that the US is certain to win. That is far from certain. Defeating Iraq after ten years of sanctions is one thing, defeating Iran with four times the population and a vast high tech arsenal is quite another. Defating Iran with so much materiel tied down in Iraq is suicidal. Iran has plenty of targets to retaliate against, US troops, the US Navy in the gulf plus any passing tankers.

The geography of the gulf favors Iran. To attack Tehran the US fleet must be stationed within the narow confines of the gulf. That gives then less than ten seconds to respond to surface to ship missiles fired from the shore. The Iranians have rather a lot of them and it is more likely than not that they sink at least one capital ship. If Iran succeeds it is the end of US superpower status.

Bush has a great deal in common with Saddam, both were massively incompetent in military affairs and both thought that the solution to every military failure was to start a fresh war.

Posted by: hallam on June 11, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

You conservatives sure are scared! Iran probably will have nukes somewhere down the road. A few. And they would have to be absolutely crazy to use them against a target in Israel, because they would risk an almost certain retaliation, quite possibly nuclear, from Israel, and very likely from us as well. Who has the largest number of nukes in the world, BY FAR? And who is the only country to have ever actually used nukes in battle?

As for fighting tyrannical governments, oh please. Using that as an excuse for us to make war is the height of hypocrisy, given how often we've propped up disgusting dictators in the past, including Saddam. I can see giving some quiet aid to populist movements in dictatorial countries, but you have to be careful about those populist movements as well. And don't make the egregiously stupid mistake Bush did, taking the word of an expat who hadn't been in Iraq since the 50s (Chalabi). Hello! Moreover, at this point in our history, any intervention we did, covert, military, etc., would be compromised by the huge disdain with which we are regarded by the rest of the world.

We need to pull out of Iraq ASAP, realizing that carnage will continue, but like there's no carnage now? And the last thing we need to do is invade Iran, or use "tactical" nukes or any other hostile moves. How anyone could possibly think that invading or nuking them would be anything other than a disaster is beyond me. GET REAL, folks!

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on June 11, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

"PaulB, you are claiming that if Iran nuked Tel Aviv tomorrow, you and many other commentators here would say: 'I'm stunned and amazed. Most of what I believed and said was wrong. I'm going to rethink my entire position?'"

Our position on Iran? Sure. Why wouldn't we? Don't you respond to external events and new information? But keep in mind two things:

1. The chances of such an eventuality happening tomorrow are roughly zero and can easily be dismissed from serious discussion at this time. Change that discussion to five to ten years out and you might actually have a point.

2. You're still not reading what I'm (or anyone else is) saying. Nowhere in anything that I write did I say that Iran was definitely not developing a nuclear weapon or that Iran was definitely not a threat to Israel. You're doing the same thing that the idiot I was responding to did -- making up an argument and then responding to it rather than to the real arguments that we are putting forward.

Take another look at what I wrote -- when you are prepared to engage those arguments, we'll be right here. If all you want to do is demonize us for arguments we are not even making, we'll just laugh at you. And what I put forward was definitely not a definitive list -- those were just a few arguments that immediately occurred to me when I considered this topic. Others here would have different lists or place their arguments in a different order.

"I don't believe you or anyone else here would do anything of the kind."

Your failure to actually get to know the people here and your wish to demonize those who disagree with you are not my problem.

Posted by: PaulB on June 11, 2007 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Missed out of the conversation here is WHY Israel is the only country in the region recognized as being democratic (although Palestinian exiles would no doubt disagree). Iran used to be a democracy until the CIA decided that a dictatorship would be more convenient and arranged the coup which installed the Shah as absolute monarch.

That's not even closely the answer. The *Jewish* State of Israel and the *Islamic* Republican of Iran have roughly equally representative democracies. Hell, even Lebanon has a *more* representative democracy than Israel.

The only reason that some consider Israel to be the only democracy in the Middle East is... *drum roll*... bigotry.

Posted by: Disputo on June 11, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

Leave other countries alone. If we do, our republic will last for a long time.

Let Israel and Iran deal with each other on their own.

As for spreading democracy, how about a bit of it here at home? Maybe we could even have a paper trail for our votes instead of relying on corporations to tell us who won and who lost.

Posted by: ppk on June 11, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Iran may be a nasty, repressive, and terrorist-supporting theocracy,"

Kevin,

How many times do you have to be reprimanded in the comments section before you quit repeating the wingnut dialogue, giving it credibility. You are too smart and your blog gets enough travel, not to need this stuff. I think.

Posted by: TT on June 11, 2007 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

Wait, so Turkey isn't a democracy now? What are we now counting Lebanon as?

Posted by: Reality Man on June 12, 2007 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

I can answer for Bauer: when dealing with Iran, USA should show resolve, consistency and adherence to our deepest values.

On the level of action, these principles can be implemented by SENDING MESSAGES, provided that these messages will not be MIXED.

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Posted by: Dale on March 11, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Is it my web browser or the site, but I can only see part the post. How should I adjust this?

Posted by: Gonzalo Schomas on December 28, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK
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