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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Realism and Iran: Interesting Times: Online Only: The New Yorker

From a realist, not a crazy neo-con like The Kid.

Realism and Iran: Interesting Times: Online Only: The New Yorker

In much of the punditry calling for dialogue with Iran, there’s been a strange naivete about the true nature of the regime—a confusion between the sophistication and tolerance of the Iranian people, and their rulers, who have always taken the most brutal measures to hold onto power. Some advocates of negotiation seem to think that the resistance and stupidity have all been on our side—that if only America showed a little respect for Iran, called it by its rightful name of “Islamic Republic,” stopped talking about carrots and sticks (which Iranians associate with donkeys), then Iran’s rulers would be glad to start talking. It turns out that they have more to fear from talk than we do—in fact, at the moment it’s hard to know exactly what they have to gain by it and a lot easier to see what they have to lose. Perhaps they have a keener sense of their own interests than American commentators, so obsessed with America’s own behavior, imagined.

With riot police and armed militiamen beating and, in a few reported cases, killing unarmed demonstrators in the streets of Iran’s cities, for the Obama Administration to continue parsing equivocal phrases serves no purpose other than to make it look feckless. Part of realism is showing that you have a clear grasp of reality—that you know the difference between decency and barbarism when both are on display for the whole world to see. A stronger American stand—taken, as much as possible, in concert with European countries and through multilateral organizations—would do more to improve America’s negotiating position than weaken it. Acknowledging the compelling voices of the desperate young Iranians who, after all, only want their votes counted, would not deep-six the possibility of American-Iranian talks.


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