The Soviets Were So Reasonable

If it is David Brooks day, it must be time for a stupid, contrived, artificial dichotomy.

Beyond all the talk of centrifuges and enrichment capacities, President Obama’s deal with Iran is really a giant gamble on the nature of the Iranian regime. The core question is: Are the men who control that country more like Lenin or are they more like Gorbachev?

So much wrong with that, and we just got started.

Let’s start with the fact that Iran is not negotiating with President Obama only, but with representatives from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and the European Union. Any discussion of “Obama’s deal” with Iran is deceptive, and needlessly so.

Next, what is the gamble that the world powers are taking exactly? That Iran will do what? Brooks tries to spell this out later in the column, but we need to keep things in context. Nothing that is agreed to today necessarily precludes going back to the drawing board tomorrow, and Iran isn’t about to conquer Poland. If military strikes are some kind of fallback position right now, they will remain so next year.

And if there isn’t much at stake, really, then the exact nature of the regime is less vitally important. Yet, if this subject interests you, maybe try reading a column written by someone who understands Iran a little better than David Brooks.

Maybe this isn’t the right way of looking at things.

Do they still fervently believe in their revolution and would they use their postsanctions wealth to export it and destabilize their region? Or have they lost faith in their revolution? Will they use a deal as a way to rejoin the community of nations?

Iran’s clerical leaders definitely maintain their belief in their clerical power and their politicized version of Shi’a Islam. We are not dealing with Gorbachev. We are, however, dealing with a country in which there is much dissent against clerical power. Iran might not be led by Gorbachev but in some respects it does resemble a late version of the USSR. A little patience and carefully applied pressure might yield similarly happy results, at least for a time.

Also, remember that Gorbachev wasn’t seeking to gain nuclear weapons but to get rid of them. This seems like one out of many important distinctions between the arms control negotiations of the 1980’s and the anti-proliferation efforts of the moment.

So, Brooks comes out of the box with a terrible construction for trying to understand this debate. Does he somehow save the day?

First, we learned that Iran’s supreme leader still regards the United States as his enemy. The audience chanted “Death to America” during his speech, and Khamenei himself dismissed America’s “devilish” intentions. When a radical religious leader uses a word like “devilish,” he’s not using it the way it’s used in a chocolate-cake commercial. He means he thinks the United States is the embodiment of evil.

Remember when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” and Gorbachev responded by bombing the United States?

Yeah, me either.

Maybe this Gorbachev guy wasn’t such a good example after all.

What Brooks is doing here is trying to convince us that Ayatollah Khomeini is Lenin, which means that we can’t deal with him at all. Stalin, on the other hand, he was good old friendly Uncle Joe. Remember that? We wouldn’t want to be premature anti-fascists, now would we?

If you have to ask, you probably are never going to understand anything about the right in this country.

Anyway, so we know that Iran is being led by folks who are much more like Lenin than they are like totally reasonable communists. And this matters greatly because, why?

If Iran still has revolutionary intent, then no amount of treaty subtlety will enforce this deal. Iran will begin subtly subverting any agreement. It will continue to work on its advanced nuclear technology even during the agreement. It will inevitably use nuclear weaponry, or even the threat of eventual nuclear weaponry, to advance its apocalyptic interests.

Whoa, nellie!!

How did we get from Iran is exactly like Lenin to Iran will inevitably use nuclear weaponry to advance their apocalyptic interests?

You can search around for the necessary predicates to establish these assertions, but you won’t find them in Brooks’s column. He just leaped there like the guy in Office Space who invented the Jump to Conclusions game.

Yeah, that was the worst idea anyone had ever heard. It’s much more lucrative to get hit by a truck.

In any case, if you’re not too afraid to look, we will proceed.

If President Obama is right and Iran is on the verge of change, the deal is a home run. But we have a terrible record of predicting trends in the Middle East.

I just have to scratch the needle across the record here for a moment and bring back out the whole “what chu mean ‘we,’ motherfucker?” thing from the old Lone Ranger show.

David Brooks doesn’t get to include us in his Club of Fucking Submental Iraq War Enthusiasts.

And so he concludes his piece with this pearl of wisdom:

At some point, there has to be a scintilla of evidence that Iran wants to change. Khamenei’s speech offers none. Negotiating an arms treaty with Brezhnev and Gorbachev was one thing. But with this guy? Good luck with that.

Do you remember when Leonid Brezhnev (General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 14 October 1964 to 10 November 1982) showed all those scintillas of evidence that the USSR wanted to change?

You do?

Then what were all those James Bond movies about?

I was brainwashed for nothing?

I don’t know.

I’m just glad our Cold War remained lukewarm and we didn’t blow up the world and kill everyone. If only I’d known all along how easy it was to do business with the Russkies, I wouldn’t have worried and punk rock would have been unnecessary.

5 comments for “The Soviets Were So Reasonable

  1. April 10, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Hi Mike, how do you like the new place?

    • April 10, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Well hell, Martin. My reply to you shot out into the inner-tubz and seemed to evaporate. Love the new site. Hoping more people will begin to migrate here and comment. The integration of other blogs is great. I can see myself buying some space in the future. Would love to have some time to write. Hope this develops into a foundational location for a variety of progressive voices. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate you working your ass off all these years. You and the people of the blog community have been an oasis for me for a very long time. Know it’s been a tough road at times, but you have a lot of people who love what you do and appreciate it. Know that doesn’t pay the bills, but hopefully this new effort might help things along just a little, once it gets rolling.

      • April 10, 2015 at 8:33 pm

        Thanks, Mike. This here project is already a year behind schedule, but I am getting close.

        • April 10, 2015 at 10:30 pm

          I could tell for little while that it was getting really close. It will be a fine place when you get to the official ribbon cutting and finally call it done.

  2. April 10, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    David Brooks columns are an awful lot like that wisdom tooth my dentist keeps telling me should be removed. It’s always a little bit uncomfortable. Occasionally it will cause me some discomfort. And sometimes it will flare up to the point that I want to just gouge it out with a screwdriver to relieve the pain. Luckily for me, when I read this Brooks column I was at work and not at home, near my toolbox.

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