I will let others give Leon Wieseltier the full treatment. I just want to focus on a couple of areas. Let me begin with his explanation for why our country has been locked in a struggle with Iran ever since the Shah fled Tehran and students overran our embassy and took our people hostage for 444 days.
On the American side, the choice was based upon an opposition to the tyranny and the terror that the Islamic Republic represented and proliferated. It is true that in the years prior to the Khomeini revolution the United States tolerated vicious abuses of human rights in Iran; but then our enmity toward the ayatollahs’ autocracy may be regarded as a moral correction. (A correction is an admirable kind of hypocrisy.)
This is both glib and profound at the same time, which is what makes it interesting. It’s glib because it completely whitewashes our complicity in the Shah’s human rights abuses. It doesn’t even mention the enormous military investment we made in Iran during the Ford administration (under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney). But, it’s profound because he’s right that correcting bad policy is an admirable kind of hypocrisy. And the correction for backing the Shah wasn’t to sign on for the Islamic Revolution.
It’s a good insight, but it doesn’t go very far because it leaves open what kind of correction we could have made in the early stages of the revolution, or really at any point since that time. Still, I do get bored when I hear the name Mohammad Mosaddegh thrown around on the left like its some kind of protective blanket that gives the Clerics a license to do or say anything they want against our country and our interests.
The second thing I want to note here is that Wieseltier sets up a bad dichotomy by casting the Iran Deal as the polar opposite of things staying the same. Watch:
Indeed, a continuity of policy may in some cases—the Korean peninsula, for example: a rut if ever there was one—represent a significant achievement. But for the president, it appears, the tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. Certainly it did in the case of Cuba, where the feeling that it was time to move on (that great euphemism for American impatience and inconstancy) eclipsed any scruple about political liberty as a condition for movement; and it did with Iran, where, as [deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, Ben] Rhodes admits, the president was tired of things staying the same, and was enduring history as a rut. And in the 21st century, when all human affairs are to begin again!
Now, a continuity of policy is one thing, but when you’re talking about Iran’s nuclear capability it’s pretty clear that things were not staying the same. Just taking a look at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control’s website, I can see that Iran had zero centrifuges in early 2007 that were being fed with uranium hexafluoride. By May of this year, they had over 9,000 such centrifuges. Those numbers are pretty important. Whether the policy changed or not, it’s clear that things were not “staying the same.”
The last thing I want to say about this article today has to do with making the case that Iran’s government is a foul, reprehensible actor. I’m okay with that. But can we always check to see if the speck we find in Iran’s eye isn’t just as big or bigger when we look in the Saudi monarchy’s eyes? I say this in particular because Wieseltier will go on to recommend that we encourage the Arab Sunnis to make common cause with Israel against the Iranians. I need to understand why the Shiites deserve this treatment.
Look at what I do with this excerpt here:
The adversarial relationship between America and the regime in
RiyadhTehran has been based on the fact that we are proper adversaries. We should be adversaries. What democrat, what pluralist, what liberal, what conservative, what believer, what non-believer, would want this Saudi ArabiaIran for a friend?
I’m going to do it again:
The text of the agreement states that the signatories will submit a resolution to the UN Security Council “expressing its desire to build a new relationship with
Saudi ArabiaIran.” Not a relationship with a new Saudi ArabiaIran, but a new relationship with this Saudi ArabiaIran, as it is presently—that is to say, theocratically, oppressively, xenophobically, aggressively, anti-Semitically, misogynistically, homophobically—constituted.
It looks like the two governments are completely interchangeable here. See, I can’t see anything that the Iranian government is doing or has done since they released the hostages 34 and a half years ago as being as bad as what Saudi Arabia did in building up an ideology of Sunni extremism and nihilistic terrorism.
Let me put it to you this way. Where would you rather live, Iran or Saudi Arabia?
And let’s not even consider life in Syria or Iraq under the rule of the Sunni-led ISIS. Yet, we still get this advise from Wieseltier:
We need to despise the regime loudly and regularly, and damage its international position as fiercely and imaginatively as we can, for its desire to exterminate Israel. We need to arm the enemies of Iran in Syria and Iraq, and for many reasons. (In Syria, we have so far prepared 60 fighters: America is back!) We need to explore, with diplomatic daring, an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states, which are now experiencing an unprecedented convergence of interests.
Other than Iran’s alleged desire for a nuclear weapon, is there any reason why we don’t prefer the Ayatollahs to the so-called “Sunni states”?
Because, remember, Wieseltier is trying to sell this as a promotion of religious freedom and human and political rights. But he’s picking the side with the worse record.
I probably don’t need to tell you why.
His mind is in a one-track rut.