Coming To You Live From An Alternate Reality …
Today the Washington Post, fresh from canning one of its best writers, lets Charles Krauthammer send us a dispatch from the alternate reality in which he lives. In that reality, apparently, Iranian demonstrators “await just a word that America is on their side.” Joe Klein, just back from the real Tehran, asks:
“They do? Which ones? Name one. And if that word came, what then? Would it be the same as the “word” Dwight Eisenhower sent, and later regretted, supporting the Hungarian protesters in 1956 when he had no intention of supporting them militarily? Or the “word” that George H.W. Bush sent the Iraqi Shi’ites after the first Gulf War, who then rebelled against Saddam Hussein and were slaughtered?”
Krauthammer then lets us know what’s at stake in the reality he inhabits:
“This revolution will end either as a Tiananmen (a hot Tiananmen with massive and bloody repression or a cold Tiananmen with a finer mix of brutality and co-optation) or as a true revolution that brings down the Islamic Republic.
The latter is improbable but, for the first time in 30 years, not impossible. Imagine the repercussions. It would mark a decisive blow to Islamist radicalism, of which Iran today is not just standard-bearer and model, but financier and arms supplier. It would do to Islamism what the collapse of the Soviet Union did to communism — leave it forever spent and discredited.
In the region, it would launch a second Arab spring. The first in 2005 — the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon, the first elections in Iraq and early liberalization in the Gulf states and Egypt — was aborted by a fierce counterattack from the forces of repression and reaction, led and funded by Iran.
Now, with Hezbollah having lost elections in Lebanon and with Iraq establishing the institutions of a young democracy, the fall of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran would have an electric and contagious effect. The exception — Iraq and Lebanon — becomes the rule. Democracy becomes the wave. Syria becomes isolated; Hezbollah and Hamas, patronless. The entire trajectory of the region is reversed.”
Is there any evidence — any at all — that this is true? Not from where I sit. As best I can tell, there is no particular reason to think that Mousavi will bring any kind of major foreign policy shift:
“Mr. Moussavi began his political career as a hard-liner and a favorite of the revolution’s architect, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Although he has long had an adversarial relationship with Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his insider status makes him loath to mount a real challenge to the core institutions of the Islamic republic. He was an early supporter of Iran’s nuclear program, and as prime minister in the 1980s he approved Iranâ€™s purchase of centrifuges on the nuclear black market, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
Back in the day, he supported taking hostages in the US embassy and funding for Hezbollah. I suspect that he will not have Ahmedinejad’s knack for making crazy and offensive statements, and with any luck he won’t deny the Holocaust, but I do not expect much in the way of major foreign policy changes if he prevails — all the more so since he will, I assume, have to try to reconcile his country, and might bend over backwards not to provide ammunition to his enemies.
The best way I can see to make sense of Krauthammer’s ravings is to suppose that America and freedom have merged in his mind, so that when a people demonstrates for freedom, we can infer that they are pro-American. But this is not just false; it’s crazy.
I hope Mousavi and his supporters prevail. But that’s not because I think that he will make everything peachy in Iran; it’s because I think that the Iranian people deserve to have a voice in their government. I do not think that a Mousavi government would stop funding Hezbollah or suspend its nuclear program. I do think that if he and his supporters prevail, Iranian society will become more open, and its government less authoritarian. This will probably make a real difference in its foreign policy in the long run, though I think it would be foolish to try to predict what difference it will make.
You’d think that after getting Iraq so badly wrong, Krauthammer might decide to devote himself to writing op-eds on patent law or food safety or — well, anything other than how some development in the Middle East would lead to democracy busting out all over. You might think that if he did go on writing about foreign policy, he might at least try to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. And you might think that if the Washington Post has to go around firing people, Charles “I Believe Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast — Just Wait Til You See How Many I Can Manage By The Time I Finish My Column!” Krauthammer might be first in line.
Apparently, you’d be wrong.