It’s not just 1953

IT’S NOT JUST 1953…. Reader J.C. alerted me to this exchange on Fox News the other day, with the Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes insisting that President Obama’s rationale for not intervening in Iranian affairs is outdated.

BARNES: [T]he most pathetic thing is to say, ‘Gee, well, we were involved in 1953.’ 1953! This is an extremely young society. You think those demonstrators are thinking, ‘Well, we hope the U.S. stays out because they were involved in 1953’? That’s total nonsense.

KIRSTEN POWERS: I think there is a history there.

BARNES: 1953?

POWERS: They do remember the United States meddling.

BARNES: No, they don’t.

This is absurd for a variety of reasons. Right off the bat, no one in the administration is pointing to 1953 as a rationale for the White House’s current strategy relating to Iran. Barnes is convinced it’s the principal basis for the United States steering clear of the ongoing developments in Iran, but that’s “total nonsense.”

What’s more, Barnes assumes that contemporary Iranians couldn’t care less that the United States helped overthrow Iran’s democratically elected leadership 56 years ago. That’s a debatable point, but it’s worth noting that this is the kind of development that sticks with a populace. In fact, Chris Good had a very helpful item the other day, noting that Mossadeq, Barnes’ assurances notwithstanding, remains very relevant to Iran’s population today, with the former leader remaining a symbol for democracy.

But what’s especially striking about Barnes’ argument is the idea that nothing has happened since 1953 that might give the U.S. pause about intervention now. In our reality, Iranians are, for example, very well aware of the fact that George W. Bush inexplicably placed Iran in the “axis of evil.” For that matter, as Joe Klein noted this week, “I have yet to meet an Iranian who does not believe that the United States gave poison gas to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, gas which injured thousands upon thousands of Iranian men, who still live, incapacitated, in the shadows of that society…. The protesters admire our freedom, but they are appalled — and insulted — by our neocolonialist condescension over the past 50 years.”

Or, to put another way, what is Fred Barnes talking about?