Seth, I notice that you have yet to explain how a decision by the U.S. to ignore one (symbolically important) part of the U.N. rulebook is going to help it win U.N. support for efforts to contain Iran. Your attacks on the U.N. itself are beside the point. Like you, I am no fan of that particular organization (and for many of the same reasons), but your attacks upon it, however justified, don’t answer my question. Would Fred Thompson’s suggestion, if followed, help ongoing U.S. efforts to go through the U.N. or hinder them?
Turning to the history you cite, I note your description of Iran as “the lead terrorist state in the world.” Well, that was a title that could very fairly have been given to the Soviet Union almost up until the end. The Soviet Union also directed the deaths (also to use your language) of a large number of U.S. military personnel in the post-war era (Vietnam and Korea are just two of the instances). The Soviet Union also “threatened the obliteration” (again, I’m using your words) in one way or another of a good number of U.N. members. None of these things stopped the U.S. attempting to engage with the USSR even as it continued to compete with it.
So far as the Arafat visit was concerned, I don’t believe that he was, under the U.N. rules, entitled to a visa. He certainly was not head of any state.
Realpolitik in the past? I’d be interested in your views on Eisenhower’s approach to the Suez crisis. Nasser may not have been a religious nut, but, when it came to Israel, there was little that Ahmadinejad has said that had not previously been articulated by Nasser.
Reagan? You don’t address what I was saying about the Khmer Rouge, but point instead to the (supposed)fact that Reagan didn’t meet any Soviet leader until Gorbachev as an example of how he put principle above Realpolitik. Actually, the two are not incompatible, but to deal with the specifics of that argument, let me quote this extract from material available on the website of the Thatcher Foundation (emphasis added by me):
“Invariably billed as a Cold Warrior’s Cold Warrior, in office Ronald Reagan took risks to establish a personal relationship with the Soviet leadership. In April 1981, still recuperating from the Hinckley assassination attempt, he wrote a heartfelt letter to Brezhnev inviting dialogue, horrifying some of his closest advisers who thought the approach naive and dangerous. In the letter Reagan recalled a meeting between them in the early 1970s when he believed the Soviet leader had responded warmly to his talk of the common aspirations of mankind: “You took my hand in both of yours and assured me that you were dedicated with all your heart and mind to fulfilling those hopes and dreams.” Remarkable though it was, the approach led nowhere. Brezhnev was not dedicated to fulfilling the hopes and dreams of mankind. But, characteristically, Reagan refused to be put off. After Gorbachev’s emergence as Soviet leader in March 1985, he simply repeated the experiment, writing (in a slightly cooler style) to invite his adversary to Washington and affirming his “personal commitment … to serious negotiations”. You can all it naïve, or you can call it the opposite, but the fact remains that Reagan was not going to let his distaste for the Soviet regime get in the way of some form of engagement. When, eventually, he did first meet Gorbachev, it was in late 1985, before Glasnost, before Perestroika – and in the middle of the Afghan War – a time when the USSR was unquestionably a terrorist state pursuing an aggressive international agenda. On KAL 007, I could be wrong, but I believe that the issue there revolved around landing rights for Aeroflot rather than a specific ban on Gromyko.Finally, if we’re going to talk symbolism, let’s talk symbolism. You wish the U.S. to project an image of strength not weakness. So do I. Banning Ahmadinejad does the opposite. The fact that Senator Thompson does not understand that is, I think, revealing.