The Corner

Re: Iran & Douthat

As Lopez mentioned earlier, Ross Douthat, a former intern at NRO who has graduated well and is currently subbing for the boss at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, has unburdened himself of a torrent of scepticism on the theme of democratic revolution in Iran and elsewhere, singling me out for unwarranted optimism. In the last couple of days he’s been spanked by Roger Simon, Powerline, and Pejman–this last pointing out the embarrassing fact that Douthat’s demanding evidence of Arab democratic revolution to give him a reason to believe that such could occur in Iran. But Iran is most definitely NOT an Arab country.

Douthat has not been reading NRO very much, because he demands that I provide a bit of a roadmap for the overthrow of the mullahs, whereas most of my critics complain, with some reason in my opinion, that I’ve written too much about it. And he clearly hasn’t read The War Against the Terror Masters, even though it was Book of the Month on andrewsullivan.com when it came out.

He rages against Roger for pointing out the ugliness of one of Douthat’s graphs:

“…not to get too old-fashioned-realist here, but . . . the Iranians are not “our people.” Neither are the Syrians, the Saudis, the Chinese, or the North Koreans. And they do not become “our people” just by believing in democracy, or even by establishing democratic self-government. An Iranian democracy would be a good thing in countless ways — but it would also probably be just as hell-bent as the current regime on acquiring nuclear weapons, flexing its muscles in Iraq, and perhaps even sponsoring anti-Israeli terrorism. As such, it would be our strategic rival, not our brother nation, even were its constitution copied word-for-word from ours.”

A lot is wrong in that horrid graph. The rejection of an American embrace of freedom-seeking people seems to me distinctly un-American, a snooty rejection of the essence of our national mission, which, as Tocqueville observed more than a century and a half ago, is to support freedom and democracy. I think that the Germans and the Japanese and the Italians became “our people” when they became democratic. When they were tyrannical they were our enemies, as tyrants always are. That’s why Tocqueville was able to predict our inevitable conflict with tyrannical Russia.

Douthat is pretty confident that he knows a lot about the Iranians, but he doesn’t seem to know that, in the mass anti-regime demonstrations that have regularly taken place over the past few years, the demonstrators commonly brandish banners and signs that say “don’t talk to us about the Palestinians, talk about US.” If there were an Iranian revolution, I think that aid to Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad would end, and I also think we’d see a lot of members of al Qaeda scrambling for a new place to work.

Finally, he rejects the idea that vigorous American political and limited material support for pro-democracy forces in Iran could possibly bring down the mullahs. Well, virtually the entire American and European intellectual establishment thought Ronald Reagan was nuts to believe he could do that to the Soviet Communists, and they ridiculed his “evil empire” speech as at best fatuous and at worst provocative. I always thought that was an odd position for intellectuals, who claim to believe in the value of ideas and the power of words.

When Galileo was criticized for his theories, he remarked “eppur, si muove,” and yet, it moves. Look at the world today. Look at the world in 1980. Is it not moving? Are we not in the age of the second democratic revolution?

Michael Ledeen — Michael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...

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