Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | June 15, 2009

WWRD — About Iran?

In spite of reported cell phone and web blackouts, and reports of foreign journalists being ordered to leave the country, the news keeps pouring in about the unrest in Iran, following fraudulent election management by the regime in the 12 June vote.  Web postings like this one at Hot Air, this one at Commentary, and this one at HuffPo, demonstrate the power of the modern infosphere to enable a veritable flood of data points on unfolding events.  As military intelligence officers have understood for nearly two decades, floods of data points have their drawbacks, often making it more difficult, rather than less, to characterize just exactly what is going on.

So on 14 June, in spite of the avalanche of information from Iran that is burying us, it is early days to predict how this will all turn out.  The sheer volume of impressions emerging from Iran – via Twitter tweets, web video, relentlessly updated blog items – may be accurately emblematic of the scope and character of the unrest and state suppression of it there.  It may also, on the other hand, be creating a vision in our minds of widerspread and more effective civil unrest than there really is.

From what I can discern, almost every update describes events in Tehran.  Granted, unrest in Tehran is particularly important to the security of a government that rules from Tehran; but from the standpoint of literal regime security, it is one thing if the main center of unrest is localized in the capital (and a few major cities, such as Shiraz and Qom), and entirely another if the whole country is galvanized against the regime.  I am not so sure the latter is the case.  By this I do not mean that I think the Islamic revolutionary regime has widespread positive support – but rather that the reformers’ movement may not have a tiebreaking energy nationwide.  If the regime finds itself in extremis in Tehran, it may well be able to relocate to safety, while Tehran is pacified by force of arms.

The ability of the reformers to translate their agitation about this election into effective action is what is in question.  The regime has the IRGC – the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the military arm of revolutionary government – and the reformers do not.  It is noteworthy to read things like the following, from the HuffPo updates via Allahpundit at Hot Air:

“From a reader: ‘My next door neighbor is an Iranian immigrant who came here in 1977. He just received a SAT phone call from his brother in Tehran who reports that the rooftops of nighttime Tehran are filled with people shouting ‘Allah O Akbar’ in protest of the government and election results. The last time he remembers this happening is in 1979 during the Revolution. Says the sound of tens of thousands on the rooftops is deafening right now.’ It’s almost four in the morning in Iran.”

But such sound and fury still has to be married up with leadership, planning, and execution, to produce any result other than a lot of beatings and suppression for the shouters, and the eventual victory of the armed forces of the state over the protestors.  There is no group with such a plan waiting in the wings to seize power, as there was in 1979.  The reformers, indeed, proposed only to elect Mir-Hossein Moussavi, a very modest reformer by outside standards, and continue to operate within the framework of the existing Islamic Revolutionary government.  The current unrest appears more like the students’ uprising of 1999, in terms of executable action planning, than like the 1979 revolution.

If the planned mass strike, and demonstrations by Moussavi’s “green revolution” supporters, come off on Tuesday, we will have a better idea of how the regime intends to handle developments.  So far, the handling has been remarkably incompetent and heavy-handed, considered purely in terms of the effectiveness of the “information campaign” about the cooked election.  We may draw at least this significant conclusion from observing the behavior of the regime:  it intends to stay on the course it has been on, with Ahmadinejad in power, a rejection of Westernizing reforms, and a continuation of its policies.  These policies include the acquisition of nuclear weapons, isolation of and terror against Israel, and infiltration of target nations in the region, and elsewhere, by Hizballah, the IRGC’s Qods force, and Iran’s network of business, charitable, and “cultural” organizations as outlined by Amir Taheri here, and discussed previously in “Charging the Chokepoints.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just delivered what the main newspapers in Israel were calling beforehand the “speech of his life” – a planned major policy speech seen as a rebuttal to Obama’s Cairo speech.  This speech was one opportunity for a regional statesman to set the terms of the debate, in the context of the patently fraudulent election in Iran, and the unrest in its wake.  It was so, partly, because of the politically-convenient silence in which the US and Arab nations have been awaiting developments in Iran.  Initial cable news reporting of the Netanyahu speech suggests it was narrowly focused on Israel and the Palestinians; understandable, and it will be necessary to review the entire speech before commenting further on its relevance to the challenge for regional vision posed by the Iranian election and its aftermath.

But the same principle applies to the communications that will emerge from the Obama administration in the coming days.  Events in Iran have created a strategic opportunity, one that we will either take or miss.  The Islamic revolutionary regime is busy, as we speak, declaring itself for what it is.  America is not the only nation watching:  so are all the others, from Saudi Arabia to Israel, from Russia to Turkey to the EU.  Some of the nations – Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia – cannot avoid being proximately affected by what happens in Iran.  They have much less latitude than the US, or even the EU, for continuing to wait – passively – and see what those effects will be.

Although America has no power, short of comprehensive military force, to affect the outcome of the present election dispute, it will matter tremendously what the Obama administration does, as the days go by – and the weeks and months after that.  The crushing of Iranian hopes for reform, the clarification of what the current regime is and how it behaves:  these are developments that matter not just to Iranians, and to the ideal of consensual government that America is committed to promote.  They matter equally to the prospects for preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, and for averting Iran’s long-term intentions to intimidate neighbors, destabilize the region, and achieve hegemony over it.

What developments in Iran mean is that the factors are there, internally, for undermining the Islamic revolutionary Guardian Council, in its current radical incarnation.  We need not suppose that Iranians are anxious to unload the entire apparatus, in a comprehensive political revolution – and I do not think they are.  Millions of voters in Iran were enthusiastic about affecting their political future within the official constraints of the existing revolutionary government.  In voting for Moussavi, they intended to achieve not revolution but political evolution.

But that evolution, in which the voters themselves aspired to increased liberalization and responsiveness from their government, would be favorable for the regional stability sought by the US.  A government responsive to an Iranian people seeking increased liberality, and cultural openness, is a government that will bear little resemblance to the secretive clerical council with its revolutionary agenda.  It is quite true that the Iranian people are not manipulative, homicidal zealots; but their current government will have to change if it is not to express that character in their name.

At this juncture of opportunity, then, what would Reagan do?  I believe he would do the following:

1.  First, and most important, recognize that what Iran’s Moussavi voters aspire to is, in fact, antithetical to the radical Islamic idea that motivates the ruling council in Tehran.  Reagan’s philosophical and ideological strength, in opposing Soviet Marxism, was founded in a similar understanding:  that revolutionary Marxism could not be domesticated, and made to serve the aspirations of liberal reformers.

He knew that propping up the rule of aging Marxists, and conferring legitimacy on it by making concessions to it, were counterproductive measures:  measures that would only prolong the necessary political outcome in which “we won, they lost.”  If we want the threat of a nuclear-armed revolutionary Iran to recede, it will be necessary for the mullahs to lose.  The last thing we should be doing is ascribing to them a legitimacy their own people do not willingly acknowledge.  Nor should we be afraid of the truth that the mullahs are the problem, and their political demise is the solution.

2.  Next, be prepared, in the coming weeks, to recognize unexpected and favorable developments if they do happen, and encourage them.  Although I frankly anticipate that the Guardian Council and Ahmadinejad will suppress active political dissent without their regime integrity being undermined by it, there are trends to watch for.

The regime may have to focus on internal security for some period of time, possibly creating shortfalls in support for regime activities abroad.  Any such temporary recession in Iranian-backed infiltration – e.g., in Iraq, other Persian Gulf nations, Lebanon – should be taken advantage of, by rolling up outside agitators in the affected nations, eliminating their logistic networks while they are vulnerable, and increasing local regime engagement – positive regime engagement – with the populations that have been targeted by them.  America is closely engaged with all the relevant nations, and has the ability to actively promote and assist these measures.

If there does appear to be effective internal momentum with Moussavi’s “green” movement, and a level of disarray in dealing with it on the part of the regime, it will be particularly important for the US to register support for free political expression, for the rights of dissidents, and for fair electoral outcomes.  We should be doing that anyway – but if a situation should develop like the Ukrainians’ vigil in the snow, in the 2004 “Orange Revolution,” it will be of even greater importance to affirm such an exercise of rights in the wake of a disputed election, along with our repudiation of regime efforts to suppress it.

Reagan never feared to support dissidents, and endorse freedom of political expression, and it was always clear that his expressions in this regard were more than pro forma.  We should not fear that unequivocal support for the principle of consensual politics, and repudiation of antidemocratic autocracy, will endanger the prospect of engagement with the regime in Tehran – particularly in light of the truth that there is, in fact, no such prospect at the moment.  Reagan’s policies proved that, whether you believe his posture enhanced the prospects for useful engagement with the Communist world, his posture did not affect them adversely.

3.  Reagan would also recognize this opportunity as the signal to develop a longer-term plan to undermine the rule of radical theocracy in Iran.  Such a campaign should not take the form of choosing a leader or form of government to confer on the Iranians.  Once was enough for that particular bad idea.  But it should be sufficiently obvious, with this election, that there is a substantial segment in Iran with usefully developed political ideas, a segment seeking liberalization, and worth reaching out to and providing support for, as Reagan supported reformers in Poland, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia.

Useful measures may include meeting with Iranian dissidents in Washington, and actively seeking the release, humane treatment, and safe emigration of those detained in Iran.  Advising rising partisans on democratic ideas and practices, in practical politics, is a realm of engagement in which the US is less ready to deal with Islamic societies than with those of a liberalizing Eastern Europe, or Latin America, where national identities have a Western, Christian heritage.  But the foundations on which to build already exist, not only in our experience with Iraq and Afghanistan, but – at least equally important – in the political energy of the Iranian expat community.  Again, in reaching out to such representatives, it is of paramount importance to avoid “picking” winners (or losers) in potential Iranian political arrangements.  But judicious engagement of expat leaders is one means of communicating effectively with those acting inside Iran, and promoting their success.

Material support to liberalizers in Iran is also a significant measure, and one that, in the information age, need not be confined to infusions of cash, or provision of safehouses.  Support to networking and information sharing is likely to be equally vital.  A convenient method of approaching this aspect of the campaign is through friendly foreign intelligence services that know the Iranian civil environment well.  But it would be uniquely crucial, given our history with Iran, to refrain from presenting any appearance of CIA manipulation, in supporting internal networks.  Reagan made broad use of the CIA in working just such forms of support for Solidarity in Poland, but that may not be the best avenue to pursue in Iran.

In all aspects of such a campaign, the central element is that the Iranian reformers have their own ideas, parties, organization, and leadership.  Support to political liberalizers in Poland and East Germany, in the Reagan years, is the best analogy for the type of effort we should pursue.  The relative maturity and organization we have seen this past week, with the “green” movement in Iran, demonstrates that the indigenous initiative is there to be engaged with.

4.  The final element of a Reagan-like approach is critical, and perhaps the most Reagan-like, although less remembered by most people.  It is this:  demonstrating to the revolutionary Guardian Council in Tehran that it will not achieve its objectives, in the region or elsewhere around the globe.

This element of a Reaganesque strategy would require a shift in the policy we have seen so far from President Obama.  Regarding each of the aspects of the mullahs’ own strategy, Obama has chosen a policy that promises less resistance to it, rather than more.  Acquisition of nuclear weapons is, of course, the most celebrated aspect of the Iranian regime’s strategy, and no credible initiative exists, on Obama’s part, for discouraging or preventing it

 If the regime has to focus inward for some period, to restore order and control, that period might well be a better time than most to apply much tougher economic sanctions on Iran, with the objective of at least slowing down the nuclear effort substantially.  With regime resources preoccupied internally, Iranian counter-efforts at regional terrorism and destabilization would have an unusually limited scope and capability.  Even getting the IAEA back into key facilities for comprehensive inspections, and forcing the Iranians to waste dwindling resources on relocation and deception, would represent a victory at this point, in that it would measurably delay the regime’s progress.

Obama’s credibility in opposing an Iranian capacity to hold the region at risk with a ballistic missile arsenal, and thereby intimidate her neighbors, has also been questionable.  His posture on missile defense, as recounted exhaustively here at The Optimistic Conservative, has been temporizing and unreliable, and has been so specifically with respect to the potential threat from Iran.  Obama’s overall stance on missile defense, in Europe and elsewhere, has presented no useful antithesis to self-serving Russian claims that Iran poses no missile threat to the region, and isn’t likely to for years.  This lack of challenge to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile efforts would be reversed, under a WWRD policy thrust:  we would reaffirm the importance of the missile defense sites in Europe, accelerate funding for missile defense programs overall, and work with our partners in the Middle East to improve their missile defenses as rapidly as possible, from Iraq to Saudi Arabia to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey.

The other major strategic vector of the Iranian regime is, of course, terrorism, destabilization, and infiltration of key territory with Hizballah and the Qods force.  Obama has done the opposite of demonstrate to the mullahs that this approach will not work, with his charm offensive addressed to the elements of the Islamic Middle East that make a career of being disaffected and unappeasable.  As Emanuele Ottolenghi points out, embracing the rhetoric and indulging in the grievances of the Islamic radicals is not a method that works, to persuade them against continuing on their professional path.  The mullahs know that.  In endorsing its cultivated grievances, Obama has done the opposite of prying the target population of extremist Islam away from its leading exploiters.

Obama has gone further than that, however, with his active embrace of hostile Latin American leaders – Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales – who are offering their territory as a hemispheric base for the mullahs’ overseas efforts.

In the specialized situation in which youthful Somali pirates have taken Americans hostage at sea, and the Americans have already rendered their situation as susceptible of resolution by special operations as it could possibly be, Obama has demonstrated that he will resist the outcome sought by miscreants against civilization.  But in other situations – the obvious taking of the two women journalists as hostages by North Korea, the series of nuclear and missile tests mounted by North Korea this spring, Iran’s multifaceted campaign to hold America and other nations at risk, Russia’s ever-more-obvious campaign to wholly undermine independent government in Georgia – Obama has emerged as inert and little engaged.  Other than insisting to China that our surveillance ships will continue patrolling in international waters off China, Obama has not shown much resistance to the probes and challenges of other nations.

And, of course, as discussed in the WWIV series, Obama has sent, with his categorical pronouncements on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a signal that is, for the mullahs, far more encouraging than not, about their ultimate goal for Israel.  They want to isolate Israel through a systematic campaign of squeezing US influence out of the region, with the eventual outcome involving the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, and Islamic occupation of Jerusalem.  But if US patronage of Israel is questionable and tenuous under Obama – or if it is contingent on Israel accepting terms that intrinsically undermine her national security – then half the mullahs’ work is already being done for them:  by Obama himself.

This cumulative posture would have to change significantly, in a WWRD campaign to convince Iran’s revolutionary leadership that it will not achieve its objectives.  There is much to work with, in shifting the Obama posture:  the Arab nations have no interest whatsoever in seeing Iran achieve the mullahs’ objectives, and are natural allies in preventing that.  The recent electoral outcome in Lebanon, where Hizballah suffered a setback, is a fresh and encouraging sign.  European allies like France and Germany will never be governed by leaders more likely to lend their weight to a serious effort to isolate Iran, and establish the firmness of our determination to cut her off from the pursuit of her objectives.  There is, in fact, much we could persuade other nations to do, if they know they will not be left out on a limb by themselves, attracting backlash and consequences.

It is a little humorous to realize, as one does by looking at a map, that we actually have Iran largely surrounded.  Our position, both strategic and operational, is better than we think it is – just as it was during the Cold War, when we had the Soviet Union largely surrounded, but only the Soviets “saw” that.  We rarely if ever did.  If any of our Cold War statesmen did, it was Ronald Reagan, who acted as if we had the USSR surrounded, and needed only to squeeze.

The difference in his vision, from that of his predecessors, is that his was focused by the lens of moral and political confidence.  That, unfortunately, is likely to be the signal weakness of the American vision under Obama’s leadership.  But we should be clear going into this:  there are things we could be doing – an effective approach we could adopt.  Asking “What Would Reagan Do?” is an excellent start on identifying them.

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Responses

  1. Reagan is not the best person to invoke concerning how to deal with the Iranians, opticon.
    Bad and illegal deals, autographed bibles and armaments are the cornerstones of the way Reagan acted toward the mullahs. He was a full-blown disaster and embarrassment.

  2. How completely and utterly impertinent, cluck. Early revolutionary Iran was a pimple compared to the Soviet Union, and spent most of Reagan’s two terms deeply embroiled in its war with Iraq. The events you refer to were sideshows for both Iran and for Reagan.

    IMO you need to learn some manners. I do like “Opticon,” though – like she’s some kind of ideological Transformer, a high-ranking adviser to Optimus Prime (a rather Reaganesque figure).

    Anyway, great post, Opticon – very helpful description of a Reaganesque strategy of the sort that we might conceivably stumble our way into piece by piece and back-asswards after exhausting all the alternatives.

  3. CK, are my manners faulty for failing to fawn over RR? I surely wasn’t trying to insult opticon. I can’t even imagine that invoking the facts about how he actually dealt with Iran as a counter to her construct would be abusive of her hospitality.

    I did offer opticon affectionately and in mind of the Transformers, despite having to spend about half a zillion buying them for my kid.

  4. yes, the alternative media and twittershpere has done a great job reporting absolute malarkey and hype on this non issue. kudos

  5. fuster — I urge you to do some reading on the Reagan era, and get beyond the bumper-sticker history that produces phrases like “bad and illegal deals, autographed bibles and armaments.”

    Unfortunately, you really come off like someone who doesn’t know what he is talking about, and has merely absorbed an NYT editorial or two, or some sarcastic lecture material in a 101 course in college.

    The analogy in my piece here is quite obviously with Reagan’s handling of the Soviet Union and former Warsaw Pact — a global security problem that, in the 1980s, loomed much larger than Iran’s mullahs. Iran was in fact occupied, as CKM points out, with a war against Iraq for all but the last few months of Reagan’s tenure in office. But the larger and inescapable context of the time was that the Soviet Union was the principal arms patron of both Iraq and Iran, and no action was taken by any Western nation outside of that context.

    I note that in your litany of Reagan’s dealings with the mullahs (which did not, BTW, include any illegal deals), you don’t mention Operation Praying Mantis, which we carried out after an Iranian mine damaged one of our amphibious ships in the Persian Gulf. Praying Mantis destroyed Iran’s main offshore oil platforms in the northern Persian Gulf, and severely damaged Iran’s major surface warships.

    Reagan also mounted the tanker escort, Operation Earnest Will, in the last year of the Iran-Iraq War, after Iraq and Iran had both threatened commercial shipping in the Gulf, and Iran had inflicted damage on merchant ships. I’m sure you will recall the erroneous shootdown by USS Vincennes of the Iranian airliner over the Gulf: Vincennes was on Gulf security patrol during the tanker escort days when that happened.

    It is just silly to invoke Iran-Contra, which I assume is what you refer to, and suggest that because of that widely misrepresented series of actions (none were illegal), nothing about any of Reagan’s overall Cold War policies could be applied to our dealings with Iran today. The tacit premise is so superficial as to evaporate on contact.

  6. Sorry, opticon. I lived through it and I’ve done a bit of reading. Not only the critics but also his underlings document how porly his administration performed. Go through the first fifty pages of “Under Fire” by Oliver North. He tries gamely to insist that, while sordid and unwise, nothing was illegal. Somehow, though, he says that RR had to cut loose the underlings to avoid impeachment.
    Every last bit of RRs initial dealings with Iran was filled with the kinds of fawning appeasements and double-dealing that would send you through the roof had they been practiced by ordinary politicians rather than objects of worship.
    I recognize that what you were writing about was an application of US/USSR dealings to the present day Iran and I enjoyed following that.
    I will certainly apologize if I’ve offended you with the reminder that RR was extraordinarily unwise in how he handled Iran. I’ve often thought that he had the opportunity to have prevented that damned snake from growing, but instead he fed the forker.

  7. cluck, your manners are faulty because, instead of addressing what Opticon wrote, you chose to focus on a side issue in order to dismiss the entirety. Though in your next reply you admit an understanding the (much) larger point she was trying to make, and, as you point out “enjoyably,” that was hardly the impression your captious initial post gave. It seems to me a fundamental requirement of civil dialogue to take the other person’s perspective and intentions into account, and not to diminish them pre-emptively.

    Regardless of whether or not RWR’s dealings with Iran can fairly be categorized as “unwise,” you still seem unable or unwilling to recognize that those dealings were a) far more extensive and significant than Iran-Contra and b) far from the center of his attention, even if at a relatively late point in his presidency his political enemies with the aid of the media sought to make them so in as unfavorable a way as possible.

    Whether or not Reagan had the opportunity to “prevent that damned snake from growing” is something we’ll never know. Certainly his political opponents during that period were hardly on the side of greater foreign intervention anywhere. Meanwhile, Saddam sacrificed the flower of Iraqi youth attempting to kill the snake, and the US is still subject to criticism, most of it ill-informed, for having eventually sided with him rather than allow Iran to win.

  8. CK, I think that I will agree with you.
    My manners are not always on display.
    I make the possibly unwise assumption that, having stated several times my admiration for the quality of thought demonstrated by opticon, that I needn’t lace each comment with an admission of esteem and a recap of that which with I concur.
    I usually proceed directly to counterpoint.
    That was how I was trained to react (he whined) to a stimulating argument.
    I didn’t come here to bust chops. I came to learn and to discuss and to dispute, in that order. Sometimes I can fairly be said to skip the second. I don’t ever hope to omit the first.

    If I may have the honor of addressing your fine and thought-provoking remarks, I would say that in my very brief remarks, I may may neglected to mention that I agree that RRs dealings with Iran were far more extensive than what is called Iran-Contra. I’ve read one or two accounts, not conclusive, detailing that Reagan and Co. was well up into dealing with the revolutionaries prior to his election.
    Next to my copy of Under Fire, I have a book by Barbara Honneger, a woman who is described as having worked in the Reagan-Bush campaign, then in the transition team, and in the White House Office of Policy Development. He book is titled “October Surprise”.
    As to whether Iran was always at the center of RRs attention or far from it, I doubt that you or I can say. I can say that many of our dealing in Lebanon were bound to cause most people to think quite strongly about Iran and the creature it was nurturing in Lebanon. I do believe that RR personally approved some of the bribes sent to Iran that were supposed to effect the release of Col. Buckley and others.
    To my faulty knowledge, it was only after listening to the tape that was sent in the stead of the Colonel, that RR finally learned not to deal with the snakes. By then, however, it was too late to do what would earlier have been easier done and probably seen to be justified.
    But, as you say, we’ll never know.

  9. I have been toying with instituting an admission-of-esteem-lacing requirement for comments at TOC, so I appreciate the exchange here, which has afforded much food for thought

    To CKM’s (a) and (b) on Reagan and Iran I would add, again, that everything done regarding the Middle East in the 1980s was done in the context of the Cold War, and Soviet activities there. It is invalid to analyze our dealings with either Iran or Iraq as if we were acting in a vacuum, and did not have to always consider what the Soviets were doing, and whether THAT was the real security issue for us. And again, the Soviets were the main arms supplier for both sides in the Iran-Iraq war. They are also the main arms patron of Syria, South Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Libya, and Algeria; their navy and naval air force were all over the Middle East; and, of course, they were fighting in Afghanistan the whole time. It would have been idiotic to make decisions on our dealings in the Middle East as if the Soviets were NOT there, trying to determine the outcome of the Iran-Iraq war themselves, and materially supporting the terrorism sponsored by Syria and Libya, among a variety of similar efforts.

    Of course I don’t endorse the wisdom or outcome of negotiations on the American hostages who were taken in Lebanon. The implication that there is some obviously better thing we could have been doing about the hostages is, however, vague and weak. Perhaps you’ll favor us, fuster, with your analysis of what it was Reagan could have done, instead of negotiate for Buckley, that would have changed the course of Iran’s future and that of the Middle East. In historical context, some countries that have negotiated for hostages, wisely or otherwise, have gone on to triumph in their own policies at the expense of the hostage-takers. Other countries that did the same thing have not. The tiebreakers were always policies, commitments, and geopolitical factors OTHER than incidental willingness to negotiate for hostages.

    For how much Reagan focused on Iran while in office, as opposed to the Soviet Union, I can recommend the Reagan Diaries, and the memoirs of his cabinet members who spent the most time talking foreign affairs with him, like George Shultz and Cap Weinberger. Even when the immediate problem was the barracks bombing in Beirut, there was always an element of concern about how any individual incident affected the superpower rivalry. Nothing done in the 1980s can be correctly analyzed without reference to the Cold War.

    The book October Surprise starts with a peculiar handicap, in that its title thesis is manifestly invalid. There was not, in fact, an “October surprise.” I’m sure mere argument won’t convince fuster to regard its analyses with skepticism, but for alternative reading on Reagan’s approach to Iran I can again recommend Shultz, Weinberger, Donald Regan (whose perspective is far from hagiographic), and Constantine Menges’ Inside the National Security Council, an excellent read from 1988.

  10. opticon, with our blood we will esteem you.

    On the other side of “Under Fire”, I’ve got “Fighting for Peace”. Weinberger spends the last eighty of some four hundred and twenty on Iran and the Gulf, about sixty pages on SDI and the USSR.

    As for Honneger, what part of “not conclusive” wouldn’t indicate skepticism?

    I brought up Colonel Buckley’s ordeal primarily to indicate just how long and how much humiliation it took to get Reagan to realize that dealing with the Iranians was fruitless.
    Only after the Iranians spit on him by sending a barbaric tape, did he stop paying bribes.

    I started talking about the historic Reagan, rather than your iconic construct, thinking it would be a brief diversion.

    I recognize that you’re argument isn’t affected by this overlong sideshow and apologize for thinking that you might be prone to doing the same kind of silly stuff that some folks find annoying when applied to our latest politician-in-chief.

  11. The injury caused by cluck’s foul impertinence is not restricted to Opticon, but affects us little conservative transformers, too.

    I’ll take Opticon’s reading of Reagan’s relative interest in the USSR as authoritative enough on this one, whatever the apportionments suggested by the foul cluck’s bookshelf. Considering that Weinberger was investigated and forced to resign over his role or suspected role in Iran-Contra, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Iran loomed larger in his reminiscences than it did prior to the scandal in the Reaganauts’ overall outlook. Also I used the word “attention,” and that was a mistake, since, as we all know, it’s quite common in human affairs for events of even minimal intrinsic importance to become absorbing, while much greater matters seem to develop almost on their own.

    I criticized cluck for impertinence, but I’ll admit that Reagan and the Reaganauts’ difficulties with Iran are worth considering in relation to the present situation. On that note, I remember how Obama got tripped up at one point during the ’08 campaign when he sought to minimize Iran’s significance, calling it a “tiny country” compared to the Soviet Union. If Reagan underestimated Iran’s significance in any way, or missed a chance, then it’s fair to say that Obama has appread quite prepared to do so as well, and it’s fair to wonder if he isn’t in the midst of extending the error at a time when the stakes are higher.

  12. Gosh, fuster, we might almost say that I failed to lace my piece with caveats about Reagan’s many imperfections, and that you overinterpreted that as me advancing an “iconic construct” of Reagan.

    It is extraordinarily shortsighted and ahistorical to look at Reagan through narrower lenses than that of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. It is also awful darn particular to focus on the things Reagan didn’t outperform his peers on, as if they were evidence that he was a bumbling nitwit. In the long march of things US presidents have done merely adequately, or less, since WWII, Reagan and Iran don’t even rank in the same tier with FDR and Eastern Europe, JFK and Cuba (or Southeast Asia), LBJ and Vietnam, or Carter and — what do you know — Iran.

    And that said, all of those presidents were constrained, as Reagan was, by the Soviet Union and the unfolding of the Cold War. Some of them did some things right, too. Nothing that any of them did is as applicable to the current situation with Iran as Reagan’s policies on political dissidence and freedom, for Warsaw Pact nations and other former-Soviet “clients,” during the Cold War.

  13. CK, opticon suggested checking with Weinberger and Schultz. I just used the occasion to show off that while I remain a nasty little clucker, I’m not a wholly iggerent
    one, which was opticon’s initial dig.
    I actually had to look into this stuff. That little kid who used to play with Transformers became, as a teenager, a Reagan cultist.

    As for Obama, I would suggest that he might have some glimmer. His statement this evening about Iran sounded just about right. I hope you folk enjoyed hearing him call Ahmedinajad’s opinions “odious” as much as I did.

    I must say that it’s pretty swell that we’re having a fine time pecking at each other, despite all being in agreement on what we would hope to have happen to the Iranian government.

  14. opticon, I wish to again say that my real Reagan and Iran rantings started, and should have remained, as an aside to your essay concerning how to proceed at present in our dealings with Iran.
    I will point out most sincerely that I understand that Reagan handled his interactions with the Soviet Union extremely well and that this perspective of his administration is a fine and praiseworthy one.
    I will also happily grant that, at the time, it seemed to be of vastly greater significance and would have been the frame through which his administration would have conducted ME relations.
    In my darkest moments I never think of RR as a bumbling nitwit. There was nothing in his manner that was ever less than graceful and he was hardly ever less than smooth in his oratory.
    Why, on my bookshelf, next to blah,blah, and blah, my copy of Cannon’s “President Reagan” has some wonderful answers from Cannon, in the intro, to questions about RRs intelligence.

    Sometime soon, if we get off this RR trip, I hope to see you update the Iran street demo situation and address your take on what Obama is doing and what you think he could do in the next couple of weeks.

  15. […] was all foreseeable 10 days ago.  I have offered suggestions here, here, and here for measures we could have been taking up to this point, to weaken and deter the […]


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