An important debate took place on Wednesday:
What to do if Iran gets nukes? at the Miller Center of Public Affairs
at the University of Virginia. Two neoconservatives, Elliott Abrams and
Joshua Muravchik, were pitted against the newly-realist Martin Indyk
and Karim Sadjadpour of Carnegie. A few observations:
neoconservatives used feverish language. Both Abrams and Muravchik
opened by using the word "holocaust." Muravchik: "second holocaust."
They said the nukes are worrisome because of Iran's threat to Israel
(to "annihilate" Israel, Abrams says, which is a misrepresentation of
Ahmadinejad's (repulsive) language), but by the end said that a country
that says "Death to America" must never get nukes. I'm confused: Israel
–Indyk, as I have indicated here before, says that
we can deter Iran as we deterred the Soviets. This places him in the
Mearsheimer/Zakaria camp. He also refreshingly states that Israel has nukes in the basement, something Obama can't even acknowledge, and that destroying Iran's capability
would only set the program back 3 or 4 years and make them more determined
to get nukes. Logical and helpful.
–Abrams and Muravchik say you can't deter them
because they're Islamofascists. They are a theocracy like we have never
seen and are willing to die, Abrams says, for life in a better world;
so no "historic deterrent" will work. Muravchik meanwhile talks about
them as "fascist" "Nazi" "Stalin" "paranoid" "paranoid" "paranoid" and
"Hitler." Do you trust this man? Indyk wisely says that notwithstanding
the bluster, Iran is not a "superpower." Sadjadpour says all the talk
of exporting Islamic revolution has fostered Hizbullah and not much
more. A reality check.
–The craziness of the neocons emerges
when we get into the regime change argument. Muravchik says if we bomb
them, then they're likely to be like Argentina after the Falklands
disaster: the people will throw out the militant government. Again:
does anyone believe this? Sadjadpour explodes it. He speaks of the case
of Ahmad Batebi, the human rights activist famously on the cover of The Economist, who
spent 10 years in Iranian prisons, in solitary, before escaping to the
west; well, Batebi said that if the U.S. bombs Iran he will go back
there to fight for his country. The people will hate the U.S. even
Abrams's response: "It's a theory." The ayatollahs are
"extremely unpopular." And: "We are not talking about the Americans
killing civilians, bombing cities, destroying mosques, hospitals,
schools. No no no." (Very Amy Winehouse.) We are talking about
destroying a hidden nuke site. And the people will then turn on the
ayatollahs, saying, Who got us into this mess?
"They no doubt want freedom more than they want nuclear weapons."
doubt? Abrams is espousing the same old regime-change theory, after we
have destroyed an Arab society killing tens of thousands and ruining
our image in the world. Abrams is obviously dug in on his doctrine. And
he is showing some real ignorance about Iranian society. It must be
pointed out here that there is some high degree of consensuality of the
people of Iran with respect to the character of their government. Read
Roger Cohen. Read Mohammad of Vancouver.
Indyk then wisely says, Israel said that about Gaza– that the people would turn against Hamas– and where did that get them?
which Abrams says, "I'm not persuaded that's true in Gaza." The people
may be turning against Hamas. Oh my. This is delusion, with a religious
basis, I would say.
Final point. The panel is three Jews, all
pro-Israel, and an Asian. I want to see more diversity on such panels.
Also, why are the neocons hanging around? What is their power base?