The incipient Iranian revolution has upset certain political categories at home, two to be exact: Scowcroftian realism and liberal interventionism (a/k/a neoconservatism). Both, IMHO, are inadequate to the current crisis. The bloodcurdling scenes of oppression on the streets of Teheran betray the limits of cold-hearted realism as an American doctrine: It is not who we are, to stand idly by. Realists believe that power, and power only, has salience in international relations, but American conceptions of right and wrong clearly do as well, and always have.
On the other side of the ledger, it seems as if some neoconservatives are demanding that Barack Obama do more than he's doing simply because that's what we Americans are supposed to do: More. This seems like an unwise strategy; the smartest strategy would be to follow the lead of the Iranian protesters. If they seem to need more American moral support, or other kinds of support, then we should reconsider. But Obama's strategy so far seems basically correct: He probably could give more direct and enthusiastic rhetorical support to the demonstrators than he's been giving, precisely because he's Barack Obama and could get away with it. But the idea that we should rush in and do something makes little sense at the moment. The overarching goal is to see the birth of a democratic Iran, not to make ourselves feel good, or get in the way.
That said, the liberal interventionist/neoconservative position is the easier one to understand, because it is the more human response. This has been my colleague Andrew Sullivan's basic response. He's done a phenomenal job of covering the chaos in Iran, but every so often he feels a need to throw an elbow at neoconservatives and at AIPAC, for no apparent reason, except to distance himself from people who, in the main, would like to see Ahmadinejad, to borrow a phrase, wiped off the map, just as Andrew would. Such was the case yesterday, when Andrew responded to the firing of Dan Froomkin, the liberal Washington Post.com columnist, by writing, among other things, that "maybe the quality of (Froomkin's) free-lancing was showing up the hackneyed AIPAC boilerplate they publish every day on their op-ed page." He went on to write, in reference to Froomkin's recent argument with Charles Krauthammer about torture, "Exposing the torture-monger Krauthammer would almost certainly have enraged (editorial page editor Fred) Hiatt. They look after their own the neocons."
For the record, I like Froomkin's column, read it often, and am sorry to see it go, but I don't know what this controversy has to do with Krauthammer (with whom Sullivan is in fundamental agreement on the righteousness and importance of the Iranian revolution) and I certainly don't know what this has to do with AIPAC, which, as far as I can tell, hasn't lobbied the Hill on this current Iran crisis and hasn't issued any statements at all about it. I think Andrew's attacks on Fred Hiatt, neoconservatives and AIPAC are a manifestation of the aforementioned category confusion. In any case, since I can't figure out Andrew's post, I asked Fred Hiatt if he could. He sent me this response:
"It is so incoherent, it's hard to know
how to comment. But I will try. He says I was acting on neocon orders when
we published a piece suggesting that Ahmadinejad may have actually had
popular support. But elsewhere I am being attacked for publishing ostensibly
neocon pieces criticizing Obama for not supporting Ahmadenejad's opposition.
It's hard to see how both could be true.
I had forgotten until today that Dan
(Froomkin) had gone after Charles (Krauthammer), which Sullivan says 'almost certainly'
would have 'enraged' me. If Andrew wants to know whether it enraged
me, why does he not call and ask? That's called reporting, and I would
be happy to tell him. In fact nothing pleases me more than when our columnists
engage with each other, in print or on Post Partisan, as any of them could
tell you. It's good for traffic, and it makes for lively debate.
The disappointingly dull truth is that
the decision not to renew Dan's contract--which was not made by me, but
which I supported--was based on viewership data, budget constraints and
judgments about how well the column was or was not adapting to a new era."
I'm guessing Andrew will probably have a response to Hiatt's criticism.