Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Friedman made an excellent point in his newest column today about Iran: it's not exactly the evil society of psychotic "Islamists" that its characterization as a member of the "axis of evil" would imply. Like most real-world situations it's more complex than that; the government is divided, the people are divided, and it looks more and more like a modern country struggling to get out from under its theocratic clerical leaders (as opposed to its reformist government). What's telling, however, is Friedman's observation that "diplomats here insist that even "Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's hard-line spiritual leader, is no longer against relations with the U.S."

Wait a second... isn't this the same country and the same leadership that sponsors terrorism?

Yes, it is, and that's precisely why this "war" is entirely unlike most that we've seen in the past. What we're seeing is a situation where some (if not many) of the countries that oppose the United States are in situations where the most effective weapon the United States has is not its military, but its economy and symbolic power. Bombing Iran would, at this point, be utterly counterproductive: it's a classic scenario where the long-term interests of the United States (international stability) oppose its short-term desires (wipe terrorists and states that sponsor terrorists out by force). We can only hope that the administration sees this, because it's pretty damned unlikely that the right wing punditocracy will.

(I'm wondering how long it'll be before some warblogger accuses Friedman of being unrealistic, or mentions the embassy, or calls him a traitor, or some such thing.)

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