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June 23, 2009

2 Steps Back is 10 Steps Forward
Posted by Patrick Barry

It strikes me that Spencer is giving Thomas Joscelyn too much credit for moving the conservative arguments on Iran in an intellectually reasonable direction.  Joscelyn writes:

Look, this is the same tired old game the Iranian hardliners have played for thirty years. When something goes wrong for the regime, they blame America. Ayatollah Khomeini was a master of this game.

Spencer thinks Joscelyn is differentiating himself from those conservatives who would take that argument and conclude "well, if we're going to get blamed for it anyway, we might as well do some stuff in support of the opposition," by pointing out that "the current generation of Iranian protesters doesn't harbor nearly the degree of anti-Americanism that its parents do." 

I guess I don't see the distinction.  So what if Joscelyn doesn't explicitly conclude that the Administration might as well intervene since it makes no difference for whether the regimes uses the U.S. as a whipping boy? His analysis still leads you in that direction.

And though I'll concede that the demographic composition of the demonstrators likely differs from past movements in ways that complicate the lessons of non-intrusion, Trita Parsi's advice to let the demonstrators lead still holds.  In addition to Spencer's point - that the U.S. should want to avoid being an albatross around the neck of a successful opposition - it can't be emphasized enough how little we know about the opposition in its current form.  Yes, there have been calls for greater U.S. involvement.  But those calls have been met with pleas just as persuasive for the U.S. to stay out.  For all the signs printed in English, there have also hundreds, maybe thousands, of nightly chants shrouded in the spirit of 1979.  Joscelyn's argument focuses entirely on whether the U.S. could wind up empowering the regime. Yet that is only one of many possible unintended consequences U.S. interference could bring.  Given how little we know that the demonstrators and what motivates them, there are almost definitely others. 


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Given how little we know that the demonstrators and what motivates them, there are almost definitely others.

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