An 18-page letter a day keeps the world at bay: love that "process"
Alexandra of All Things Beautiful's take on Ahmadinejad's 18-page letter to Bush emphasizes the fact that it was a good propaganda move for the Iranian President. She writes:
Thug-In-Chief Ahmadinejad scored quite a success with his 18-page letter to President Bush. Timing was of course carefully orchestrated to coincide with his high-profile visit to a key Muslim country, Indonesia....
We are...little surprised to be told by Iranian political analyst Saeed Leilaz that the letter "could have been the beginning of a new process," and that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's reaction, which has of course already been labeled as a 'quick brushoff', would fuel anti-American feelings in Iran.
Ahmadinejad is not ignorant of how this plays to the Left, as Alexandra points out. As for me, I note his canny use of that new-agey word "process"--as in the vaunted Israeli Palestinian "peace process," the success of which was so deeply hoped for and wished for that it took a long time to understand that it was an emperor with no clothes.
Alexandra also quotes Amir Taheri's piece on the subject of what to do about Iran:
Something interesting is happening with regard to the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Slowly the blame is shifting from the mullahs to the Bush administration as the debate is redirected to tackle the hypothetical question of U.S. military action rather than the Islamic Republic's real misdeeds. "No War on Iran" placards are already appearing where "No Nukes for Iran" would make more sense.
The attempt at fabricating another "cause" with which to bash America is backed by the claim that the mullahs are behaving badly because Washington refuses to talk to them.
Taheri goes on to point out the abject failing of the Carter and Clinton administrations in dealing with Iran.
Revisiting the Carter approach is an exercise in futile and frustrated toothgrinding at the shortsighted naivete of it all. A recap:
In 1979, soon after the mullahs seized power, Mr. Carter sent Ayatollah Khomeini a warm congratulatory letter. Mr. Carter's man at the U.N., a certain Andrew Young, praised Khomeini as "a 20th-century saint." Mr. Carter also tapped his closest legal advisor, the late Lloyd Cutler, as U.S. ambassador to the mullarchy.
A more dramatic show of U.S. support for the mullahs came when Mr. Brzezinski flew to Algiers to meet Khomeini's prime minister, Mehdi Bazargan. This was love at first sight -- to the point where Mr. Carter approved the resumption of military supplies to Iran, even as the mullahs were executing Iranians by the thousands, including many whose only "crime" was friendship with the U.S. The Carter administration's behavior convinced the mullahs that the U.S. was a paper tiger and that it was time for the Islamic Revolution to highlight hatred of America. Mr. Carter reaped what he had sown when the mullahs sent "student" fanatics to seize the U.S. embassy compound, a clear act of war, and hold its diplomats hostage for 444 days. "The Carter administration's weakness was a direct encouragement to [anti-American] hard-liners," wrote Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, one of the hostage-takers, years later.
I don't know about you, but I'm willing to take Asgharzadeh's word for it on this, if on nothing else.
Clinton's approach was cagier, but ultimately, not cagey enough:
Beating his own drum, Bill Clinton has rejected the threat of force and called for "engaging" Iran. This is how he put it in a recent speech: "Anytime somebody said in my presidency, 'If you don't do this, people will think you're weak,' I always asked the same question for eight years: 'Can we kill 'em tomorrow?' If we can kill 'em tomorrow, then we're not weak." Mr. Clinton's pseudo-Socratic method of either/or-ing issues out of existence is too well-known to merit an exposé. This time, however, Mr. Clinton did not ask enough questions. For example, he might have asked: What if by refusing to kill some of them today we are forced to kill many more tomorrow? Also: What if, once assured that we are not going to kill them today, they regroup and come to kill us in larger numbers? We all know the answers.
I have no facile solution to the problem of Iran; I don't think anyone does. But we are fooling ourselves if we think that either Carter or Clinton have much to say on the matter that would be helpful at this point.
And we are doubly fooling ourselves if we believe that the Ahmadinejad letter represented an attempt by Iran to begin "a new process." No, I think the process was actually a rather old one.