Daniel Larison over at the American Conservative asks why Richard Haass thinks that repeating the mistakes of the past is a great idea.
Larison is referring to Haass’ article in Newsweek that calls for the Obama administration to adopt a policy of supporting regime change in Iran.
According to Larison
What Haass’ article reminds us is that predictions of major political upheaval in Iran are becoming very much like the consistently wrong string of warnings that Iran is just a few years away from a nuclear weapon. An Iranian bomb is always just over the horizon, and it has been just over the horizon for almost twenty years. It seems that the next Iranian revolution is also always just around the corner, and this always seems to be an excuse for delaying diplomatic engagement that ought to have started years ago. Obviously, opponents of meaningful engagement exploit prospects for internal political change Iran to kill off a policy option they reject anyway. That’s to be expected. What doesn’t make sense is why so many supporters of engagement have begun abandoning a policy that was scarcely tried and has been given no time to work.
Haass represents something no less frustrating than the hawks who exploit internal dissension to push hard-line policies. Haass is one of many advocates of engagement who have lost all confidence in a policy option that they endorsed when Iran was a brutal, authoritarian state with a thin veneer of quasi-democratic practices. Its internal repression and violence did not deter them then, because they concluded that there was little that could be done about this and it was not directly relevant to the most contentious security issues. Since the crackdown after June 12, Iran continues to be a brutal, authoritarian state, but now it no longer wears that thin veneer, and all of a sudden some supporters of engagement cannot call for regime change quickly enough.
Fundamental Iranian state interests have not changed in the last seven months, nor has the compelling logic of engagement with Tehran become any less so. In 2008, the bankruptcy of demonizing and isolating Iran was obvious, and it was associated with a deeply unpopular administration, and so for a time it became unfashionable. For all of six months, engagement was trendy when Obama was widely liked and the policy involved sending Nowruz messages and doing nothing meaningful. It has taken much less time for pro-Green advocacy to displace engagement as the preferred fashion. Incredibly, the impulse to isolate Iran has regained much of its former strength despite its record of abject failure. Politically, pro-Green sympathizers are making it much easier for hawks to advance measures designed to isolate and punish Iran, because they are resisting the one alternative course of action that will avoid the imposition of more sanctions or military action. Sanctions will, of course, mainly harm the Green movement and do nothing to change regime behavior, and scrapping engagement will ensure that Washington continues to have zero influence over what Tehran does inside or outside of the country.
Larison’s entire post can be read here.
– Ben Katcher