As I noted in my recent post on Barack Obama's neoconservative pragmatism, Daniel Larison, the "big" paleocon blogger at the American Conservative, lives in a strange world of anti-American faux-conservatism, topped off with a dollop of antiwar nihilism. For one who attacks neoconservatives as "fantasists," Larison must certainly be drinking from the same alleged draft of Koolaid as those "evil" neocons he seeks to excoriate. Today's example is from his post hammering Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who argues in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that Iran, following the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, avoided the lapse into pacifist funk like the British, and their collapse of will during the interwar years. Netanyahu argues, in fact, that Iran's more aggressive than ever, and that the leadership in Tehran is afflicted by a "wide-eyed fanaticism" that poses a threat to Israel and the entire Middle East.
But here's Larison's response, such as it is (he shifts the example from the British case to the French, oddly):
People will endure remarkable hardship, at least once, to expel an invader from their country. Like France after Verdun, the horrific experience might be great enough to force a nation into a purely defensive posture, but even post-WWI France, which is a better comparison with post-1988 Iran, did not sink into pacifism.Larison reverts back to a discussion of Britain after this, but a brief examination of his thesis demonstrates he's simply clueless on the international politics of the pre-WWII European balance of power.
Indeed, the occupation of the Rhineland, security guarantees to central European states and the building of the Maginot Line all point not to pacifism, but to an assumption that another war might come and France should be prepared for it. The Maginot Line came out of the experience of Verdun, which was that the defensive position held the overwhelming advantage in modern warfare; the problem with the Maginot Line was not that it was defensive and therefore somehow “weak” or pacifistic, but plainly enough that it did not guard the entire border.
Historians have long since shown that "pacifism" in the interwar context is captured by the entire collapse of social will that indicates a stage existential crisis far beyond numbers of men under arms or military armaments. The French case is even worse than the British, for as Eugen Weber has shown in his book, The Hollow Years: France in the 1930's, the entire national posture in France in the face of the rising Nazi challenge was one of national decay, moral laziness, and cowardly inaction. If anything, the Maginot was the greatest French symbol of the refusal to fight. I mean, really, the Maginot Line was a huge national system of underground bunkers within which French troops could hide from German Panzer divisions! There was no "overwhelming" advantage to defense on the eve of World War II. It was the opposite, as the German High Command's blitzkrieg strategy was to illustrate in the rapid defeat of the French in 1940. Basic books of French interwar history have covered the theme of French pacifism and moral decay for decades. William Shirer's The Collapse of the Third Republic is the central first-hand journalistic account, and the outstanding scholarly synthesis of the historiography can be found in Robert Young's, France and the Origins of the Second World War. Young's theme is strategic "ambivalence" rather than pacifism, so if folks want to quibble with details, you might be able to throw Larison a bone with that.
But France isn't really as important here as is Iran's manifest intentions toward strategic domination of the Mideast region. Larison's going to downgrade the threat from Tehran because I seriously doubt he believes in Israel's right to exist, and he certainly doesn't support America's historic stand in support of the Jewish state. It's not in the "national interest," you know.
In any case, there was another interesting debate on Iran today, surrounding the publication of a propaganda piece in today's Los Angeles Times by Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a spokeman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The essay is a respone to President Barack Obama's "Nowruz Address." Read the whole thing. This part is especially good:
The Iranian nation, in keeping with true Islamic precepts, does not covet the territory of other countries and has not attacked any other country. We have always acted only in defense of our land. We wish other countries well, and we even pray for our foes. We hate death and destruction -- and wish prosperity and a better life for all nations.But check out, for contrast, Abraham at Occidental Soapbox, and his comments on Obama's diplomatic outreach to Iran:
Our Iranian civilization, culture, beliefs, traditions and Islamic values are incompatible with terror, war and bloodshed. Mr. Obama should take note that the era of gaining superiority through weaponry and state-sponsored terrorism has expired. The world must move forward ruled by divine values, rationality, morality and respect for culture.
Obama's communiqué to Iran is not the manifestation of a new era in foreign policy. His is a well-worn foreign policy of appeasing implacable enemies. Obama is insisting to himself and to us as a nation that his peace overtures will somehow be received productively by a regime whose constitution is based directly on the Quran and which has contempt for our very notion of what life is and should be. And so the mutual respect Obama apparently seeks with Iran is by definition impossible. The United States is simply treading water, albeit more eloquently under Obama than under Bush, while our destructive and ultimately self-destructive enemy strengthens itself and prepares for the inevitable conflict.In any case, Daniel Larison can chew on this for a while.
We have learned that our President can pronounce "Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak", but we have not been given any compelling reason to hope for a non-violent political solution to the confrontation with Iran. It is the most dangerous foreign policy conundrum of our time, and will become increasingly dangerous if Mr. Obama's friendly orations continue with no political horizon in sight.
I'll have more later ...