Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Res ipsa loquitor 

In matters of foreign policy, at least, Nancy Pelosi leaves no doubt where she stands:

The Democratic speaker from San Francisco and Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, were asked at a press conference in San Francisco Tuesday whether on the heels of their recent trip to the Middle East they would be interested in extending their diplomacy in the troubled region with a visit to Iran.

"Speaking just for myself, I would be ready to get on a plane tomorrow morning, because however objectionable, unfair and inaccurate many of (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's) statements are, it is important that we have a dialogue with him,'' Lantos said. "Speaking for myself, I'm ready to go -- and knowing the speaker, I think that she might be.''

Pelosi did not dispute that statement, and noted that Lantos -- a Hungarian-born survivor of the Holocaust -- brought "great experience, knowledge and judgment" to the recent bipartisan congressional delegation trip to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in addition to Syria.

"I find the president of Iran's remarks to be so repulsive that they are outside the circle of civilized human behavior,'' Pelosi said, referring to Ahmadinejad's past comments that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map and his questioning of the existence of the Holocaust.

"But a person of Mr. Lantos' stature and personal experience is saying that -- even as a Holocaust survivor and even recognizing the outrageous statements of the president of Iran -- it's important to have dialogue. I think that speaks volumes.''

Indeed it does.


By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Apr 10, 11:19:00 PM:

Read: No matter what Ahmedenijad says or does, we'll never stop talking to him.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Apr 11, 12:06:00 AM:


By Blogger Shochu John, at Wed Apr 11, 02:19:00 AM:

This is more than just about A-jad, who does not now nor has ever run Iran. Letting that clown's outrageous comments dictate our foreign policy would be the height of folly.

I am a bit mystified on where this notion that it is a bad idea to talk to hostile parties comes from. The silent treatment is a poor punishment for bad behavior. It seems that more often than not, we end up punishing only ourselves.  

By Blogger The Mechanical Eye, at Wed Apr 11, 02:21:00 AM:

Wow, Godwin's law rears its ugly head, and not even in the comments section -- it's already in in the post!

Actually, recognizing that Iran is NOT Nazi Germany is important -- the mullahs can only dream of Hitler's extent of power over his people. Iran is more fractured and varied than we give it credit for. Talking to them will reflect those differences, leading, perhaps, to an Iran that's more amendable to Tigerhawk readers (i.e., not reflexively anti-American).

It's not appeasement to follow such a strategy.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Apr 11, 03:23:00 AM:

Who do you consider the "hostile party", SJ? Your current FUD calling Ahmedinejad a "clown" does not disguise your consistent idolization of Iran and its acolytes (Hizbullah, Hamas etc.) and demonization of America and Israel.

As for "Godwin's Law", Mechanical Eye, it's not Godwin's Law when you're talking about people who actually deny the Holocaust. Yeah, Ahmedinejad is just a powerless figurehead, or so you and SJ keep telling us to try to whitewash this brutal, oppressive regime. And you even contadict yourself, after claiming that he doesn't represent the people of Iran, you say "[T]alking to them will reflect those differences ...". But we won't be talking to them, we (or Pelosi and Lantos, they don't speak for me) will be talking to Ahmedinejad, who will then use them to give more credibility to himself and his regime, at the expense of the Iranian people, just like he used the British hostages and Assad already used Pelosi and Lantos. Their trips are not causing any "dialogue", they are only serving to prop up slimeballs like Assad and Ahmedinejad.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Apr 11, 06:31:00 AM:

SJ and others,

I am not opposed to "talking with" hostile parties. Indeed, I am certainly not opposed to "talking with" Iran, and even the Bush administration has done so. That does not mean that we should "talk with" Ahmadinejad. Saying that we should do so simply shows every other extremist -- Pelosi's term "outside ... civilized human behavior" is apt, actually -- that there really is nothing they can say or do that will cost them the opportunity of treating with the United States. Obviously, I think it is an asinine point of view. Worse, even if one thinks it one should not say it. It is certainly not to our advantage if we declare, a priori, that there is nothing a foreign leader can do or say that will cost them a seat at our table.

By the way, a footnote on the politics of the matter for those partisans out there: Lantos' and Pelosi's statements were entirely unnecessary, and only reinforce the public's sneaking suspicion that the Democrats are weak on national security. An entirely unforced error, in my opinion.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Apr 11, 08:57:00 AM:

SJ - there is a very plausible reason why dialog with Iranian leadership -- and I define that regime-wide, not just A-jad (who was in effect appointed by Khamenei, the undisputed leader of the theocracy) -- has limits. Quite simply, they have demonstrated repeatedly they do not negotiate in good faith. Forget for a moment what we think of them (we have a full spectrum of views), consider what they think of us and what they articulate about us in the clearest terms. They describe us as the Great Satan, their enemy. And they assert the supriority of their Islamic culture to ours.

So dialog can be helpful in managing thru an immediate crisis (like the seizure of the 15 sailors) but is ultimately fruitless in achieving a longer term modus vivendi. They don't want one.

I would point to the fruitless effort we made with Arafat as a fine example of negotiating with somebody who never intended to achieve a modus vivendi with Israel. It was a temporary cease fire within a longterm objective f eliminating Israel (for Arafat).

So dialog with Iran, in my judgment, has its limits as long as it is led by a Khomeinist, theocratic regime. And if they insist on interfering with our strategic interests repeatedly, in time we will defeat and eliminate them. It will either happen bloodlessly (like the fall of the USSR), where their system simply implodes, or we will have to use force.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Apr 11, 11:21:00 AM:

I think everyone here is missing the key issue:

What kind of Latin education did TigerHawk get? "Loquitor???" Pshaw. Ahh, to be pedantic in a blog post - one of life's little pleasures.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Apr 11, 11:25:00 AM:

I believe that my readers understand that I suck at spelling. But if you Google "loquitor" it is indeed a common error.  

By Blogger C-Low, at Wed Apr 11, 12:11:00 PM:

Thats funny is it not todays Democratic party that is refusing to go to a debate with Foxnews is it not todays Democratic party that is refusing to go to Bush's meeting becuase of him saying he wont waiver?

I have often joked that if we no longer have the stomach to sacrifise and do what has to be done to defend ourselves that we should have the Dems begin working out our terms of surrender. When you are attacked you don't get to choose when the attacks stop you can either fight back or surrender. I guess the Dems are truley going to start working up our terms of surrender.

I think if I was Israel I would put a call into Pelosi and in no uncertian terms explain that they may throw them under the bus but they can garantee when they go they will take every Muslim population center from Morroco to Islamabad with them. It aint 39'.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Wed Apr 11, 03:10:00 PM:

I think we have to cut TH some slack on the Latin typos. So maybe he wasn't Salutatorian in his class at PU. He's probably too far removed from law school to have any strong recollection of all of that fancy sounding stuff, anyway.

The post raises the question of whether it is more important for U.S. politicians to be seen as willing to negotiate with Iran for purposes of domestic political consumption as compared to Iranian politicians being seen as hard line with the West, but selectively benevolent (releasing the 15 Brits) for purposes of their domestic political consumption.

As others have pointed out in other threads, there are always lower profile contacts going on between the two countries, so it kind of a moot point to say that we need to be talking. The question is at what level the talks should take place.

As to TH's "unforced error" point, Pelosi and Lantos have, I think, made a calculation that a narrow majority of the electorate, and their entire base, wants to see high profile discussions with hostile leaders, for better or worse. I doubt either the Clinton or Obama campaign had a problem with it. Lantos was there for a reason, as Pelosi states -- a Central European born Holocaust survivor willing to talk to a national leader who blithely talks about removing Israel from the face of the earth -- you don't get much better political cover than that. It's as if you had Native American activist Russell Means lobbying on behalf of the NFL Washington franchise to say to the public that the name is no big deal.

I agree with CP's point in another thread that the current Iranian regime looks like it could be one good right cross away from a TKO. If the EU had stood with the UK two weeks ago and imposed harsh economic sanctions over the 15 Brits, that might have done it. Perhaps the various Iranian ambassadors to the EU member nations were sending signals that it wasn't necessary to play hardball and that the prisoners would be released shortly.

There does not appear to be much will, if any, in the West to resist Iran's inexorable march to nuclear power and presumably a nuclear weapon. Bush has 21 months left to act, and, depending upon your view, he is either unbound (since he is CIC and won't run for office again) or very constrained by low approval ratings and a hostile Congress.

I happen to be of the view that a President Hillary Clinton will be a "Warrior Queen" in every part of the world except Iraq. She will satisfy her base by getting troops out of there. Assuming the military is no longer "broken" in 2009, I would expect in years after that to see U.S. forces in Darfur, reinforced in parts of former Yugoslavia, possibly Zimbabwe, possibly Sri Lanka, and any number of places where humanitarian disasters are taking place in a part of the world where U.S. strategic interests are not on the line. How would she react to a 10 kt test nuke in Iran in May 2009? How will Israel react? How will the people who are part of Hillary's base and who also are Jewish react?

My late mother, who was a Roman Catholic (and was, like Lantos, Hungarian) but had a Jewish step-father, had a favorite Jewish joke:

Two Israeli pilots were shot down over Egypt during the 1973 war and captured. They are informed by an Egyptian Colonel that they are to be executed the following morning in the desert.

The next morning, the pilots are handcuffed and blindfolds are about to be put in place, and the Colonel asks the first pilot if he has any last requests.

The first pilot says, "So would it be too much to ask to have a cigarette?"

The Colonel gives him a cigarette and lights it for him.

The execution squad of 6 privates is cocking their weapons.

The Colonel asks the second pilot if he has any last requests.

The second pilot says nothing and spits in the Egyptian Colonel's face.

The first pilot says to the second one, "Harry! Don't make trouble!"

Is anyone in the Democratic leadership that can be the second pilot?  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Wed Apr 11, 03:38:00 PM:

Comments to:

Rosen: "Your current FUD calling Ahmedinejad a "clown" does not disguise your consistent idolization of Iran and its acolytes"

Yes, I am actually undergoing religious training in Qom as we speak. Now, run along, the grown ups are talking.

TH: "Indeed, I am certainly not opposed to "talking with" Iran, and even the Bush administration has done so. That does not mean that we should "talk with" Ahmadinejad."

I fail to see how his gum flapping is any worse than the actions taken by the likes of Kim Jong Il, and yet we talk to him. I certainly would think that talking to Khameni would be far more productive, as he is the one in charge, but that does not preclude also talking to A-jad.

"By the way, a footnote on the politics of the matter for those partisans out there: Lantos' and Pelosi's statements were entirely unnecessary, and only reinforce the public's sneaking suspicion that the Democrats are weak on national security."

I disagree. Perhaps once upon a time that would have been absolutely correct, but things are changing. Increasing public recognition of GOP incompetence has given the Democrats a bit of leeway to try it their way. If you don't believe the polls, believe the midterm election results of last November.

Cardinalpark, "SJ - there is a very plausible reason why dialog with Iranian leadership -- and I define that regime-wide, not just A-jad (who was in effect appointed by Khamenei, the undisputed leader of the theocracy) -- has limits."

I see two points is the above statement that I would like to address. The first one, I agree with you on, dialog has limits. Indeed it does, but it is also low cost so there is very little downside in it. It is, however, not correct that A-jad was appointed by Khameni. There were seven candidates running for president in the 2005 Iranian election. It is certainly true that all were approved by the clerics, so none were too "radical". However, the seven candidates were very different from one another. A-jad's fire-breathing reactionry nature stands in sharp contrast to Khatami-style reformers such as Mostafa Moeen, who could have just as easily won the presidency if, alas, they had only gotten more votes. The presidency of Iran is not fully democratc, but neither is it a puppet position under Khameni's control.

The rumblings from Iran are that even the clerics find A-jad a little over the top and generally embarassing, but he gives a lot of right-wing Iranians what they want, namely cheesing us off. The best way to deal with such an individual is not to give him the reaction he seeks. I would liken it to the Barack Obama senate race against Alan Keyes. Every time Keyes said something outrageous, such as 9.11 being divine punishment for abortion, Obama would give a very understated response along the lines of [paraphrase], "I'm not sure that statement captures the sentiment of most people in this state." Keyes only looked more insane compared to the sober and sensible Obama. We should do the same to A-jad. The calmer we look, the more he fails to get a rise out of us, the more foolish he looks. Eventually, once he loses his folk hero status, and becomes purely an embarassment, he gets taken out from the inside. Problem solved.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Apr 11, 03:46:00 PM:

I agree, bringing Rep. Tom Lantos to Tehran would be priceless. It was good to see this 'Holocaust survivor' (code word for we all know who) in the halls of power in "the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in addition to Syria". He would look at least just as good in Iran, I'm sure.

Perhaps while in Tehran, Rep. Lantos can advocate other causes dear to him, for "he supports gay marriage rights and marijuana for medical use, is a strong proponent of gun control and is adamantly pro-choice."

Alas, it is (most likely) not to be. As the article states, "Lantos said that for more than a decade, he has been trying to obtain a visa to visit Tehran with the help of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan -- and to date neither he nor any other member of Congress has been successful." But we can always imagine...  

By Blogger Escort81, at Wed Apr 11, 05:13:00 PM:

SJ -

I am a bit confused. Are you saying that A-jad won a straight-up election fair and square, and that true reform candidates had a real shot at winning? Can you give me a good analogy in the West?

What does "not fully democratic" mean?

Are U.S. presidential elections fully democratic (taking into consideration the Electoral College, and the chance that a candidate can win the popular vote but lose the EC) in your view?

Was Truman a fully democratically elected president or was he a puppet under the control of party back-room bigwigs (essentially how he was chosen to be VP candidate under FDR in 1944 when the party had had enough of previous VP Henry Wallace)?

Finally, what is your sense of how secure the Iranian regime is right now?


By Blogger Shochu John, at Wed Apr 11, 07:08:00 PM:


How the Iranian system works is that all candidates for president must be approved by the Guardian Council, which is largely controlled by the supreme leader (currently Khameni). The Guardian Council strikes out a great many candidates for any reason they so choose. They leave in only those candidates that the clerics find sufficiently non-threatening. There is then a free election, followed by a runoff between the top two candidates.

As long as the candidate gets by the initial culling, they will be seated if duly elected. So, if a reformer had gotten more votes than A-jad, a reformer would be president. In fact, A-jad's election was a bit of an upset over the favorite, Rafsanjani.

As I see it, the Iranian regime as a form of government is stable in the short term but moribund in the long term. The best way to change it is slowly from the inside. It is already semi-democratic and somewhat responsive to the popular will. Reform stalled under Khatami, but it is not dead. The time of A-jad will pass and the push for reform will continue.  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Wed Apr 11, 08:10:00 PM:

I'm not any Mid East expert, just a lowly, newly minted public school teacher. But, I do try to follow current events. During Iran's last "presidential election", didn't a lot of reform-minded Iranians boycott the election because the only candidates that got past the mullahs were too hardline? Doesn't really give me warm fuzzies to think Amanutjob was elected as "the will of the Iranians people"...  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Wed Apr 11, 08:28:00 PM:

Miss L.,

You're absolutely correct. Part of the reason the reform movement stalled is that the mullahs were not letting them get a foothold. The Guardian Council will allow only a certain avenue to either side of them politically to be approved. This is not to say that A-jad does not have his base. He certainly does. You know the people here who think that Islam is evil? They have counterparts in Iran who think that Jews and Americans are evil.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Apr 11, 09:15:00 PM:

"You know the people here who think that Islam is evil? They have counterparts in Iran who think that Jews and Americans are evil."

wow, just wow

no moral equivalence here  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Wed Apr 11, 11:00:00 PM:

I for one, would be absolutely tickled pink to have Pelosi, Lantos and Murtha go visit Iran and attempt to negotiate with their president. They certainly are not attempting to negotiate with ours, and they might as well be doing something useful with their time. In addition, I would suggest that they spend sufficient time in Iran to really soak up the culture and leave no stone unturned, say 444 days perhaps?  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Wed Apr 11, 11:21:00 PM:


My point is this:

If not everyone is equally able to compete for votes (e.g.- anyone can decide "Hey, I want to run for President of Iran!" and be able to be placed on the ballot by meeting some reasonable requirements, such as number of signatures on a petition, paying the required filing fees), it is by definition NOT a "free election". Our system is far from perfect (to run for President, you now must raise MILLIONS of dollars in campaign contributions), but there is no government authority arbitarily deciding who is or is not worthy of throwing their hat into the ring. And there is certainly no equivilent in America of those in Iran "who think that Jews and Americans are evil". In Iran, those are the people who control the government. There are Americans who think Islam is evil, but they cannot decide for themselves what government will or will not do: they are just like any other group in America who can only attempt to influence those in power to their own point of view.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Apr 12, 03:23:00 AM:

"Now, run along, the grown ups are talking."

I expected no less from SJ, an ad hominem attack since he couldn't answer me. Explain once again, if you really think Ahmedinejad is a bad guy, how congressional delegations flocking to him do *not* boost his position and prestige.  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu Apr 12, 01:42:00 PM:

Miss L,
I never meant to imply than Iran held free elections of the sort we do. I was only attempting to explain that the main interference by the clergy in Iranian presidential elections occurs before the election in the initial culling of the candidates by the Guardian Council. Further, I do not deny that Iran is run by reactionaries. However, A-jad is not the one in charge and ought not to be considered to speak with the voice of those in charge, considering that his seat could just as easily be filled by a mild-mannered non-threating pseudo-reformist right now.

You should expect no less than an ad hominem attack when you initiate the conversation with one. Now, as I have no interest in what passes for discussion with you, feel free to cease your rhetorical humping of my leg.  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Thu Apr 12, 04:55:00 PM:

I'm willing to bet that if the mullahs were truly dissatisfied with Amanutjob's job performance, he'd be gone in a nanosecond. The fact that he's still there implies tacit approval for his conduct, regardless of when the next scheduled election is. He could very easily "have a heart attack" and be replaced with someone more to their liking. Iran is a theocratic police state.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Apr 13, 03:09:00 AM:

SJ, I didn't know you had such a vivid fantasy life! :^)  

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