Commentary Magazine


Overstating the Rift on the Right

Methinks that the normally astute Ben Smith of Politico is trying a little too hard to parse supposed disagreement on the right concerning Iran. He writes:

The Iranian election has produced a deep division on the American right, clarifying a rift between those forcefully backing the opposition and those who view the election as a sham and its outcome as an irrelevance in a irremediable conflict between the U.S. and Iran.

The split has elements of the old neoconservative/realist divide, but it doesn’t break down that simply. Congressional Iran hawks like Joe Lieberman, Eric Cantor, John McCain, and Mike Pence are arguing for, if anything, more vocal American support for the Mousavi-led opposition. Pat Buchanan is with Obama. Michael Ledeen is out-and-out hopemongering. Instapundit turned his website green.

The group United Against Nuclear Iran — which also has neocon credentials — by contrast, sees the election as just a symptom of the country’s deeper problems, and is taking the opportunity to make that public point. Max Boot is in that camp. John Bolton dismisses the election, and its “‘moderates,’” as a “sham,” and Dan Pipes was “rooting for Ahmadinejad.”

Rather than a split, this is an example of different analysts offering slightly different shades of analysis. I very much doubt that anyone on this list — other than possibly Pat Buchanan, who isn’t a conservative at all in the American sense (more like a populist reactionary a la William Jennings Bryan or Father Coughlin) — is against “forcefully backing the opposition.” I certainly am not. I think we should do a lot more to help the opposition and that Obama should speak out forcefully on its behalf. But I am against holding up Mousavi as a “reformer” or a “moderate,” because I don’t think he is. (Eric Trager makes the point well.)

Despite my doubts about Mousavi, I very much admire the people of Iran and hope that they will succeed — not in changing the face of the theocratic dictatorship but in overthrowing the dictatorship altogether. Unfortunately I think that’s unlikely, so my second-best choice is that at least they will succeed in undermining and discrediting the system, especially among Western lefties who thought, for reasons escaping me, that Iran was a “democracy.” As I’ve noted before, watching the back-flips among Iran’s apologists, has been grimly satisfying.