Here’s something that won’t surprise you: Stephen Walt loved Roger Cohen’s most recent Times op-ed on Iran’s Jews, in which Cohen repeats his bizarre claim that Jewish life in Tehran ain’t half bad; or, at the very least, Iran isn’t Nazi Germany. (Now there’s a compelling argument for Iran’s tolerance: it’s not as bad as the least tolerant regime in world history and, unlike the Nazis, it has never burned down its parliament. Cohen almost makes Iran seem cuddly.)
Of course, how could Walt not love this column? After all, Cohen borrows from Walt’s own playbook in making his argument, simplistically noting that a good number of American Jews disagreed with his earlier column on the same topic — as if this, in and of itself, proves his rightness. Moreover, Cohen’s op-ed perfectly satisfies Walt’s conception of intellectual “nuance”: it says something that few have been willing to say, though this is mostly because it is either deeply conspiratorial or profoundly asinine. Indeed, how else can we read Cohen’s assertion that a banner reading “Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution from the Jewish community of Esfahan” represents Iranian Jews’ true feelings? (From having lived in Cairo, I can report that banners supporting non-democratic regimes — such as posters welcoming the dictator upon his visit to my neighborhood — don’t typically reflect authentic sentiments.)
But sloppy arguments rarely bother Stephen Walt. Actually, Walt thinks that the piece on Iran not being Nazi Germany is so brilliant that Cohen deserves a promotion:
Why doesn’t Cohen have a regular column on the Times op-ed page, especially now that William Kristol is gone? Cohen’s views are balanced, he writes well, and he is often willing to challenge prevailing orthodoxies, which is what a good columnist should do.
Just what we need: another regular Times columnist whose conception of “challenging orthodoxies” means printing blatant propaganda. My advice for Walt: read Gail Collins.