Reality to Be Avoided at All Costs

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes — Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass — that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal —  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.