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20 July 2007 Blog Home : July 2007 : Permalink

Total Non Sequitur

Daniel Drezner points to this post in George Parker's New Yorker blog which explains to the readership that Iran is, contrary to what Newsweek wrote recently, not a terribly nice place. An extract:

Meanwhile, on July 9th, fifteen Iranian students and the mother of another were beaten and jailed after demonstrating in commemoration of an assault on student activists in 1999.

On July 10th, the leader of an independent trade union, who spent most of last year in prison, was abducted from a Tehran bus.

On July 11th, the Iranian judiciary banned a moderate news agency, just a few days after shutting down a newspaper that had resumed publication only two months earlier, following a seven-year ban.

In the spring, a hundred and fifty thousand Iranians were briefly detained for wearing clothes or hairstyles deemed un-Islamic. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Iranian news organizations have been instructed not to report negative news regarding social unrest, gas rationing in the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter, the nuclear program, or the impact of U.N. sanctions on Iran.” Recently, Iran has lifted a moratorium on stoning, and has ramped up the number of executions of adulterers, homosexuals, and minors.

He also has this plausible explanation of why Hirsh might have been happy to gloss over the nasty bits:

Why did a journalist as experienced as Michael Hirsh not notice? Because, justifiably arguing for dialogue and against fantasies of easy regime change, he wants to be able to say that things are not as bad as you think in Iran. The truth is, things are worse than you think for any Iranian who tries to exercise minimal political rights. Just as the neoconservatives concocted a simple case on Iraq and, now, Iran—claiming that the locals would welcome regime change from outside—people like Hirsh want to make a simple case, too. It’s a great temptation to say that, because X is true, Y, which seems to point in a different direction from X, must be false.

Yet after all this he then writes this:

We all want total vindication. But in politics there is no total vindication, on Iran or anything else. The regime there is brutal, and we should talk to it.

Huh? I'm not saying that there is no argument that we should talk to Iran. But a bald statement like "The regime there is brutal, and we should talk to it" isn't an argument.