At some point on Sunday afternoon, I remarked to Dave how well vindicated opponents of the Iraq war can feel now that Iranians are protesting in the streets against their leadership. Obama’s use of soft-diplomacy, his invocation of internationalism, and a great level-headedness have already produced results.
After blundering into a war where we thought we could impose our way of life on a society not ready for it, you would think the answer became obvious over the weekend: it isn’t incumbent upon us, as Americans, to remove from office or leadership folks we don’t agree with; we do what we can from the sidelines (and perhaps, stealthily, from the inside) and hope that other countries come to the same conclusion we have about democracy.
And so, it comes as something of a shock (but then again, hardly) to see that Michael Goldfarb has read the same tea leaves as I, and come to a very, very different conclusion:
Is it possible that the Iraqi election experience had something to do with Iranian expectations of an election? If critics of the war can for just a moment move beyond their own deeply held opinions about the invasion of Iraq — that this was a war of choice fought on false premises to lower gas prices or whatever — and examine the effect of that war on the region as a whole, they might see a connection to the current turmoil in Iran. After all, one of the intellectual arguments in favor of overthrowing Saddam Hussein was, in the words of Dick Cheney, to place “a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a nation that will be a positive force in influencing the world around it in the future.”
But any honest assessment of events in Iran would also have to consider the effect of having a functioning democracy right next door — a democracy that millions of Iranians have seen for themselves as they make religious pilgrimages and conduct business in Iraq. Iran has had a tremendous influence on Iraq these last few years, usually to the detriment of peace and security there. Perhaps the current protests in Iran are evidence that influence doesn’t just cross the border in one direction.
The bold is from Yglesias, though I would have preferred to remove it. Formatting issues.
Look, no one can estimate the road by which history happens. One thing leads to another, events build upon themselves, etc. Who is anyone to suppose what would be happening in Iran today if the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003? (Although I am tempted to say that any honest assessment of events in the United States would also have to consider the effect of having been led for eight years by a voracious pack of war-mongering neoconservative idiots for Americans to elect Barack Obama president in 2008, so perhaps sometimes we do know how one thing leads to another.) It’s far less-tricky to look at the situation as one that really has nothing to do with us, as has been pointed out by people with a lot more knowledge of foreign affairs and Iran than I have.
The last thing anyone needs at this point is for the United States to be that annoying mother who dallies in all of her childrens’ affairs; she’s already stuck her nose in where it doesn’t belong and been shown that her dallying had some terrible consequences. It’s time for Goldfarb and others to stop twisting reality to their bizarre view of politics and international relations. Thank goodness they don’t have much say anymore.