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Monday, March 16, 2009

Roger Cohen's "pragmatic" Iran

Roger Cohen gifts us with his wisdom about the Middle East for the fourth consecutive week, in another op-ed to inform us of Iran's pragmatism and his insisting that the US match it:
From Egypt to Algeria to Afghanistan, Islamist movements are radicalized by dreams of establishing everlasting dominion; democracy is feared because it could prove to be their means to power. In Iran, by contrast, life is a daily exercise in compromises that temper Islam with the demands of modern life. Iran is emerging from extremist fervor as clerical absolutism and pluralism spar.

...Pragmatism is also one way of looking at Iran's nuclear program. A state facing a nuclear-armed Israel and Pakistan, American invasions in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, and noting that North Korea was not hit, might reasonably conclude that preserving the revolution requires nuclear resolve.
The blindness in these comments is mindboggling.

In one paragraph, he notes that most Islamist movements dream of world domination, but he claims Iran does not follow that model. Then, further down the page, he notes that indeed Iran is developing nuclear weapons and sees that as pragmatic as well.

Let's see. the Iranian revolution was the first successful modern Islamist takeover of an entire country; Iran is racing to join the nuclear club; they are now working furiously to increase the range of their ballistic missiles to threaten all of Europe and they now have a successful space program. Does this imply "pragmatism" or "an Islamist movement radicalized by dreams of establishing everlasting dominion?"

Cohen also defends his characterization of the Jewish community in Iran as proof that Iran is a tolerant society. Somehow, he doesn't seem to be aware of the Baha'is in Iran, who are facing persecution and whose faith has effectively become illegal under this pragmatic, modern regime:
A new embargo on freedom of expression has formally been announced. Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, has declared that the very expression of affiliation to the Bahá’í faith is illegal. This was communicated in a letter to the Minister of Intelligence, Ghulam-Husayn Ejeyee, who needs no encouragement to violate rights. Human Rights Watch named him one of Iran's 'Ministers of Murder' four years ago.

According to the Prosecutor General , everyone is free to have his own belief and faith. “However, no expression or declaration in order to disparage the thought of others, nor any attempt to teach them resulting in deception and agitation of minds is permitted.”

He goes on to determine that “the administration of the wayward Baha’i sect at all levels is illegal and forbidden … their danger to national security is documented and well-established.”

When you look at things from the perspective of a criminal, everything can be justified as "pragmatic." Most people don't do insane things in a vacuum; in their own worldview, things make sense. The problem is when their worldview is itself insane.

Roger Cohen, however, is very willing to accept the worldview of the Iranian mullahs as being just as valid as any Western viewpoint. This moral relativism can also only be described as insane - and one that Cohen is ill-equipped to notice himself, because, after all, this is his own worldview.