Monday, June 22, 2009

Rot of western civilization?

Today's WSJ has a couple of thought-provoking pieces.  First from the opinion pages, the editors comment on how the reality of dealing with rogue regimes has not conformed to the much-vaunted "realist" theory of Obama's foreign policy approach, particularly dealing with rogue regimes such as North Korea, which has increased its nuclear sabre-rattling in recent months, and Iran, where the regime Obama planned to negotiate with is facing a massive internal crisis of legitimacy.  Key quotes: 

Regarding Iran, Mr. Obama will also have to rethink his hopes for a grand nuclear bargain with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This diplomatic desire explains the President's cautious refusal last week to take sides in the post-election standoff -- or, as a Washington Post headline put it, quoting Administration sources, "Obama Seeks Way to Acknowledge Protesters Without Alienating Ayatollah." It's impossible to imagine the Reagan Administration whispering something similar about Soviet dissidents and the Politburo.

Going forward, Mr. Obama will have to consider that any negotiations with the current government will lend it legitimacy at the expense of the Iranian people. That would be precisely the kind of "meddling" in Iran's politics that Mr. Obama says he wants to avoid. Opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi might not take any less a hard line on Iran's nuclear program than the current government, but he does now represent the aspirations of millions of Iranians. And there is even less chance that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei will bend on nukes now that nationalism and thuggish power are their main claims to legitimacy. 
It is endlessly fascinating to me that the "neo-realists" of the Obama left as well as the traditional Kissingerian realpolitik types manage to get themselves labeled as such, when so much of what they propose is based on a binary, Manichean world view that completely discounts for the fuzzyheaded forces that actually tend to drive history.  These "realists" are only able to see things in the most linear terms and are always surprised when people make the irrational (as they see it) choice to risk their own lives and comfort to stand up to tyranny.  

The second piece talks about how western corporations -- Siemens and Nokia to be exact -- helped the Iranian regime build their technological capabilities to curtail internet freedom and monitor those using the web.  Apparently the Iranian regime is able to control and monitor content more comprehensively than the Chinese.  I know these people are in business to make money and I am a committed capitalist, but come on!  This is so wrong.  Nokia actually justified it by saying they were helping provide people the ability to communicate.  Wow.
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