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Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Hell in the Islamic Republic": Roger Cohen Outsmarts Himself

In his latest affront to logic and reason, Roger Cohen creates two categories of straw men in "Hell in the Islamic Republic" (, "realists", who would "toss aside human rights concerns and repair relations with Tehran," and "idealists", who "have rained renewed fury on Ahmadinejad, called for his overthrow and urged Obama to bury outreach and back Moussavi." Needless to say, Cohen is wiser than both of his Frankensteins:

"If you believe that Iran is not eternally condemned to veer from a monarch’s to a theocrat’s repression, and that its centennial quest for pluralism is unquenchable, speak out about abuse but pursue engagement because isolation only serves the horror merchants. Shun the realist and idealist bravura for the gray area where things get done."

Yeah, I'm sure this tactic would have worked equally well some 70 years ago with Hitler.

Absent from Cohen's epistle is any acknowledgement that he is again contradicting himself, this time within the space of a week.

In his May 20, 2010 op-ed, "America Moves the Goalposts", Cohen claimed that "Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice" and that the Brazilian-Turkish Iran deal is worth pursuing. (Re censorship of my response to this op-ed by the Times, see:

In today's op-ed, Cohen suddenly realizes that Iran is selectively torturing, raping and murdering hundreds of political prisoners and now tells us that the Brazilian-Turkish Iran deal is only worthy of "skeptical consideration."

Is it not Cohen who is mercurially "moving the goalposts"? What happened to last week's declaration of American-Iranian commonality and concordance?

Michael Rubin labeled Cohen a "useful idiot" ( Today's op-ed leaves me in doubt concerning Cohen's utility.

[I recommend, if you have the time and patience, to read several of the online comments posted in response to Cohen's latest op-ed.

It never ceases to amaze me how persons can say "my country is no better" and "we mustn't point fingers," yet are able to sleep comfortably in the knowledge that they are not going to be dragged off in the middle of the night to the equivalent of an Evin prison.

At issue here is whether a country capable of systematically torturing political dissidents, murdering homosexuals, oppressing religious minorities such as the Baha'is in the most horrific fashion, and threatening its neighbors with extermination (how many people are even aware of the proxy war currently being waged between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen or Iranian claims on Bahrain), should be given a nuclear weapons capability.]


  1. Hi, Jeffrey!

    You had your liberal art education in the USA, as I understand. Did they teach you the "multiculturalism", the theory that no one culture is better than the other? I wonder, did you have a choice to disagree with this teaching?

    May be, those people who say that "our country is no better" is product of liberal art departments?

  2. Yes, Marina, for better or worse, I am the product of the Common Core Curriculum at the University of Chicago. However, I learned more about the merits of multiculturalism in Lebanon than in any classroom.

  3. Jeffrey,

    Does the statement "our country is no better" has something to do with multiculturalism?

  4. Marina,

    This is a painful subject for me. I have always believed, and will always believe, in American values, notwithstanding opposition to past (Vietnam) and present (Afghanistan) wars. In short, I will always be of the opinion that America is "better", albeit not perfect. America, however, is losing its ability to lead for a host of reasons, political and economic, and the immediate future is less than rosy. Meanwhile, in this corner of the world, Israel will soon be fighting, again, for its survival, which leaves little time for personal fancies.

  5. the statement "our country is no better" duels with the idea known as "American exceptionalism".

    as usual, what approaches the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    The Marshall Plan (1947-51) represented the time when America "stood as a beacon of generosity and moral leadership".

    America has certainly been in a transition from THAT reputation since at least 2001, if not since 1968.

  6. Judaism is at odds with "the grey area where things get done." In Genesis, each created thing has its day, neatly delineated and specific to itself. Light is different than water which is different from plant life which is different from animal life. When lines get blurred, you end up with some horrific mutant. The grey area is an obfuscation of the truth. The truth is diabolical in this case and nothing will make it grey and benign. Grey equals appeasement.