Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Where Is This Place That We Are Only Screaming To the World With Our Silence?" (Greg Djerejian)

Even so-called foreign-policy "realists" are sometimes startled and moved by actual realities. Here is a fine and eloquent outburst from Greg Djerejian (at Belgravia Dispatch. The heading of his post quotes a line spoken by an Iranian woman narrating a video clip from Iran.

June 20, 2009

This place is Iran, a country on the cusp of possibly an even larger-scale violent crackdown than as of this hour (writing Saturday mid-afternoon, New York time), another revolution, or some alternative denouement unknown to us at this hour. With the howling cries of ‘Allah-o-akbar’ in the background, in a YouTubed video reportedly made Friday evening in Iran (via The Lede) the subject line above is spoken by what sounds like a young female narrator (at the 1:35 mark). A hauntingly beautiful and arresting line--one which she breaks into tears uttering—seems to distill much of the spirit of the ‘silent’ protests of the Moussavi movement.

How can we not fail to be moved by her achingly sincere yearnings? How can our conscience not demand something be done? After all, aren’t these ardent cries of help aimed squarely at us here, meaning leading players in the international community? And then now this Saturday we are seeing the first flare-ups of more wide-spread and protracted anti-demonstrator crackdowns. Via Andrew, another heart-wrenching YouTube (if in far more direct, brutish vein) here:

Of course we are deeply repulsed and outraged at this senseless and cruel violence. [....] Make no mistake, if a Tiananmen style crackdown ensues, we must condemn it, and loudly. We must reappraise the timing and manner of going forward negotiations. Iran policy will need to be re-calibrated on multiple fronts. And I will be even less hopeful for any going forward diplomatic successes, with an increasingly sclerotic, repressive, insecure regime hanging on now well beyond its time. But we should not be, in a fit of ennobled but deeply misguided passion, engaging in actions like having President Obama directly contact Moussavi, or delivering a taped message to the Iranian people, and so on. For these actions will be turned on the backs of the people like the young woman massacred in cold blood today, and in short order. [....]

I will skip the rest, since it is not so much about Iran as about the ideological dogfights going on here in the US, in the punditocracy and the blogosphere, about how the US government and the rest of us should respond to that ongoing political drama in Iran. Those debates have generated some light, but more heat than light--that is, they have been excessively pervaded (in my view) by inter-sectarian point-scoring, score-settling, predictable sloganeering, ideological posturing, and reciprocal accusations of hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty. (Yes, some of those accusations have been justified, to some degree, on all sides.) So I have mostly tried to avoid all that, and to focus on serious and potentially illuminating analyses of what is going on in Iran.

With all respect to Greg Djerejian, I think (fairly or unfairly) that some of those critical remarks apply to at least some aspects of the non-quoted portion of his post (including the rather tiresome ritual "neocon"-bashing which is becoming too much of a reflex in some quarters). But not to all of them ... so anyone who is interested in considering the rest of his discussion can pursue it here.

--Jeff Weintraub