Long-Awaited New York Times Iran Editorial Is a Blank Check for Blood-Soaked Ayatollahs
After nearly two weeks of suspicious silence about the protests in Iran, The New York Times editorial board finally waddled in with its hot take the other day.
The Times editorial made the case for America to take essentially an isolationist, ostrich-like, head-in-the-sand policy toward Iran. Said the Times:
Iran’s future is for the Iranians to determine. The United States needs to be humble about what it doesn’t know and cautious about more direct involvement in the country’s politics. America has a troubled history with Iran, including overthrowing the country’s democratically elected leader in 1953. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Vietnam are haunting reminders of America’s failures at trying to orchestrate political and social change abroad.
There are plenty of problems with this Times view.
First, the claim that America overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953 is false, as I explained in an earlier piece for the Algemeiner citing Ray Takeyh’s 2017 article in The Weekly Standard.
Second, the recital of “wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Vietnam” as “haunting reminders of America’s failures at trying to orchestrate political and social change abroad” sounds like some kind of parody of a panel discussion between Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Even these four cherry-picked examples don’t prove the point that the Times thinks they do. In the case of Afghanistan, we left it mostly alone in the 1990s, and it turned into a base for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans. In the case of Syria, President Obama listened to his non-interventionist instincts, and instead other regional powers filled the vacuum, creating a bloodbath and a vast refugee crisis. Both were cases in which a problem was arguably a lack of American boldness, not a shortage of caution. In fact there are some victims of poison gas attacks and beheadings in Syria, or former residents of Aleppo, who almost certainly would wish America had been a little less cautious and humble there, and instead done some more to help them out.
Third, shorthanding American foreign policy history as “Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Vietnam,” ignores other examples, such as the Cold War and World War II, in which America intervened more successfully. In World War II, America successfully saved the world from the Nazis. In the Cold War, President Reagan and Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson and heroic labor leaders like Lane Kirkland, Albert Shanker, Irving Brown, and Jay Lovestone didn’t sit around fretting about how haunted they were by America’s failures. Instead, they defeated the evil Soviet Union, brought down the Berlin Wall, and allowed the Jews who had been trapped under the boot of Communism to escape to freedom in Israel and the United States.
Fourth, and finally, the Times’ suggested tactics toward Iran stand in stark and hypocritical contrast to the Times’ suggested policy toward Israel. In Israel’s case, rather than advising American caution and humility or insisting that Israel’s future is for Israelis to determine, the Times has been pressing the opposite approach, recommending heavy-handed American pressure. One Times editorial urged that America support a United Nations Security Council Resolution with “guidelines for a peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states.” Just days before the Times editorial urging “Iran’s future is for the Iranians to determine,” and calling for American humility and caution on Iran, the same Times editorial board issued an editorial pushing President Trump to “tell the Israeli right that it is going too far.” Likewise, the Times Iran editorial celebrates the nuclear deal that sends billions in sanctions relief to the brutal, terror-sponsoring regime in Tehran. But the same Times editorialists have called for cutting American military aid to the free, American-allied state of Israel.
From the editorials that express the Times’ official, institutional point of view, it’s a blatant double standard. It’s inconsistent. The Times wants America to let the terror-sponsoring Iranian dictatorship get away with whatever it wants. And it wants America to bully the democratically elected government of Israel. The Times wants the White House to give Ayatollah Khamenei a blank check and Prime Minister Netanyahu a short leash. For sure, different situations overseas may call for a different mix of American policies, ranging from restraint to boldness, and sometimes including public restraint combined with private boldness. But absent any good explanation from the Times of why the Iran and Israel situations supposedly call for such diametrically opposed American policies, readers are entitled to wonder what the justification is for the disparate treatment. Why does the Times think American meddling is justified in, of all possible places, the Jewish State of Israel, but not in the Islamic Republic of Iran?
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.