Fareed Zakaria accuses conservatives (“the right”) of “madness” for believing that Iran seeks to overturn the international order. Zakaria considers this view insane because Iran has a small economy by western standards, spends far less on defense than the U.S. does, and hasn’t invaded another country since the late 18th century. He also claims that no evidence supports the view that Iran represents the kind of threat to world order that some conservatives claim it is.
But what’s lacking here is not evidence, but sufficient honesty on Zakaria’s part to engage it. Conservatives fear about Iran because it’s leader has articulated dangerous intentions including the destruction of Israel; because, as demonstrated by its actions in Iraq and the action of its proxies in Lebanon and elsewhere, it seeks to dominate a critical region of the world; and because it’s well down the road to developing nuclear weapons.
Under these circumstances, it doesn’t matter of great deal that Iran’s GDP isn’t huge and that our defense expenditures dwarf theirs. A nuclear Iran might well be able to destroy Israel and, aided its proxies, would be well-positioned to dominate the Middle East. Nor is there great comfort in the fact that Iran hasn’t attacked anyone in more than two centuries. The present leadership bears little resemblance to that of past regimes, the Shah’s for example. It is dominated by a radical ideology which, as articulated by Ayatollah Khomeni, makes Iran’s national interests subservient to the imperatives of a universalist brand of radical Islam.
None of this proves that conservatives are correct about Iran. It may be, for example, that the threatening statements of Ahmadinejad and of the clerics who founded the present state are mere bluster. Ignoring the words of one’s adversaries has rarely worked out well, either for this nation or others, but every case is different.
However, it’s clearly not madness to view Iran as conservatives like John Podhoretz, John Bolton and other serious analysts do. Only through the intellectually dishonest device of ignoring the other side’s arguments is Zakaria able to pretend otherwise.
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