Natan Sharansky has an oped today in the Washington Post (exactly where you’d expect it). And reading it, crazy as this must sound, it’s clear that Sharansky needs something of a refresher course in what actually happened during the Cold War. The premise of his argument is that in its dealings with Iran America has lost the moral clarity and confidence that it had during the Cold War – and apparently more or less consistently until President Obama came into office.
To hear his telling of it, the entire Cold War was one long series of Soviet stands and humiliations as the United States stuck to its guns, dictated Soviet actions and generally force them to cave or isolate themselves over issues such as human rights. This is doubly funny since this would certainly come as news to the first generation of US neoconservatives, who Sharansky has broadly associated himself with, who definitely did not think this is what the US was doing through the 1970s when they were sounding the alarm over the coming American defeat in the Cold War. Neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz, as late as 1980, announced that it might be too late to prevent the “finlandization of America, the political and economic subordination of the United States to superior Soviet power.”
As some of you are likely saying, Sharansky knows a thing or two about the Soviets and the Cold War. And certainly he does. But he may need to bone up on the actual history. In case, the oped indirectly highlights a key point. Iran is not the Soviet Union. It’s not even Russia today, in its more denuded but increasingly aggressive incarnation. It may be too Israel and Saudi Arabia, though I think even that is questionable. But it’s not to the United States. Iran is a small country with a second or third rate military that has pretensions to be a regional power. The US is the dominant regional power in every corner of the globe. The US could invade and occupy or destroy Iran from the sky if it decided to. And the US has many other concerns besides Iran.
We have a deep, critical interest in preventing Iran from producing or obtaining nuclear weapons, which we appear on our way to doing. But Iran is not the Soviet Union.
And whenever you hear someone talking about moral clarity and moral confidence in regards to foreign policy, it’s almost never, ever going to be good.