Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What In God's Name?!


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that when he delivered his speech at the UN General Assembly in September, he felt there was a light around him and that the attention of the world leaders in the audience was unblinkingly focused upon him. The claim has caused a stir in Iran, as a transcript and video recording of Ahmadinejad's comments have been published on the Iranian website,

"He said when you began with the words “in the name of God”, I saw that you became surrounded by a light until the end [of the speech]", Ahmadinejad appears to say in the video. "I felt it myself, too. I felt that all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there, and for 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink."

Via The New Yorker, Staying the Course

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.


nukh said...

either he [the irani premier] is not playing with a full deck or he is a mossad/cia agent..setting iran up for a major fall. i.e the destruction of their nuclear capabilities.....i hope.
or maybe he is on hallucinogens..
more importantly, noticed that you guys did not post for a couple of future, please give us some notice...makes it easier to go through withdrawals.
and, how about a joint live appearance...i vote for new york.

Primary Red said...

Sorry about posting slowdown -- did not fully appreciate the withdrawal issue!!

Best regards

libertarian said...

nukh, this dude is certainly not playing with a full deck. These inspired-by-God folks scare me. I'm not hopeful about taking down their program - big vested interests (Russians freed from US patronage by current oil prices, and helping Iran).

PR, if blogging's going to die, nukh is going to make sure it dies a painful death :-)

nukh said...

sorry for posting out of context.
thought you ladies and gentlemen might be interested in the op-ed below. it is quite an interesting and eloquently laid out argument.
published in todays wall street journal

'A Beacon on the Summit of the Mountain'
November 30, 2005; Page A18

Iraq is a mess, Afghanistan a disappointment, our allies loathe us, and the promise of a foreign
policy based on humility has turned into finger-wagging lectures about responsible discourse -- not to mention declarations about being either with us or against us. This (admittedly caricatured) view of the current American predicament has yielded up a yearning for what the managing editor of Foreign Affairs has called "the perennial hangover cure" for American foreign policy -- realism. No less a pillar of the establishment than Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the father, has deplored the foreign policy of the son, and in print, no less, and has done so on the basis of this doctrine.

The realists -- members of the policy and intellectual elite who approve and even envy the cool acumen of a Talleyrand, Metternich or Bismarck -- believe that in foreign policy what matters is the national interest coolly calculated, the relationships of power, and the incurable nastiness of the human condition. They agree with Charles de Gaulle that "states are cold beasts," and that international relations are about the hard, unsentimental doings of statesmen. Domestic politics, including massacre or mere repression, is no one else's business: Foreign policy is the purview not of do-gooding charities and international organizations, of crusading idealists or enthusiastic naïfs, but of prudent politicians, who understand that attempting to carry the values of American civil society beyond our shores can lead only to trouble.

You know that you are about to get a lecture on the merits of realism when someone reaches for a line by John Quincy Adams, that superbly successful diplomat and unhappy president. The United States, he said, "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own." But herein lies a misunderstanding.

The unrealistic quality of realism can be found in this oft-quoted dictum, which formed a tiny part of a July 4 speech that Adams delivered in 1820. Yet he also insisted in his peroration that the Declaration of Independence was "the first solemn declaration by a nation of the only legitimate foundation of civil government. It was the corner stone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe . . . It stands, and must for ever stand alone, a beacon on the summit of the mountain, to which all the inhabitants of the earth may turn their eyes for a genial and saving light till time shall be lost in eternity, and this globe itself dissolve, nor leave a wreck behind."

Not very Bismarckian, is it?

The realist air of weary wisdom is deceptive because it seeks to simplify our history and codify as doctrine what is, in fact, only part of a much more complicated truth. That truth is that American foreign policy partakes of both realism and idealism, and always has. Was Franklin Roosevelt an idealist when he cut deals with Stalin in order to maintain the coalition against Hitler? Or was he, on the other hand, a realist when he proclaimed the Four Freedoms? Was Ronald Reagan a realist when he called the Soviet Union an evil empire and challenged its leaders to tear down the Berlin Wall? Or was he an idealist when he made deals with Communist China and Islamic fundamentalists to contain and roll back Soviet power?

And is George W. Bush a realist when he proclaims the universal aspiration of men and women to rule themselves, including in the Middle East? Can we really call him an idealist when he refrains from criticizing too harshly the brutal means used by Russia to suppress the insurgency in Chechnya?

Realism is right in its description of much, though not all, of international politics -- of the logic of the quest for and fear of power; and of the dominance of states in the international system. But contemporary realists have wandered far from, say, a Thucydides, who described the contest between Athens and Sparta in terms of fear, honor and interest, but who also, in the Funeral Oration, gave us a glowing depiction of a free society that still inspires those who read it. They have wandered very far from more recent realists like Raymond Aron, who denounced fascism and communism not merely as threats to the national interests of France, but to the survival of free societies everywhere.

Above all, the realists have it wrong when they try to root in the United States a foreign policy of which a dissolute 18th-century aristocrat would approve. For at the heart of American identity is the belief that this country's founding and flourishing rest on universal values. Such was the message of Jefferson's insistence that "all men are created equal" in a document announcing what was, after all, only the severance of a relationship between colony and metropole. Such too was Lincoln's assertion that the Civil War tested not whether there would be one rather than two countries between Canada and Mexico, but rather, whether "any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long endure."

American foreign policy will, inevitably, steer a middle course, making unhappy compromises of its principles in the name of power realities, or taking paths that seem to contradict its interests, narrowly defined, in the name of broader goals. When examined closely, the careers of all of its presidents embody such uneasy inconsistencies -- the Wilson who fought for the League of Nations also sent the Marines to Vera Cruz (and not for benevolent reasons), and even his Fourteen Points for ending World War I embodied both idealistic aspirations and prudent concessions to reality (such as that which foreswore attempts to restructure the government of Germany, or that which merely called for negotiation between colonial peoples and their European rulers).

The upshot, of course, is that the United States will find itself accused of cynicism, inconsistency and moralistic fatuity. So be it. At our best, we are a country of unillusioned idealists, of the Lincolns and Roosevelts, in which true realism consists of understanding the dangers of hunting monsters -- but also the dangers, to ourselves and others, of failing to do so.

Mr. Cohen is Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.


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