Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

Diavlog here, statements begin at about the 6:00 min mark.

Berman bio here (wikipedia).

I would ask those who have lost patience with liberalism to think about what it’d be like if the left offered more coherent, rational arguments before and during the Iraq war.  Of course, everyone’s hindsight is 20/20, but we might have had a better discussion; even one that could help with our most difficult problems going foward.

The idea is relatively simple: intellectuals (and Berman is a serious leftist) need to reorganize and perhaps:

1.  Accept the moral burdens the war has brought us.

2.  Develop a vigorous intellectual debate that has the depth and moral courage to provide an alternative to the current administration’s (and I would say thinkers like Fukuyama) advocacy of the war, military force, and agressive action.

3.  Use that debate as a platform to confront the totalitarian regime in Iran (for example)…thus not leaving only us with Bush-style axis-of-evil rhetoric and the unwise and unnecessary use of force as too easy an option.

It’d be a lot better than a lot of the debate we have going now.

More on Berman and how he fits into the Islamic debate in Europe here in World Affairs.

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4 thoughts on “Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

  1. Totalitarian? I think not. Iran is far more open than many US allied countries including Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt…

  2. Granted, though I imagine members of the Bahai faith, homosexuals, and those who speak out too freely against Iranian religious and legal restrictions have much to fear.

    Which is why Berman’s statement makes sense to me. We have battleships in the Gulf, troops fighting Shia militia men in Iraq, and where is the left?

    We need more rational, profound arguments for liberal democracy here in the U.S., so they can then engage with an Iranian political system very few Americans find inspiring.

  3. The debate is between folks like Obama who says we should talk to the Iranians. Meaning, diplomacy. And those who reject diplomacy. Like Berman, Bush and McCain. Who on the “left” with any voice that is heard defends or apologizes for the current Iranian government? Nobody. Zip. Nada.

  4. Good point.

    But diplomacy isn’t merely talking to Iran, it’s one tool idea among many for dealing with them, which includes military force. It’d be a little naive to think that’s all we need, but it’s worth considering.

    You raise a good point, does the left need to pursue and challenge this administration’s mistakes, or renew itself in some way. Is Berman too barking up the wrong tree?

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