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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: March 2013

This past Friday, I attended the Oliver Stone-Peter Kuznick roadshow at its Washington, D.C., venue — the national conference of the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association, held in the grand ballroom of the Washington Marriott-Wardman Park Hotel. (It was once an apartment complex, in which Henry A. Wallace lived when he was vice president during FDR’s presidency. Kuznick evidently was not aware of this; he might have dedicated the venue as a shrine.)

Their presentation, offered to a clearly leftist and liberal audience that greeted them as conquering heroes waging a battle against the supposedly right-wing establishment, was important for one major reason. It offered us insight into the mindset held by leftists such as the two presenters, and into how they depict themselves in order to gain an audience’s sympathy — how they make them believe their message is the sole truth.

Before it started, I, Roger Aronoff of Accuracy In Media, and historian Richard Raack stood outside the door handing out announcements of our own counter-session to be held the next morning, at which we intended to — and did — offer a rebuke to the Stone-Kuznick book and TV series. Attached to the announcement was my own Weekly Standard article that offered a critique of the first episodes of the Showtime program.

I haven’t leafleted anything as an act of protest in many a year, and believe me, it felt good. I only hope that many who took the leaflets actually took the time to read my article.

Following is what both Stone and Kuznick had to say, and my comments about what I learned from listening to them.

Kuznick, who did most of the talking, announced that they showed the episode about the origins of the Cold War. This is the one which ended with Henry A. Wallace: Kuznick pointed out once again that had Wallace been president instead of Harry S. Truman, the United States would have avoided the Cold War, turned to the left domestically, and had generations of peace with Stalin’s Soviet Union. Kuznick made this argument despite it having been answered in detail not only by me in various publications including PJM, but by Sean Wilentz in the New York Times Review of Books.

Kuznick simply ignored all of the detailed critiques of their argument, as if they had never been made, as if he and Stone had nothing to respond to.

Knowing full well that their audience probably had not read the critiques and had no knowledge of whether anyone had answered them, Kuznick was able to claim in his best voice that he alone dared to tell this truth about Wallace which no one else had ever dared to say.

He placed great emphasis on the phony story of how the Democratic convention of 1948 almost nominated Wallace but was stopped by party bosses — by the way, a story torn apart by Wilentz — and of how Wallace stood for peace while no one else did.

Kuznick ignored as well the evidence of Wallace’s covert meeting with the NKVD station chief in Washington, D.C., while he was still in the president’s cabinet.

Nothing was offered that would contradict the narrative both were sticking with — facts be damned.  Both Stone and Kuznick understand that gullible audiences who know nothing will think they are telling the truth.

Next, they used a second ploy: playing the victim.

This time it was Oliver Stone’s turn to talk. Stone actually expected the audience to believe that they were two truth-tellers who had no podium with which to make their case. The media was controlled by the right wing, he said, and they had to battle against a media that essentially blacklisted them and in which they never could have a voice.

Did Stone really believe this? Especially if, as we will see, the evidence he bragged about literally denigrated his own argument?

He failed to mention that both he and Kuznick have been on scores of major TV and radio talk shows to hype their project. Indeed, they have been universally received as brave soldiers for the truth — even on conservative programs like Mike Huckabee’s radio show.

Not only has the media not avoided them, its bookers have bombarded them with endless opportunities to peddle the Showtime series and their book.

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Why is Kim-Jong Un, the new boy emperor of the “hermit kingdom,” choosing this time to rattle the sabers?

NBC News reports this morning:

North Korea put its rocket units on standby Friday to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after repeated threats and one day after two American stealth bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula in a military exercise.

What is different about Kim’s threat this time: an unnamed American official “warned that the isolated communist state is ‘not a paper tiger’ and its reaction should not be dismissed as ‘pure bluster.’”

As we all know, North Korea stands alone as a pure model totalitarian state — the remaining Communist country most resembling the Soviet Union of the ‘20s and ‘30s when Joseph Stalin attempted to erase any existing independent civil society, or Mao’s China in the age of the Cultural Revolution when that nation literally went mad in a domestic orgy of violence and destruction in the name of building revolution and smashing any semblance of “bourgeois” behavior.

“The time has come,” little Kim is quoted as saying, “to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation.” Of course, the only such situation is that created by either Kim or the North Korean generals who are testing his mettle, perhaps because they wish to control the nation themselves and are forcing him to a test which, if he does not pass, could possibly lead to a military coup. “Bonapartism,” the Bolsheviks called it in the early days of the Soviet Union — they feared if order was not restored after taking power and a civil war was underway, the military could quickly move to run the USSR on its own.

The U.S. official went on to say that although the world knows Kim is inexperienced, they do not know whether or not he has any real wisdom. Indeed, just last week a North Korean soldier at the 38th parallel separating South from North Korea threw a hand grenade at one of the soldiers patrolling the South’s side of the line of demarcation. Such a provocative act could not have been taken independently. In addition, Kim-Jong Un also threatened the South with a nuclear attack.

The government-controlled media also published an article presenting the populace with an ideological justification for the threats. “The opportunity for peacefully settling the DPRK-U.S. relations,” the paper’s propagandist Minju Joson wrote, “is no longer available as the U.S. opted for staking its fate. Consequently, there remains only the settlement of accounts by a physical means.” Ms. Joson continued:

A battle to be fought by the DPRK against the U.S. will become a war for national liberation to defend the sovereignty and dignity of the country and, at the same time, a revolutionary war to defend the human cause of independence and the justice of the international community.

The words emulate the kind of clarion call familiar to observers of revolutionary movements in their earliest phase, as they tried to rally the population and  army to pull together to save the Revolution from foreign threats. Immediately, Kim gave the order for a mass rally of tens of thousands to be held in the main square of Pyongyang a few days ago. The assembled masses yelled in union: “Rip the Puppet Masters to Death!” As the regime put its rocket launchers on standby — with missiles easily able to hit South Korea as well as other nearby nations — the United States responded with a show of force, sending two nuclear-capable stealth bombers to the region.

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I, along with other supporters of Israel, have for the past few years rightfully been critical of President Obama and his position on the Middle East, beginning with his disastrous Cairo speech and his misguided decision to combine a wooing of the Arab world with a decision to put U.S. pressure first and foremost on Israel. Particularly, Obama chose to make settlements the most important issue regarding the peace process.

The major change during his two days in Israel was a decisive shift in approach, which many of his ardent supporters have been loath to acknowledge. This shift was succinctly pointed out by veteran foreign affairs analyst Leslie Gelb:

In Israel, Obama went further than ever in trying to placate Bibi’s position. The president said that the issue of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, the hottest button for Palestinians, should not be dealt with in advance of negotiations, as the Palestinians demand, but should be placed on the table only after the negotiating groundwork has been set. Indeed, almost everything Obama has said on this trip backpedals on his earlier priority of freezing those settlements. This is a body blow to Abbas and his supporters that can be assuaged only by a real Washington push for negotiations, one that involves U.S. positions disliked by Bibi and bound to cause moaning among many Israelis.

If one puts this truth first, Obama’s speech the next day to leftist students may be seen as the other side of the coin. Roger L. Simon is not alone in responding favorably to Obama’s words. It was, as David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel perceptively points out, a “left-wing Zionist speech,” perhaps the most cogent statement of such a viewpoint that the Israeli public has heard since the old days of Habonim and Hashomer Hatzair, the two most important Zionist left-wing youth groups of the ’50s, ’6os, and Israel’s early period of labor Zionism.

Obama may indeed have stirred the hearts of the hand-picked leftist students who were present at the event, but garnering their wild applause is one thing; the hard reality of trying to make peace with the Palestinians, led by Abbas — not to speak of Hamas — is another. As Horovitz says, the problem is that Obama’s utopian vision “is hardly consensual”:

This speech was the “reset” of Obama’s personal relationship with Israel. It was the speech in which he showed his knowledge of Israel, quoting its religious texts and its political visionaries, recalling the suffering of exile, the yearning for the homeland. It was the speech in which he acknowledged the extent of the hostility tiny Israel has faced and continues to face in this region, the relentless series of wars it has been forced to fight for its survival.

He knew, he told the listening Israelis, that you live in a region in which many have rejected your very right to exist. He knew, he said, that the security of the Jewish people in Israel cannot be taken for granted. He knew Israel had seized opportunities for peace with Egypt and Jordan under Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, and tried hard to make peace with the Palestinians, including under Ehud Olmert at Annapolis. He knew that the 2000 Lebanon pullout and the 2005 Gaza withdrawal had been met with rocket fire, and that “the hand of friendship” had too often been met with rejectionism and terror.

Having set this up to woo Israelis, the president then moved on to tell them to keep working for the Palestinian state that would be in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, and which he argued the Palestinians deserved as a matter of justice.

And that is the rub.

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The presence this week in the United States of dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, the most well-known of Cuba’s brave dissident community, has again brought to the forefront the reality of the situation facing the Cuban people in the Castro brothers’ prison state.

Last week, Sanchez spoke at both Columbia University and New York University, where she recalled how different things were a decade ago during what Cubans refer to as the “Black Spring,” when independent journalists were given a summary trial and large jail sentences. It was the arrest of these opponents of the regime that led to the Ladies in White, the wives and mothers of prisoners who regularly marched in silence in front of government buildings each week.

Ten years ago, Sanchez pointed out, there was no access to the internet for anyone in Cuba, it barely existed, and there were no flash drives to record information and no social networking sites to spread the word about the state’s repression. Now, bloggers like Sanchez — who gains access to tourist hotels, posing as a Westerner so she can use their internet facilities — have managed to get past the regime’s ban on use of the internet and to freely reveal to the world the reality of life in Cuba.

“Many independent journalists and peaceful activists who began their work precariously have now resorted to blogs, for example, as a format to circulate information about programs and initiatives to collect signatures,” Sánchez said. She and others have done just that, getting signatures on petitions to demand the release in particular of one well-known Cuban journalist. In addition, Sanchez is circulating a petition known as “the Citizens’ Demand” to pressure the Cuban regime to ratify the UN political rights agreements signed in 2008. The signers are calling for a legal and political framework for a full debate of all ideas relevant to the internal crisis facing the Cuban people on the island.

In effect, this demand for democracy is nothing less than a call for creation of a political democracy that would, if implemented, lead to the collapse of the edifice of the Communist one-party state.

As Sanchez put it: “It is important to have initiatives for transforming the law and demand concrete public spaces within the country.” Since a totalitarian state does not allow for such space and prohibits a real civil society from emerging, the actions of the dissidents are a mechanism for forcing such change from below. They are fighting what her fellow blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo called a “culture of fear over the civil society” that the secret police seek to enforce.

For liberals and leftists in the United States, the main demand they always raise is to “lift the embargo.” According to the argument they regularly make, the embargo has to be lifted for the following reasons: 1) it is not effective; 2) it gives the regime the excuse to argue to the Cuban people that the poverty they suffer is the result of not being able to trade with the United States and other nations honoring the embargo; 3) lifting the embargo would hence deprive Fidel and Raul Castro from their main propaganda argument, revealing that the reasons for a collapsed economy are the regime’s own policies; and 4) trade and travel from the United States would expose Cubans to Americans and others who live in freedom, help curb anti-Americanism, and eventually lead to slow reform of the system.

What these liberals and leftists leave out is that this demand — lifting the embargo — is also the number one desire of the Cuban Communists.

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Today in Washington, D.C., major donors to the Obama campaign are meeting with the president at a $50,000 per person fundraiser on behalf of the ongoing campaign’s new so-called “grassroots” organization, Organizing for Action. It is officially explained as follows:

A nonprofit organization established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012. OFA will advocate for these policies throughout the country and will mobilize citizens of all parties and diverse points to speak out for speedy passage and effective implementation of this program, including gun control, sensible environmental policies to address climate change and immigration reform. In addition, OFA will encourage the formation of chapters that will be dedicated at the grassroots level to this program, but also committed to identifying and working progressive change on a range of issues at the state and local level.

The official statement is as non-threatening as possible, hiding what is particularly unique and different about this group. Those visiting its website will not be made aware that no American president has ever put together a group such as this.

In essence, it is the campaign organization continuing on after the last election, now focused on promoting outside pressure towards a left turn by the nation.

The liberal Huffington Post terms it “a pro-Obama group positioned as progressive answer to Karl Rove,” but that is not entirely accurate. Rove’s operation is a top-down, donor-driven group that, for example, has recently taken out ads against actress Ashley Judd to harm her chances to get the Democratic nomination should she decide to run against Mitch McConnell in the next Kentucky Senate race.

The OFA, on the other hand, is much more than a group hoping to influence the choice of a candidate in a race and to be a source of funding for ads and a campaign. It is a group more akin to the Alinskyite community organizing force with which young Obama cut his teeth, an organization meant to mobilize the Left to pressure for things like “taxing the rich” via organizing and actions such as those the now-defunct ACORN used to engage in.

That is why it purports to be non-partisan. It wants outside pressure to push the Democratic Party — whose candidates it inevitably will support — to back the most left-wing programs put forth. As the article by Samuel Jacobs at Huffington Post makes clear, that means “attacking the influence of special interest money in politics.” Of course, this excludes special interests like big pharma, with whom Obama has cut a deal in exchange for getting their support of Obamacare.

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When the New Left Shilled for North Korea

March 7th, 2013 - 9:17 am

The DPRK is beautiful, Clean, honest, free, and totally revolutionary. It is a new civilization called Socialism. … A new potent force is beginning to emerge in the Third World — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under the leadership of Comrade Kim Il-Sung [who is] refocusing the perspective of the Revolutionary Peoples of the Whole World who are not already liberated, powerful and secure. This is a historic development and the revolutionary peoples … must take heed of it.
 

– Eldridge Cleaver diary entry, 1970.

———————

When North Korea was still being led by its original founder, Kim Il-Sung, the visitors from the United States to the horrendous Communist regime were not the likes of Dennis Rodman. Today, the founder’s grandson, Kim Jong-Un,  has inherited the mantle of leadership, thereby carrying on the dynasty that rules in the name of Marxism-Leninism, as modified by the founder’s philosophy of juche, or self-reliance, autonomy, and independence.

How far the North Korean Communists have fallen. Back in the day of the old fellow-travelers’ tours to the various communist paradises, the regimes had their praises sung by the likes of the African-American baritone Paul Robeson, who regularly went to the USSR and told the world how great Comrade Stalin was and how the Soviet Union had the only real democracy on Earth. At least Robeson was an All-American football quarterback and the most well-known black American actor and singer in the 1930s and 40s. He also received a law degree at Columbia University. That a man so intelligent could function as a dupe for Stalin was far more worrisome than seeing Rodman do the same today. No one would call Rodman intelligent. He is both a useful idiot as well as a real one; Robeson only filled the first category.

Bruce Bawer hits it squarely on the head when he notes that Rodman gives an impression of “utter foolishness and ignorance,” so much so that Bawer wonders if he ever has read any book at all. Bawer also points out that the attention given his view of North Korea is an indication of how the modern cult of celebrity “has taken root even in the presidential palace in Pyongyang.” And how many of our fellow countrymen might be influenced by the hosannas to both the late Hugo Chavez and the soon to be late Fidel Castro by showbiz stars like Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Tim Robbins, Harry Belafonte, and of course, Oliver Stone. The list goes on.

So let us turn to the reign of the founder of the hermit kingdom, Kim Il-Sung, who one thinks would never have welcomed Dennis Rodman to his lair. That Rodman is welcome there today is the result of Kim wanting a good education for his children and grandchildren, with the result that the current ruler learned to love basketball and Rodman while a student in one of the most elite schools in Switzerland. When a Red ruler sends his kids for a good education out of the homeland, one never knows what might be the result.

We now know, thanks to the enterprising scholarship of a young M.A. student at The College at Brockport, Benjamin R. Young, about the hitherto unknown ties of the American New Left with Kim Il-Sung’s North Korea, which it seems these major New Left activists hoped to have replace both the Soviet Union and Communist China as the model for socialism in their own day and age.

Now, Young’s findings and documents are online for all to see at the website of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and its division, the Cold War International History Project.

Young writes:

From the autumn of 1969 to the winter of 1971, the Panthers identified Kim Il Sung’s Juche Idea, rather than the teachings of Mao Zedong, as the most effective application of Marxism-Leninism. The Panthers utilized the slipperiness of Juche as a way to evade the Chinese and Soviet lines of Marxism-Leninism — much in the same way, some argue, the North Koreans used Juche.

So infatuated was Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther Party’s minister of information, that he sent his wife Kathleen to North Korea when she was pregnant so that she could receive “the proper rest and medical care necessary at the time.” She gave birth to their daughter on July 31, 1970, in Pyongyang, which fortunately means that she can never be president of the United States. They named the baby Juju Younghi, to make her name sound Korean. Later, Cleaver claimed that in North Korea she got “the most excellent and thorough medical attention in my life,” as well as “the most pleasant and comfortable living conditions for myself and my family.”

And you thought Cuba was the favorite place for health care among New Leftists — I anxiously await a Michael Moore film about how wonderful North Korea is.

The delusionary view of North Korea was also stated by Panther leader Elaine Brown, who wrote that North Korean farmers “live at a much higher standard than the average person in the United States who would be involved in farming work, or even a worker.” The average North Korean had good health care, medical facilities, a housing and clothing allotment, and free education through college.

As for South Korea, the Panthers called it an oppressive puppet regime of the United States, led by a “running dog of U.S. imperialism” in a country in which the people lived in poverty and near starvation. “In North Korea,” she wrote, “ … the people are getting everything they need, while … in the South, people who speak the same language are starving.”

I was not unaware of the fascination of the New Left with North Korea. Those of you who have read my memoir, Commies, A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, might recall a few pages on the left-wing journalist Robert Scheer, who now edits his own webzine (Truthdig.com).

In the summer of 1970 on a trip to San Francisco, I went to see Scheer, who was then living in the Red Family Commune and working at its kindergarten: the Blue Fairyland. During the visit, I taped Scheer for a weekly radio program that my friend Louis Menashe and I had on New York’s WBAI, the flagship station of the leftist and counter-culture Pacifica radio network. I wanted to talk to him about the state of the Left, the nature of the radical movement, and his work in journalism.

All Scheer agreed to talk about, however, was his recent visit to North Korea, and his view of its leader, Kim-Il Sung.

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The opening foreign policy session of AIPAC featured the three major foreign-policy analysts working on the Middle East crisis: Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. and well-known historian Michael Oren, followed by the former Obama advisor Dennis Ross, and then Bush administration Middle East advisor Elliott Abrams (who is now at the Council on Foreign Relations).

What is most notable about their three presentations, in our estimate, is their essential agreement on where our country stands, and what must be done in the future. That Ross comes from advising a Democrat president and Abrams a Republican one makes little difference when it comes to what they say needs to be accomplished.

In Ambassador Oren’s Q and A with moderator Frank Sesno, he made the following points. The forthcoming trip by President Obama, he said, is important because it will be a message to the world that the United States stands behind Israel. As ambassador, of course, Oren is first and foremost a diplomat—who represents his government. That means he has to be circumspect. He is not expressing his personal opinion, but framing what in effect is a message from the prime minister he serves. 

Hence Oren stressed that when Netanyahu put Likud on record as favoring a two-state solution of a Palestinian state standing in peace next to Israel, it was a game changer, proving that Israel is taking steps to peace. Now, he said, the Palestinians have to show that they too will take the very same steps 

On the issue of Syria, Oren said that “Israel will not remain silent.” Assad must be forced to leave.  Calling Assad “reckless and unpredictable,” Oren stressed that his departure will also be a major blow to Iran, which is arming his forces.

Turning to Iran, Oren said the Iranian regime must be told it will not be permitted to go nuclear, and  that all options must be on the table. Iran, he stressed, has engaged in diplomacy that has not worked, and is moving ahead to full attainment of a nuclear arsenal. The question, then, is when will it be too late to prevent them, and the issue is the price of inaction.

Concluding his remarks, Ambassador Oren stressed the importance of maintaining U.S. administrative and congressional support for the state of Israel. Given what he called the “Jihadist view of the world” held by the mullahs of Iran, Oren presented in effect a skepticism about the possibility of getting Iran to negotiate seriously. As to his own state and the Palestinian issue, Oren argued that Hamas cannot be negotiated with unless it recognizes Israel, and that Abbas of the PA must be told that he cannot put into place a reconciliation with Hamas, which would permanently make a peace process forever impossible. That, he said, would be a “game changer.” 

Next came a dialogue between Elliott Abrams and Dennis Ross. What is most interesting is the essential similar analysis each presented. Abrams began by saying that the president’s forthcoming trip was a good sign, and meant he faced a challenge telling the Israeli public that he understands them and the challenges they face. Ross added that it could be a new beginning for both Obama and PM Netanyahu, presenting a chance to establish a new connection for the president with the Israeli people.

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There is an influx of new “useful idiots” these days — the term attributed to Lenin which refers to all the Western dupes who buy the lies of the Communists and who do their bidding without realizing it. But this time, since the Soviet Union no longer exists and a love affair with Communist Cuba has become somewhat passé, the shift in support of repressive regimes has turned to none other than that of the mullahs’ Iran.

This was made clear in a recent issue of The Nation, which featured an article by our country’s two most notorious apologists for the brutal Iranian regime: Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. Titled “The Real Challenge from Iran,” the mullahs’ new American spokespeople argue that most people are spreading myths about Iran, calling the regime “irrational, illegitimate and vulnerable.” Rather than being “despised by its own people,” they argue, the current regime is based on “participatory politics,” “elections with the principles and institutions of Islamic governance, and a commitment to foreign policy independence.”

It is, they conclude, “what a majority of Iranians living inside the country want.”

Reading this, I get a feeling of déjà vu, since it reminds me of the scores of articles the magazine used to run from the 1930s through the 1960s about how wonderful and progressive Stalin’s Soviet Union was. The fellow travelers of the Old Left always argued that the people supported the Soviet regime; that all the stories of executions, a vast secret police, repression, and a huge prison system were lies spread by the right-wing press and by anti-Communist émigrés. If some of their claims turned out to be true, it was the fault of the West and the United States, who forced them to turn to repression to protect the revolution always under fire from the oppressors of the capitalist nations.

It is therefore not surprising that The Nation would stay true to its roots, as if nothing had been learned since those long ago days of the Cold War. In their article, the Leveretts claim that the Green movement had no internal support, that the government itself closed bad prisons where inmates were treated harshly, that most of those arrested during anti-government rallies were released, and that polls reveal the Iranian people view their government’s opposition to the Greens “as legitimate.”

Therefore, they argue, policymakers should accept the regime, end the sanctions against it that only hurt the innocent Iranian people, not oppose Iran developing an atomic weapon, stop the war against Assad and Syria, and understand that Tehran needs the Arab governments only to be “less pro-American, less pro-Israel, and more independent.”

Also, the U.S. has to accept the reality that the Iranian Islamic Republic will not be transformed “into a secular liberal state.”

Written under the guise of policy advice for the U.S. government, what the Leveretts have really written is an apologia for tyranny, in which they repeat every lie of the regime regarding how it has continually negotiated in good faith with Western powers to reach a solution on the nuclear issue, only to be rebuffed by the warlike American government that wants to use talks as an excuse to destroy the mullahs. If only that were true! (As our colleague Michael Ledeen says: “Faster, please!”)

Indeed, their solution is rather simple: the U.S. “must accept “Iran’s nuclear rights.” Just as the Old Left used to argue that the Soviets wanted peace and the U.S. had to accept its needs for secure regimes on its borders, the Leveretts say that now the U.S. has to recognize “Iran’s core security concerns.” The regime’s behavior, therefore, is our fault. If we do not accept its demands, our country will be seen as one acting without any legitimacy and be rightfully seen as “an outlaw superpower.”

In their eyes, we should not oppose radical Islam, but should instead improve our ties with “Islamist political order across the Middle East.” The goal should be “rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.”

All of these themes are spelled out in more detail in their new, widely publicized book titled Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Fortunately, two reviews appearing today decimate their argument in the most cogent way.

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