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Today's Blogfeud

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The American Prospect has an article today complaining, in part, about TNR:

A while back, The New Republic demanded that "the West finally get ruthlessly serious about Iran." Unless "ruthlessly serious" describes some subset of containment theory that I'm unfamiliar with, this seems like mercilessly frivolous advice. But such is the sorry state of discourse on Iran: lots of hyperventilating, but relatively little in the way of actual diagnosis or prescription.

There's a little backstory here. About a year ago, TNR published an editorial urging the Bush administration to "move ruthlessly" to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This was, admittedly, a little vague, and a post on Tapped, the American Prospect's blog, wondered if TNR was fomenting war.

Then a subsequent TNR editorial urged "the West" to "get ruthlessly serious about Iran," and noted "No, bombing is not the only instrument of policy we have." I hoped this would clear things up. But then Tapped wondered if our editorial meant "That bombing would be insufficiently ruthless and we should mount a full-scale invasion?"

Uh, no. I figured any lingering confusion would have been cleared up a couple months ago, when TNR published a special issue on Iran, with four articles on the topic. The most hawkish of them urged:

military action really should be the last resort. By far the best option remains the marshalling of international political and economic pressure against Iran so as to isolate and impoverish the ruling elite and strengthen the hand of those who already may be questioning the wisdom of the current path.

None of the others came close to calling for war. Indeed, the policy synthesis that emerged from all four articles recommended strong multilateral diplomacy, economic pressure and allowing Iranian moderates space to push for reform.

Maybe TAP dislikes this diagnosis and prescription. But if they're accusing us of having "relatively little in the way of actual diagnosis or prescription" -- well, the word "relatively" is doing a lot of work. Relative to what? If we were publishing more stories about Iran, I suspect they'd be back to accusing us of secretly fomenting war.

--Jonathan Chait

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