Saturday, November 3, 2007

Barbara Slavin on C-Span's Washington Journal

The editor of this Youtube vid has selected only the callers who express the view that Israel is the source of all the troubles in the current American campaign.

I appreciate this clipping service because I cannot tolerate more than a few minutes of the Washington Journal program on C-Span (which is free to cable subscribers across the United States). Many of the citizens who call in to Washington Journal are well informed, but many sound like they dropped out of school before the eighth grade. On average the discourse is not very enlightening.

I'll recycle an old post about Barbara Slavin from Ressentiment. I didn't know who she was until I caught her wonking on some Washington circle jerk think tank show where the neocons outnumbered the sane journalists about 20 to one - about the same as the general population.

Barbara regurgitates much of the AEI-style conventional wisdom about Iranian designs on the Middle East, but she's one of the only ones who argues for opening diplomatic channels and trying something else besides military strikes. Where I find fault with Barbara's world view however, is that she does not question the foundations of American imperial designs on the region, nor any of the typical rationalizations for American adventurism. While she provides an extremely nuanced view of Iran culture and politics, she remains completely in the dark about American motives.

I doubt if she would be invited to participate in main stream media discussions if she did question American rationalizations, but at least there is one journalist who is trying to think outside the box.

Barbara argues in her book Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation that both the American and the Iranian regimes are using projections of the other to keep themselves in power and to further their own agenda. The more Americans bang the war drums the more Iranians are forced to rally round the current regime.

A book reviewer writes at Amazon

How many Americans know how the Iranian system of government works? Are Americans aware that Iran's population is mostly under thirty and restless? Do Americans realize that Iran is more complex than their mere portrayal as an Islamic fascist state? One wonders if Americans have thought about the internal dynamics of Iranian society? Sadly, most Americans don't realize that a hunger for democratic reform exists in Iranian society and war will likely only rally their people to the regime which oppresses them.

Our newspapers, television, radio and online sources are busy quoting outrageous statements from the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and America's fear about their nuclear program. Jingoistic sound-bites on both sides have dwarfed sensible, thoughtful and fact based commentary.

Thankfully, Barbara Slavin has written a book that presents a holistic view we Americans are typically not exposed too. Using her remarkable access to people such as Madeline Albright, Condelezza Rice, Iranian reformers like former President Mohammad Khatami, longtime establishment figures such as Ali Rafsanjani, as well as dissidents like Akbar Ganji and everyday citizens, allows Slavin to shed sunlight on a nation most Americans know very little about. She was the first newspaper journalist to interview Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

We also learn about the tantalizing opportunities for reconciliation not seized by three successive American administrations.

Overall, Slavin's prose is anecdotal but fact based. Her book makes truth accessible and truth about Iran has been in short supply. Hopefully, her book will also make truth fashionable again.

For more information about Slavin's book and insights into Iran, listen to a podcast interview I had with her at the weblog, Intrepid Liberal Journal.

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