Two Excellent Pieces from the Washington Post’s Sunday “Outlook” Section

The first, “Why Winston Wouldn’t Stand for W,” will no doubt provoke conniptions at the American Enterprise Institute and the editorial offices of the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and Commentary magazine whose inhabitants have long seen themselves — and George W. Bush, at least in his first term — as the very embodiment of Winston Churchill. Author Lynne Olson, whose recently published book about Churchill and the small group of Conservatives around him who eventually forced Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to resign in 1940, “Troublesome Young Men,” argues that Bush’s intolerance for dissenters, disdain for civil liberties and Congress, and foreign-policy unilateralism bear a much closer resemblance to Britain’s champion of appeasement than to Churchill. (For a really fine essay on Churchill and the neo-cons, read Michael Lind’s “A Tragedy of Errors,” a review of Richard Perle’s and David Frum’s “An End to Evil,” in The Nation in 2004.)

The second article, “Iran Has a Message. Are We Listening?“, by Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh is particularly important at the moment (and might also provoke conniptions among the usual suspects). It’s about his recent trip to Iran during which he not only interviewed senior diplomatic officials, but also Mohsen Rezai, secretary of the powerful Expediency Council and a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, who rarely speaks publicly, let alone to a reporter for a mass-circulation U.S. publication.

“Rezai’s intention was clear: No matter what question I asked, he somehow managed to bring the discussion back to Tehran‘s need to find its way out of its dangerous stalemate with Washington. President Bush ‘has started a cold war with Iran, and if it’s not controlled, it could turn into a war war,’ he said,” writes Hirsh.

“Rezai suggested that Iran is searching hard for a face-saving way to end the standoff over its ever-advancing uranium-enrichment program. He endorsed, in a more forthright way than I have heard from any other senior Iranian official, a ‘time-out’ proposed by Mohammed elBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. ‘What it means is for Iran to stay at the [enrichment] level it has reached, with no further progress. By the same token, the U.N. Security Council will not issue another resolution,’ said Rezai, who indicated that the idea is gaining support inside the Iranian regime. ‘The Iranian nuclear issue has to be resolved through a new kind of solution like this.'”

Rezai goes on to make clear that the U.S. and Iran share a number of important interests, particularly in the region, that could become the basis for an understanding but also expresses resignation that Bush is unlikely to deal. “‘Mr. Bush’s government is stuck at a crossroads’ between confrontation and resignation, ‘and it can’t make a decision,'” Hirsh quotes Rezai as saying. “‘We have a saying in Farsi: When a child walks in darkness, he starts singing or making loud noises because he’s afraid of the dark. The Americans are afraid to negotiate with Iran, and that’s why they’re making a lot of loud noises.”

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.