Human Rights, Hypocrisy, and the Challenge of Crafting a Moral U.S. Foreign Policy

In her seminal 1979 essay in Commentary, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” the political scientist Jeane Kirkpatrick sharply criticized the Carter administration for abandoning or turning against pro-American authoritarian regimes out of a purported concern for human rights, while turning a blind eye to the far worse abuses of Communist, anti-American totalitarian regimes. Elliott Abrams, who has revisited some of these arguments in his new book, Realism and Democracy, discusses the context and impact of Kirkpatrick’s essay and its applicability to the policies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. (Interview by Jonathan Silver. Audio, 42 minutes.)

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More about: Arab Spring, Cold War, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Carter, Latin America, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy