Owning Up to Our Own Taint

It has become an article of faith in certain circles that the United States must pursue a more robust policy of regime change in Tehran. Chastened by the difficulties in Iraq, the conventional line is that we must do more to support the reform elements battling against the Islamic government. This view was articulated today by Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe:

Our aim instead should be to empower Iran’s restive population, which is largely pro-Western and moderate. Give them as much support as possible, much as the Reagan administration did for Lech Walesa and Solidarity in Poland — and let them find the means to reclaim their government for themselves.

This is all well and fine, but I often get the sense that Jacoby and others of his ilk, have no sense of how deeply skeptical even Middle East liberals are of American intentions these days. As Fareed Zakaria has noted, in the Arab world today, “the easiest way to sideline a reform is to claim that it is pro-American.” I would venture to add that the legitimacy of any reform movement in Iran would be very much undermined by the disclosure that it is being funded by the United States.

I do not question the need to vigorously support the forces of decency and liberalism in the Arab world, but we must do so cognizant of our present taint.

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