I agree with Djerejian–any description of the confrontation between the U.S. and Iran as a second Cold War is just ridiculous. Are we involved in a similar “cold war” with Venezuela? Maybe we should ask that master strategist, Rick Santorum! Yeah. To label every standoff between Washington and a regional power as a “new Cold War” is at once to make light of the significance and scope of the Cold War and to engage in a kind of foreign policy myopia similar to the disease that causes pundits to see a potential Hitler in every foreign regime they dislike. These comparisons are not very substantive. They seem deliberately excessive, almost as if the author wants to make a splash by saying outrageous things.
While I appreciate Djerejian’s point about not having time to set straight every ludicrous foreign policy argument out there, this one seems to cry out for special attention. Wright begins by stating certain obvious facts: Iran has gained in strength because its regional opponents have been deposed by the U.S., and its proxies have enjoyed some successes in the region. After that Wright loses me.
According to Wright, a “Green Curtain” is descending, or rather is being draped by the U.S. Why green? Well, I suppose several of the allied states are fairly repressive and, in a few cases, openly fundamentalist, but this would make a hash of the “moderation” vs. “extremism” scheme that is supposed to define who is on either side of the “curtain.”
The only similarity between what is happening today and the Cold War is that both do involve containment doctrines of a sort, which is to say that both situations involve adversarial relations between Washington and another power. That’s it. Before the invasion, standard U.S. policy in this part of the region was “dual containment,” targeting both Iraq and Iran. Now that containing Iraq is not in the picture any longer, containment has focused entirely on Iran. Obviously. The recently announced weapons sales to the GCC states are a new part of this long-standing policy of anti-Iranian containment. In other words, the only thing remotely Cold War-like in Iran policy has been going on for years before 9/11, and most of our Iran policy is not really anything like U.S. Soviet policy during the Cold War.
Administration Iran policy is far more of a “forward” strategy and far more confrontational than the Truman Doctrine was towards the Soviets, and it actively seeks the deposition of the current regime where containment doctrine dictated holding the line against the other side’s aggressive foreign policy. The biggest flaw in the comparison is the idea that Iraq’s government is essential to the “Green Curtain,” which would be like saying, if we wanted to pursue this comparison a bit further, that the Ukrainian SSR was a vital ally in holding back the Soviet menace.
The article is not entirey clear whether the “Green Curtain” notion is actually the way that the administration conceives of what it is doing, or if this is Wright’s projection of inapt comparisons onto their standard anti-Iranian policy. Both are quite possible. The administration’s fondness for inappropriate and ridiculous historical analogies is well-known. If these bad analogies are still infecting the policymaking process, as they probably are, it is important that they are met with as many challenges and rebuttals as possible.