April 8, 2013

Suppressing Reality-Based Analysis: Chomsky, the Leveretts, and America’s Iran Debate

Suppressing Reality-Based Analysis: Chomsky, the Leveretts, and America’s Iran Debate
By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett 
Published on April 8, 2013
Mainstream reaction to our new book, Going to Tehran:  Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, underscores some important realities about America’s Iran debate—and about the political and cultural obstacles to truly constructive change in American foreign policy.  Flynt addressed this point last week on “The Monitor,” a news analysis program hosted by Mark Bebawi and Otis McClay for KPFT, Pacifica Radio’s Houston station.  (To listen to the interview, click here; Flynt is the second half of the program, so those who want to go directly to him should scroll forward to just slightly past the halfway mark.)

In his first question, Mark Bebawi underscores that both of us are people who have spent “a lot of time in the institutions of power,” with connections to “all sorts of fairly well respected within the mainstream” organizations (e.g., the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and, at various points, prominent Washington think tanks).  He commends Going to Tehran as “full of logical thinking based on history.”  He notes, though, that because the book’s analyses and arguments are “going against the tide,” mainstream reaction to Going to Tehran is “full of all sorts of accusations about what your motives might be” for having written itincluding “everything from accusations of being agents of the Iranian government to being a disgruntled employee.”  Flynt responds,

We are taking on a very well entrenched mythology about Iran—about its foreign policy, about its internal politics, about how the United States deals with it.  Particularly in the post-Cold War era, America has embraced some very, very dangerous mythologies about different parts of the world, about America’s role in the world—I think that’s an important part of how we got into the terrible blunder and crime of the Iraq War.

My wife and I watched that one from the inside, when all the institutions that Americans are supposed to rely on to push back against bad policy ideas, against bad analysis, against bad arguments—institutions like Congress, media, think tanks, public intellectuals—with a few honorable and courageous exceptions, those institutions basically rolled over for the executive branch.  And we were determined that, this time around, someone was going to ask the hard questions, make the kind of countervailing arguments that should have been made before the Iraq invasion, but weren’t.

Continued. . .