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July 31, 2003

Left alone.

Daniel Radosh

During the buildup to the Iraq war, I frequently got depressed that the left felt it was unnecessary, or more cynically, that it would hurt the antiwar cause, to propose it's own solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein. The result, predictably, was that the debate came to equate "war" vs. "no war" with "doing something" vs. "doing nothing." I'm starting to feel that way about Iran. The right has completely monopolized the cause of cheering on the nascent pro-democracy revolution in that country -- clearly a cause well worth supporting. You'll find lots of commentary in The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and many right-leaning blogs, but none on the Nation and very few in progressive blogs. (There is a decent Iran-watch page on Znet. I wish more mainstream outlets would follow this lead). The problem, I fear, is that the US is in no way, shape, or form prepared to accept a purely internal, Iranian revolution. Sooner or later it's going to start interfering (if it hasn't already) and the democracy movement will be twisted into an arm of US imperial designs on the region. When that happens the left will speak up, and will be hit hard and fairly with the charge that it has no interest in freedom for the Iranian people.

Part of this failure of the left can be attributed to what many people have pointed out is a tendency to not be concerned about anything in the world unless the US is at fault. Often that's a cheap shot -- there are very solid reasons to develop an international world-view based largely on the analysis of US action -- but it's not entirely unfair and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. I'd love to see a real debate about this in the pages of lefty journals. Another problem is simply that the left is always behind the curve these days. Every week I check sources across the political spectrum for commentary on the major stories of the day, and invariably, the right wing web sites have good, solid articles up almost immediately, often from several different writers, while the left takes weeks or months to get around to it. I mean, The Nation still hasn't written a word about Liberia, for example. We're not only not shaping the debate, we're not even in the debate.

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