Rachel Maddow Show on What Some Iranians Are Doing to Knock Back Security and Basij Forces


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I appeared on Rachel Maddow’s NBC show tonight discussing my recent blog post, “The Four Iran Scenarios and ‘Basiji Hunting.'”
Thanks to those inside Iran who have shared their observations on communities doing what they can to fight back against the basij terror raids.
— Steve Clemons


13 comments on “Rachel Maddow Show on What Some Iranians Are Doing to Knock Back Security and Basij Forces

  1. David says:

    Excellent points, questions. Intriguing to think about.


  2. questions says:

    Thanks for the kind words.
    My current take on Obama is that he wants to stop the pendulum of history. If he can get some reasonable programs through without polarizing the Republicans, without making waves on governance issues, without a major war’s popping up, without activating sleeping giants, he will feel he’s succeeded in some reasonable measure.
    The swings of history call into question the successes of any program. Let’s say we get public health care, and as a consequence we get a Republican takeover that does some huge damage akin to another extra-curricular war. Can we say that the health care program is successful? Measuring policy successes needs contextualization and while it may well be impossible to specify the complete context, one must at least try.
    I see Obama as broadening his notion of what a successful policy is to the point that any good policy avoids the radicalization of its opponents. It may be a fairly good idea, or it may fail to play enough to his base of supporters. I suppose it could be characterized as “anti-Gingrichism” in that Gingrich seemed to enjoy infuriating his opponents while feeding the rabid tendencies of his base. Gingrich collapsed.


  3. David says:

    Very thoughtful comment, questions. Also, thanks for the link to that article.
    I have long struggled with the disconnect between what we as a nation purport to be and the realpolitk dictum that a nation does not have principles, only interests. That issue is taking center stage again as Obama and others argue that it is the worth of our ideas that gives America standing on the world stage. I am intrigued by the possibility that he means it, and that he understands what our defining values are (really tricky, I realize).
    I am also intrigued by the extent to which people can be called by a leader to their more moral instincts, but can also be led tribally down some of the most immoral paths.
    The shifting dynamics, the role of what we claim to believe, and all of the factors you quite correctly point out make for realities of every stripe, which realities we sometimes do, sometimes do not grasp.
    I am also intrigued by Obama’s repeated referencing of King’s belief in an arc of justice. I don’t think the Republicans have a clue who and what Obama is (except for that bizarre notion that he’s not a native-born American, even though the State of Hawaii says he is), and I’m not at all certain the major media have all that accurate a take on him. I’ll have a little better picture as his actual policies and the battles he chooses to fight unfold.
    Thanks again for your thoughful, articulate comment. I just plain enjoyed reading it and thinking about what you were saying.


  4. questions says:

    We’re not a “society driven by moral considerations” by any stretch of the imagination. We’re, rather, driven by narratives, emotions, irrational preferences, ignorance of our own limitations, fears; we’re prisoners of utterly arbitrary boundaries (why feel for Iranians without feeling for Palestinians, why feel for Palestinians without feeling for any and all sentient beings who ought not to be hunted, shot and eaten? That is, why limit our communal feelings to humans?)
    It’s all arbitrary, unless we become Peter Singer clones, and even Singer would have us emphasize some over others. (I’m pretty sure he holds this view regarding medical care for unlikely survivors.)
    The moral equivalence of all sentient beings is a hard thing to hold on to, and to justify not granting that status, we design all sorts of boundaries including: nation, ethnicity, region, religion, watershed, color, beliefs, practices, voluntary vs. involuntary membership, general cuteness (attractive bunnies do better than do ugly cows) and so on.
    Realism in IR works this system too — the realist claims that there are just some things we can’t do, so we don’t try. Accepting boundaries rather than irrationally battling them Don Quixote-fashion might be “real” but it might also be immoral. Funny thought that insanity might be the better moral strategy.
    Rather than merely moan about how unjust the world is, though, perhaps it’s better to analyze the boundaries each of us draws to find our own inner “hypocrite?” (Not my favorite term.) To whom does, say, Ron Paul, not extend deep humanitarian concern because of his desire for a profoundly limited government? What does it mean to say that something is “not our business?”
    (And as a totally unrelated aside, since I have no other place to put this, please note that Nate Silver has a current piece up on congressional funding from health lobbies and congressional votes on public insurance. And Nate Silver includes with that posting a note that causation in congressional behavior is indeterminate — that is, does the money follow the vote or does the vote follow the money? Once can suspect, but not so far prove. I make this point frequently — to a certain amount of derision. So I figured I’d stick this in.
    The correlation/causation issue is at play in Iran, as well. There are correlations with: economic dislocation, class issues, freedom issues, generational issues, infighting at the top, electoral shenanigans, US “support,” miscues from the top, and so on. All correlated. What’s the cause? Not so easy to say which revolution the Iranians are fighting. Not so easy to be a “realist” if we can’t even describe “reality” accurately.)


  5. David says:

    It really was an excellent segment, a beacon of enlightenment. The most intriguing thing about Rachel is her intellectually honest desire to know and understand. She stands in for the viewer who wants to know and understand and ssks useful questions of people it is reasonable to think can help us know and understand.
    Many, many thanks to people like Rachel Maddow and Steve Clemons. They constitute socio-political assets.
    There are plenty of us, POA, on whom the disparity in the treatment of victims of deadly governmental ruthlessness is not lost. But until media that matter choose to close that gap, it will remain, and disgracefully so. Your point is dead on, and really cannot be overemphasized, not if we really fancy ourselves a society driven by moral considerations.


  6. crackbaby says:

    This interview is why the Rachel Maddow show is the best
    analysis program on cable. The back and forth between Rachel
    and Steve is a perfect example of a very well-developed ability
    to communicate on highly technical subjects with others who
    may not have the same degree of expertise.
    I call this type of dialog “Peak Sailing” because when two people
    reach this level of communication, they are able to move from
    point to point to point (Peaks) without either participant having
    to get bogged down in the “Valley of Explanation”.
    The best examples of peak sailing occur when there are two
    competent, well-rounded professionals who do not let their own
    personal flaws and foibles get in the way.
    I love Rachel!


  7. arthurdecco says:

    “I’m ashamed of us.”
    You deserve to be, POA. Though it needs to be said I’m ashamed of the direction Canada and our complicit media are taking too.
    Do you think we’re collectively suffering from a radiowave-induced form of ADD here in North Amerika? Or is it something they add to the water?
    Wait…let me tighten the chin strap on my tin-foil hat while I’m on my way to check up on my water filtration system! (wink)
    Or maybe it is as “they” say – our society is dying from the weight of its successes, the moral depravity of our media-celebrated role models and our apparent infinite capacity for self-centredness and delusional conceit.


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It is truly disheartening to see the heroism of the Iranian protesters lauded and revered, while that of the Palestinian’s is ignored.
    Neda is all over our media and computer screens, while Tristan Anderson lies as a vegetable, brutally shot down while engaged in an equally moral battle against oppression, racism, and heavy handed police state tactics.
    How can we see our President’s outrage as anything other than contrived and insincere posturing when his indignation is so selectively administered? And the same can be said for the lamentations of the commenters here, who have come out in droves to express unity for the Iranian people’s fight against oppression, while standing mute before the abuses of the Israeli regime, whose treatment of the Palestinians is no less brutal, and is ongoing with our support and financial sponsorship.
    This whole saga has sickened me, as it truly underscores the shallow and political foundation upon which we build our concerns for our fellow man, and how easily we are coerced by media manipulation.
    The epic events in Iran are deserving of our attention, but so too are events unfolding elsewhere. Are we, as a people, so shallow that we only look where we are told to, and dispense our sympathies at the whim of our leaders?
    I’m ashamed of us.


  9. Cee says:

    I haven’t been keeping up much so tell me if there is any word on the actions of the MEK in this situation?


  10. ... says:

    i keep on thinking back to january when israel invaded gaza and went on its murder rampage.. if we had footage even remotely resembling what we are getting on iran now, world opinion on israels actions would be galvanized..
    it does make one wonder where the apparent lack of freedom resides, if it has anything to do with media coverage…


  11. Lurker says:

    Oops, I misspelled excellent. So, again, EXCELLENT job.


  12. Lurker says:

    Exellent job as usual Steve. You inform your audience without
    being condescending and stuck up. You are warm and human, and
    there isnt a time I tune in to hear you that I don’t learn something


  13. llllkkkkmmmm says:

    Simply a first rate, kick ass performance on Rachel Maddow. What I find interesting is that she is gay and you are gay, but clearly you guys have a connection that is about the substance of issues and important things. It’s like you guys are bi when it comes to public policy, or something like that. Totally meant as a big compliment. Thanks for all you are doing, and please thank Rachel for us out in middle America too.


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