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constraints on Robert Kagan’s thinking

January 27, 2010

In today’s Washington Post, Robert Kagan claims President Obama “has a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to achieve a measurable degree of peace in the world.  And the solution?  Regime change in Iran.

He writes:

Given the role that the Islamic theocracy in Tehran has played in leading and sponsoring anti-democratic, anti-liberal and anti-Western fanaticism for the past three decades, the toppling or even substantial reform of that regime would be second only to the collapse of the Soviet Union in its ideological and geopolitical ramifications.

I wish I could take this seriously, since he called with Bill Kristol for the same thing in Iraq 11 years before:

An effective military campaign combined with a political strategy to support the broad opposition forces in Iraq could well bring his regime down faster than many imagine. And Iraq’s Arab neighbors are more likely to support a military effort to remove him than an ineffectual bombing raid that leaves a dangerous man in power.

This is well-trod ground. What is interesting (at least in this particular op-ed) is that Kagan isn’t calling for military strikes:

With tougher sanctions, public support from Obama and other Western leaders, and programs to provide information and better communications to reformers, the possibility for change in Iran may never be better.

“Programs to provide information?”  “Better communications to reformers?”  What happened?   Vintage sturm-und-drang 1998 Kagan said things like:

Four heavy divisions and two airborne divisions are available for deployment. The President should act, and Congress should support him in the only policy that can succeed.

Maybe he’s mellowed out.  Or perhaps Kagan has realized that the policies he argued for in the last decade has severely constrained US choices in the Middle East.

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