Bolton’s Cold War Revisionism: If Only The Iranians Were As Rational As The Soviets

Speaking before an Iranian parliament committee yesterday, a prominent conservative Iranian diplomat advocated bombing the United States and supporting domestic terrorist groups dedicated to undermining the U.S. government.

The diplomat was received warmly by the committee, with the chairperson going so far as to express deep personal admiration.

No, this didn’t really happen in Iran. It happened here in Washington yesterday, when former U.N. ambassador John Bolton appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

I’ve argued for [military strikes against Iran] for about three and a half years,” John Bolton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee today. “Absent military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Iran will have weapons much sooner rather than later,” Bolton said. “It’s a big mistake to conclude, as I believe the Administration has, that a nuclear Iran can be contained and deterred.”

Even as Bolton called for bombing Iran, President Bush’s controversial former Ambassador to the UN received a warm reception from Republicans and many Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Chairwoman of the committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, even went so far as to say “I love John Bolton.” […]

Bolton and several members of Congress, including Reps. Sherman and Dana Rohrabacher expressed support for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, which is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization that operates as a cult. Before the hearing started, Bolton’s aide approached a group of MEK supporters in attendance and told them that he supported their efforts. Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen even made a point to greet the group and shake the hands of each of the MEK supporters.

If this had actually occurred in the Iranian parliament, you can be almost certain that John Bolton would shortly appear on Fox News to insist that it demonstrated, yet again, how crazy and dangerous the Iranians are.

By supporting U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition, Bolton walked himself into a bit of a contradiction in light of his support for the Iranian MEK, saying, “We should be providing whatever assistance [the Syrian protesters] think would be helpful to them.”

The Iranian opposition has repeatedly made clear that any support for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) would not only be unhelpful, but disastrous for their movement. Yet this hasn’t deterred Bolton from being a big-time supporter of the MEK.

And this is really something:

Referring to Cold War policies of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and deterrence, Bolton said, “The psychology in Iran is very different from that of the Soviet Union. […] They were atheists and knew that they would only have one go-around.” He then ominously stated how the religiously motivated countries in the Middle East, armed with nuclear weapons, will be less likely to act rationally.

The racist Orientalist trope that Iranians are somehow uniquely irrational is one that continues to crop up, and will have to be continually knocked down. But it’s frankly hilarious to hear Bolton citing the Soviets as exemplars of foreign policy rationalism. During the Cold War, the irrationality of Soviet leaders (inspired by their zealous commitment to spreading Communism) was an article of faith among hawks, and was constantly trotted out as a reason for why MAD would not work. The hawks were, of course, wrong, and it did.

These days, the irrationality of Iranian leaders (inspired by their zealous commitment to spreading Islamism) is an article of faith among hawks, and the Cold War has magically become an era when rationality ruled the day.

Obviously, MAD is not an optimal state of affairs, and we should try and avoid getting into situations where people have nuclear weapons pointed at us. But the idea that someone would not only make these sort of crazy statements to a government committee, but also not receive any push-back from our public servants, is pretty amazing.