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“Stand Principled” — Without Principles!

By Matthew Yglesias on October 7, 2006 at 10:54 am

"“Stand Principled” — Without Principles!"

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Marc Grinberg, Rachel Kleinfeld, and Matthew Spence from the Truman National Security Project take to the virtual pages of The Democratic Strategist to offer up their take on the politics of national security. Elements of what they say I agree with. Their suggested Iran messaging, however, is redolent of the I-want-to-pull-my-hair-out aspect of the “decent left”

If any issue should arouse the passion of Democrats, it is the spread of nuclear weapons to a radical Iranian government. Iran is a nation that stones women, publicly executes homosexuals, suppresses its minorities, and has violated the most basic human rights we fight for as Democrats. Allowing Iran to build a nuclear weapon would strengthen this government’s hand against their own people. And nuclear proliferation–which would spread from Iran to the rest of the region–poses the greatest human rights abuse of all: threatening to destroy millions of lives in a war or a nuclear accident.

This is, how shall I say it, um, “utterly vacuous.” It’s a message in support of, what, exactly? Bombs away? Messaging, obviously, is an important thing in the world. But it’s genuinely the case that before you think about the best message on some issue, you need to think a little bit about the policy. You’re trying to determine a message that sells the policy. Here, we seem to be simply trying to talk tough while not committing the speaker to anything in particular. But if you don’t think the United States should bomb Iran, than simply ramping up the level of Iran-related paranoia is a terrible idea; you’re only going to box yourself into an impossible political corner if the bombs drop. Alternatively, if you do support a bombs away policy, it would be better to just say so.

I like Heather Hurlburt’s ideas a lot better.

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