As the Security Council prepares to vote the next round of sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, I'm thinking of some old debates about how to handle difficult regimes. The thoughts aren't consoling; too many voices in the debate over Iran hearken back to some of the worst ideas in American and European history.
Of all the mass murderers, genocidaires and enablers of the twentieth century, one group of collaborators does not get its fair share of condemnation and moral loathing. Unfortunately Americans have never really come to terms with the terrible things they did, we have never really named and shamed them, and we have never diagnosed and exposed the bad ideas that led to some of America's most fateful and costly blunders. Until we do, our society is at risk of repeating these errors.
The people I have in mind are the ‘goo-goo genocidaires,' the willfully blind reformers, civil society activists, clergy, students and others whose foolishness and ignorance was a necessary condition for tens of millions of deaths in the last hundred years. Unreflective, self-righteous ‘activists' thought that to espouse peace was the same thing as to create or safeguard it. As a result, tens of millions died. Unless this kind of thinking is exposed and repudiated, it is likely to lead to as many or more deaths in the 21st.