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March 24, 2006

Bad Move

I loved the book Reagan's War, by Peter Schweizer. It tells the story of Reagan's lifelong commitment to anti-communism. The most striking thing about Reagan's foreign policy was the breadth of his offensive against the Eastern Bloc. It wasn't just the overt moves: the arms race, SDI, the summits. He put a lot of resources into more subtle efforts to encourage democracy, most notably support for Poland's Solidarity movement. He also revitalized the Voice of America, which had lost sight of its original purpose as a propaganda tool.

No serious person doubts that Reagan's multi-pronged offensive worked. We should be using the same combination of threats, negotiation and propaganda against Iran. But Congress doesn't see it that way, as reported by ThreatsWatch:

From the House Committee on Appropriations comes word of the failure to fully fund the $75M requested by the administration to assist in broadcast/ telecast/ satellite communication efforts into the people of Iran.
"Promotion of Democracy in Iran - The committee did not fund the $75 million requested by the Administration for the promotion of democracy in Iran because it was poorly justified. Instead, $56 million was provided through proven, existing programs that will have an immediate, positive impact on the fostering of democratic ideals in Iran."
. . .

The $75M was not enough and, as it was, decades late in the game. To see Congress slash the belated efforts by nearly one-third out of the gate, in light of the current urgency, borders on disconcerting.

Sometimes I suspect that there are folks in Congress who are not just clueless, but actively working to harm the people who elected them.

The Iranian problem is a very tough one, and we're in a situation which requires a creative solution. Of all the options available to us, encouraging regime change from within Iran is the least unattractive, in my opinion. Thus, I don't think now is the time to be skimping on resources devoted to that end.

Posted by annika, Mar. 24, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


Congress is a whorehouse, and each gal is trying to have a big night. Real programs are secondary to the self-interest of 90% of the people on the hill.

The analogous relationship between the cold war, and the war on terror is remarkable. Dubyah is consciously being Reagan.

Posted by: Casca on Mar. 24, 2006

I think that Bush has tried to use Reagan as a model but has not been as effective in many areas. He simply doesn't bring the same set of political tools to the game. Annika's post illustrates an example: the propoganda war. It should be noted, however, that the admin's attempts to utilize propoganda in Iraq have been met with very harsh criticism from the MSM and the political Left (in one of the most disgusting and pathetically obvious displays of hypocrisy.) I am not old enough to remember whether the MSM attacked Voice of America. Even if they did, I doubt it was done with the same gusto. We are dealing now with a MSM that actively works against US interests and in many ways lends aid and comfort to terroists and world terroism by purposely reporting half-truths and refusing to acknowledge that there are good guys and bad guys in the War on Terror.

Posted by: Blu on Mar. 24, 2006

When you are approving propaganda type activity, you don't want to be too specific about the details. It's ironic that this is where the House draws the line on spending. And depressing.

Posted by: gcotharn on Mar. 24, 2006

Annie -
I'm a believer Congress fails to live up to its Section I, Article 8 responsibilities frequently; however, did you read what the Administration is actually proposing to do with the 75M?

The State Department would use $50 million of the supplemental funds, if they are approved by Congress, to establish around-the-clock satellite television and radio broadcasts into Iran. An additional $15 million would go to support the development of civic organizations within Iran. Iranian students and professionals who wish to visit the United States would benefit from an additional $5 million in funding for exchange programs. Finally, the department would devote an additional $5 million to public diplomacy efforts aimed at Iran, including its Persian language Web site.

The State Department official indicated that the United States is not planning to work with existing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Iran because, as she said, they all have been infiltrated by government agents.

Yes, I'm sure they'll point to how effective other programs have been in latin america..or how easy to jam those broadcasts are. The same statement/briefing on Sec Rice's proposal included the following, "the United States already has programs in place supporting Iranian labor unions, dissidents and human rights activists. The official said civil society organization is the key to effecting positive change in Iran."

It's an election year so Congress is pretty fast and loose with taxpayer money, especially in the area of "national security"; however, you have to at least make an *effort* to show some coherency in linking ends and ways before asking for resources...

And, are the ways and means to win a war against a secular, state-centric political ideology analogous to defeating a tribal/ethnic/non-state-centric religious one?

Posted by: Col Steve on Mar. 24, 2006

I had a post along the same lines today, wondering why so many congresscritters are so worried that we are going to be in Iraq forever and not wanting to spend money to see that it's a success.


I think we should start a campaign to have every incumbent defeated this year, be it in the primary or in the general. Time for some grown ups in Congress.

Posted by: KG on Mar. 24, 2006

As someone who is old enough to remember the start of the Solidarity movement in Poland I always found it funny that the position of this country was unqualified support. (Actually not funny since I knew that we would have supported genocide if it would have cause the Soviets harm) The US would have the world believe that it was a champion of progressive perhaps revolutionary movements when in fact should similar freedom loving, injustice hating, movements ( think labor unions, civil rights, anti-fascist, pro-choice, gay and lesbian rights) have fomented and gained support within our borders they would be, and in fact have been covertly and overtly crushed. True, many of these movements have prevailed, but only over time because they had the courage and grass roots support to fight the government and the other great entrenched power: Corporate Interest. But much blood was shed along the way.

A labor historian, D. Walkowitz, who was in Poland during that time, when I asked him what was going on over there, likened the Solidarity movement to SDS in conjunction with the Autoworkers, taking over Ford Rouge and maybe some other GM and Chrysler plants and making demands on the White house to increase wages and other work rules.

I wonder how many hours it would have taken for Ronnie to have called out the guard in the name of protecting "National interests" to storm the plant. Hundreds dead, hundreds injured but democracy and the rule of law prevailing.

Now consider Ronnie’s outrage had the Polish government done the same?

Now to quote my comrade Blu.....

"In one of the most disgusting and pathetically obvious displays of hypocrisy"

Unfortunately, pathetic, obvious displays of hypocrisy are and have always been the stock and trade of America, and our current president and his criminal cronies have raised the bar to an astounding height. This hypocrisy, which is transparent to the rest of the world, is the reason wherever Americans travel they are met with snickers and pity for the current plague in the Whitehouse. It is the reason also that a propaganda war against the Middle East is futile. In the 50's when access to media and free flowing news was so constricted it was possible that a needed service was provided by Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America. It was also a more innocent time and America had a much less tarnished image. Everybody in the world today, except of course in China, has generally free access to many sources of news so I doubt there is really much value in spending 50 or 75 million to try and convince the secularist of Iran that America is their friend and will lend support should they need it. They know what happened to the Iraqi's who listened to Bush 1.

Casca, as Gore Vidal said, congressmen are just out of work lawyers, fattening their resumes waiting for a better job offer.

Posted by: strawman on Mar. 25, 2006

Still crazy after all these years.

Posted by: Casca on Mar. 25, 2006

"He also revitalized the Voice of America, which had lost sight of its original purpose as a propaganda tool."

Once an organizatiog is exposed as a propaganda tool, it loses the trust of the greater portion of the population it intends to influence.

Telling the truth should not be looked upon as a weak, girlie-mon approach, but as a justifiable means to inform. Propaganda is merely a means to distort. That's why the "Office of Strategic [Dis]Information" was destined for the dustbin from the outset.

Posted by: Will on Mar. 27, 2006