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That Splintering Sound You Hear…


…is coming from the distinegrating reputations of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, commentators who at one time were taken seriously by some serious people, but whose most recent book will find a comfortable home on the shelves next to the finest works of regime apologists and hacks. “It often seems in these pages that Flynt and Hillary Leverett have drunk the Islamic Republic’s Kool-Aid to the last drop,” Roger Cohen (anything but a knee jerk hawk) writes for the New York Review of Books. “Their book is a disservice to truth and a betrayal of all the brave Iranians who, for more than a century now, have been seeking a political order that provides a genuine reconciliation of freedom, representative government, and faith.”

What might the Leveretts say about the decision by the Iran’s Guardian Council, its highest political body, to bar women from running for President? Or the decision to ban Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from the race? Will they double down on their position that Iran’s Shiite regime offers “a wider range of choice for Iranian voters than the United States’ two-party system offers American voters?”

At one point the Leveretts had some credibility with at least the left wing of the American establishment. We haven’t read Going to Tehran yet, but judging from the NYRB review and the comments on their book by readers like Dan Drezner and others, any hope they had of influencing the US policy debate on Iran has largely disappeared.

People who critique accepted narratives play an important role in American political and intellectual life, but there’s a difference between explainers and apologists. “The Leveretts might have offered a counterbalancing account [to the widespread portrayal of Iran as the incarnation of evil],” writes Cohen. “Instead they have fallen prey to their own dangerous mythology of a benign Iranian order loved by its citizens.”

The Leveretts now appear to be settling in on the political fringe with Ron Paul and Noam Chomsky. The United States badly needs people who understand Iran, can sympathize with the aspirations (if not always the means) that drive its government, and can think creatively about how the two countries can find ways to work together. The Leveretts could have done that; sadly, they seem to have chosen another path.

[Photo of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • Winston Smith

    Why doesn’t the IRS investigate them or the Iranian regime lobby NIAC? It is shameful that these people are given a platform to air their dangerous views.

    • Corlyss

      “It is shameful that these people are given a platform to air their dangerous views.”
      I don’t object to the platform. I object to the fact that they aren’t labeled agents of a foreign government and compelled to register as such.

    • wigwag

      Actually, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have little or nothing nice to say about Trita Parsi the founder and President of the National Iranian American Council. They don’t think much of him because they don’t think he’s pro-Iranian enough.

  • wigwag

    Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have been called “crack cocaine realists” and that’s by their friends. I hate to wonder what their enemies would call them.

    Yesterday, Professor Mead penned a post entitled, “Middle East Mess: When Dems and GOPers Agree, Be Afraid.” His point was that liberal internationalists (who are overwhelmingly Democrats) and neoconservatives (who are overwhelmingly Republicans) a lot more in common than most people think.

    The problem is that when you take the libs and the neocons out of the equation, the only people you have left are the realists; people like Zbig Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Lee Hamilton, Richard Lugar and the like.

    Is their any doubt that in their heart of hearts, Brzezinski, Scowcroft, Baker, Hamilton and Lugar agree with most if not all of what the Leveretts have to say?

    Is the point of view expressed by the Leveretts really all that idiosyncratic or does it represent the views of their more respectable realist colleagues? Isn’t the reality that the Leveretts are willing to shout what their fellow realists are only willing to whisper?

    If we’re disgusted by the Leveretts’ point of view shouldn’t we be equally disgusted by the views of Zbignew Brzezinski? Last time I looked, Brzezinski was on the editorial committee of the American Interest. What’s next; will the AI be appointing Flynt Leverett as editor in chief?

  • Atanu Maulik

    “Iran’s Shiite regime offers a wider range of choice for Iranian voters than the United States’ two-party system offers American voters?”

    The same thing can be said about a lot of other countries. For example in India the voters get to chose from a wide array of murderers, rapists, kidnappers and other thugs.

  • wigwag

    It is good to see Via Meadia excoriating the Leveretts; their positions are over the top and so is their rhetoric. My question is whether Professor Mead has the chutzpah to write a similar post repudiating Brzezinski.

    Brzezinski’s positions are every bit as extreme as the Leveretts and his rhetoric is as irresponsible as theirs or worse. It was just a few years ago that he actually implored the United States Airforce to shoot down Israeli Jets if they attempted to transit Iraqi airspace on the way to bombing Iranian nuclear installations. In an interview with the Daily Beast the when asked about an Israeli attack on Iran the former National Security Adviser to President Carter said,

    “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq, are we just going to sit there and watch?” He went on to say “We have to be serious about denying them that right. We have to go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.”

    Isn’t this just as irresponsible as anything the Leveretts have said? Given the choice of a military confrontation between the US and Iran and the US and Israel, the Leveretts would surely prefer an attack on Israel. Brzezinski’s quote shows that he agrees entirely.

    The Leveretts are clowns; it’s easy to repudiate them. But where’s Professor Mead’s courage. Shouldn’t he be criticizing AI editorial board member, Zbignew, as passionately as he criticizes Flynt and Hillary?

    The difference of course is that would take a little bit of fortitude.

  • Felipe Pait

    Were they really taken seriously? The 1st time I saw a piece by the duo it smelled like they are working for the Persian rulers. All 4 readers of my blog knew that:

  • SF Dude

    Not much mystery here: the physically heinous Hillary Leverett is clearly in it for the group services provided by the Basij rank and file: “All right, men, close your eyes and think of Iran!”

    As for Flynt, one imagines they let him sit in the corner and watch.

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