Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Berman's Reponse

By Shawn Healy
Yesterday's posting caught the attention of Middle East scholar Ilan Berman. I referenced his book at the outset and unfortunately failed to fully articulate his central hypothesis. His response follows:


Caught your post on the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum blog earlier today, and thought I would clarify something. First off, thanks for the reference to my book... it is certainly appreciated. However, in its pages, I don't actually advocate "engagement" the way you lay out (and certainly not the way the ISG does). Rather, I talk about the need to communicate better and interact more -- with the Iranian people, not the country's government.

The way I see it, a serious Iran strategy starts with two things: first, to slow down Iran's nuclear "clock" and make it more complicated for Iran's ayatollahs to get the "bomb." Second, and equally critical, however, is for us to use that window of opportunity to change the finger that will ultimately be on the nuclear trigger -- that is, assist a fundamental political transformation in Tehran.

I think you'll agree, this is not typical engagement. And, I am confident, not something that Secretary Baker would ever advocate!

Best regards,
Ilan Berman


Anonymous Edward Nashton said...

Wow, terrible analysis.

First, how do we slow down the "clock?" I wish that Mr. Berman would just come out and say that we should begin another war by bombing Iran rather than being so vague as to give less intelligent people false hope.

Ok, so we've bombed Iran's facilities. If you take a look at Google Maps, you'll see how close these facilities are to the civilian population...Killing a bunch of innocent Iranians, yeah that will make them far more pro-American.

Moreover, let's say that Mr. Berman happens to be correct about the positives of bombing the Iranians despite the intelligence challenges (WMD was where in Iraq?), and the military challenges (oops, one of my weapons missed its intended target and now there's a cloud of Uranium Hexofluoride gas heading towards the center of Natanz)...Would that make the population of Iran any less anti-semitic? Nope.

Thus, democracy isn't necassarily a guarantor of pro-American outcomes.

If I was the administration, I would give one last serious attempt towards the diplomatic route (security guarantees and diplomatic relations) in an attempt to avoid the calamity that may just befall us.

What I would not do is set up another round of rosy expectations that is guaranteed to destroy any support for future military endeavors (however vital). That would not serve American interests, nor would it serve the world's. The only thing worse than the United States being too involved in the world is a United States that is completely uninvolved in the world.

I realize that as a Straussian, this reality doesn't trouble Mr. Berman. But as an individual that who believes in the American people to make informed decisions about their government, I think they ought to have all of the facts in front of them.

The reality is that there is no silver bullet with regard to Iran. It's time that individuals like Mr. Berman start acting like responsible citizend of this nation rather than lying to the us for the sake of satisfying their own selfish needs.

3:49 PM  

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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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