“I Don’t Know If The System Could Handle It”

When I talked to Trita Parsi and Gary Sick about the potential for fraud in yesterday’s Iranian presidential elections, one thing both of them seemed to agree on was that the potential for cooking the books was limited. The opposition isn’t stupid. They have election monitors. If Mousavi won a huge majority, there would be nothing for Ahmadinejad to do. Whatever the threshold is between an election the Interior ministry can rig without getting caught and an election where they have to let the true results stand is (five million votes is the figure I heard most often), Iran’s leadership dare not cross it. In Parsi’s words, “There would be a scandal of a scale previously unseen such that I don’t know if the system could handle it.”

Now that – trusting opposition accounts are correct – the Interior Ministry tried to rig an unriggable election, and Laura Rozen is reporting that, “Iran hands have used words like “coup” to describe what they believe may be taking place,” Parsi’s line is seeming mighty prescient. This is big. And I’m glad we have an administration that is willing to butt out and allow events to run their course.

P.S. Karim Sadjadpour, quoted by Reuters (via Rozen):

I don’t think anyone anticipated this level of fraudulence…This was a selection, not an election. At least authoritarian regimes like Syria and Egypt have no democratic pretences. In retrospect it appears this entire campaign was a show: Ayatollah Khamenei wasn’t ever going to let Ahmadinejad lose.

And here’s Juan Cole on just how much evidence there is that the election was stolen. At this point, we might as well start picking out a color label for the revolution.

An Observation

Andrew Bacevich does a damn good job of making 1,400 think-tankers feel extremely uncomfortable. Then again, where you’re on a panel about how to “fix” Afghanistan and say things like, “preventing another 9/11 does not require the occupation of distant countries” and compare our interests in Afghanistan to those in Uruguay and Fiji, that tends to happen.

Ed Whelan is Absolutely Despicable

This is just a painful thing to watch. So publius of Obsidian Wings – who’s an outstanding blogger you should all be reading – has been outed by Ed Whelan at The Corner for a single post he wrote criticizing Whelan’s simplistic and laughable views about Sonia Sotomayor. publius responded to an initial accusatory email from Whelan by politely explaining that he had private, family, and professional reasons for using a pseudonym. Whelan responded by calling publius a “coward and idiot”.

There is nothing defensible about this. Absolutely nothing. The post in which Whelan outs publius doesn’t even contain a response to his arguments, just ad hominem attacks and claims that publius – who’s a law professor – has “a dismal understanding of the legal matters he opined on” (which, judging from Whelan’s hilarious misunderstanding of the role of policy in the legal system, seems like all too much projection). And his claim that using a psuedonym displays some sort of “cowardice” is all so much macho posturing, with no understanding of the damage non-anonymous blogging can do to one’s legal or academic career (or, in publius’ case, to relations with family).

Unlike publius, I’m no lawyer, so I can’t really suggest a recourse other than explaining just how abhorrent Whelan’s actions are – which he has done, in characteristically eloquent fashion. But it’s truly horrifying to see someone who fashions himself an intellectual – and who leads an at least marginally respectable think tank – sink to such depths of harassment and character assassination. Whelan is not trying to enlighten his readers; he is trying to disrupt, if not destroy, publius’ professional and personal life. As someone who, for four years, had to rely on others’ willingness to respect my anonymity in order to experience some semblance of a normal, private adolescence, few things offend me more.

But I think it behooves Whelan’s hosts – the editorial staff of National Review Online – to consider whether they want someone who personally harasses his interlocutors on their website, let alone their payroll. At the very least, I think they owe their readers an explanation if they choose to maintain their association such a bad blogospheric citizen.