Well, as long as I’m praising Robert Kaplan, I figure I might spare a few words for a genuine friend of mine. Andrew Sullivan reads an account of the backstory behind Eli Lake’s hit piece on Trita Parsi and the National Iranian-American Council and comes to some unnecessarily harsh conclusions. For the record, as I’ve written, I wasn’t persuaded by Eli’s piece, and on the substantive issues at the heart of U.S.-Iranian relations, I think Trita offers a more compelling agenda. But Andrew fixates on this item, reported by Josh Rogin, about the apparent origins of Eli’s piece:
Tim Kapshandy, a lawyer for Sidley Austin LLP, came to represent Daioleslam in 2009. Upon seeing the e-mails about Parsi and Namazi, he accidentally sent a note to both of them. The note read, “Send it to [Washington Times reporter Eli] Lake right away!”
And he replies:
It’s just a rare and small glimpse of how neocons operate. It is warfare abroad and warfare at home. It is a philosophy of attack and force, not dialogue and thought. And if we are to find a sane way through our current perilous global environment, it must be exposed and resisted as thoroughly and as relentlessly as we try to resist its mirror image among the extremists within the Iran coup regime.
I hope it doesn’t make me an apologist for neoconservatism to point out that neocons are hardly the only political operatives to feed damaging-if-thin-oppo to sympathetic reporters. It was some hardball, but ultimately wide of the plate and with mediocre cheese. NIAC’s response, in my opinion, quieted Eli’s story rather thoroughly. And, indeed, it’s because Eli is no hack that such a judgment could be reached. You can read through Eli’s piece and see lots of opportunities provided to NIAC to make its case and answer its critics. As a reader, I tend to think you needed to enter the piece already hostile to NIAC to consider it damaging to the group precisely because of Eli’s portrayal of its perspectives. (The exception being that you really go through almost the whole thing without knowing that Trita wrote endlessly against Ahmadinejad’s theft of the election. That’s a very odd position for his ostensible “lobbyist” to take, and if I was writing this piece, I would have put that very high up. But then again, I wouldn’t have written this piece…)
Maybe a simpler way to put it is this: anyone who leaks oppo that weak to Eli in the hope that he’ll blindly recycle it is actually insulting him and is probably more familiar with a caricature of his work than his actual work itself. Lord knows Eli and I disagree about almost everything under the geopolitical sun, and NIAC has the stronger side of this argument, and Andrew isn’t really wrong about the development of neoconservative arguments, but this is still true.