The conversation begins with Podhoretz stating that America has one choice: bomb Iran or let them get the bomb. He's clearly leaning towards bombing them.
Zakaria says that the third choice is to use deterrence, although that would actually fall under Podhoretz's choices. He points out that deterrence has worked with a number of tyrannical or revolutionary states, including North Korea, Maoist China, and the Soviet Union, so there is no reason to believe it would not work with Iran.
This is a fairly good point and Podhoretz is asked to explain why deterrence wouldn't work with Iran. Instead, he says this, straight from the transcript:
First, I want to say that I think the attitude expressed by Fareed Zakaria represents an irresponsible complacency that I think is comparable to the denial in the early '30s of the intentions of Hitler that led to what Churchill called an unnecessary war involving millions and millions of deaths that might have been averted if the West had acted early enough.
At this point, my jaw dropped. He really pulled out the Hitler argument? Holy fucking shit! This is seriously the sort of ''expert analysis'' that neoconservatives believe should drive US foreign policy? Seriously? This guy is now a foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani, who isn't exactly the picture of mental health himself. Seriously?
The Hitler argument is this: Everyone who neoconservatives want to bomb or invade is Hitler. Everyone who disagrees with that is Neville Chamberlain. And neoconservatives are all Winston Churchill. Oh, and if you disagree with them, you're okay with the Holocaust. Got all that?
After being asked to act like an adult, Podhoretz pulls out the Big Argument about Iran. To wit:
The reason deterrence can't work with Iran is that there's a different element involved here than was involved with either Mao or even Kim Jong Il or Stalin, and that is the element of religious fanaticism.Does anybody remember when some people on the left would argue that Ronald Reagan couldn't be trusted with his finger on the button because he was a born-again Christian, and thus just fine with Armageddon? Even as a kid that struck me as a lame argument.
But, look, here is what we, the sane people in the Western world, are likely to be asked to believe in the future: Iran has built up one of the strongest states in the Middle East. Their rulers have gotten very rich from oil and the country itself has prospered. They've even come back from the decline after the Revolution. For thirty years, nearly everything they've done in the geopolitical realm has been guided by naked self-interest, just like all states. They have positioned themselves to become a leader in the region, and likely will. Why did they do all of this? So that they could then bomb the United States or Israel and get completely nuked off of the map. Oh, and also get much of the Islamic world bombed off the map. You know, for Allah. Why? Because Islam is like really weird, man!
This argument, that deterrence won't work with Iran because everything they've done since the 70s has been leading up to a massive religious suicide, is quite literally insane. There's no other way to put it. We're asked to believe that, for the first time in human history, a nation exists solely as a large-scale version of Jonestown. That they will, in the near future, attempt to further their religion by getting the majority of its adherents killed. And we're asked to seriously entertain this completely bat-shit argument as the basis for our foreign policy in the region. In fact, it's not inconceivable that this will be our policy in the region.
Consider this- wanting to use nuclear deterrence, instead of wars and bombing, to solve our problems with other countries used to make a person something very specific in American life, namely, a Conservative Republican. Now, in the eyes of huge segments of the conservative populace, it makes you Neville Chamberlain, or worse. Nowadays, thinking like an 80s conservative makes you a far-left radical. By this reasoning, Ronald Reagan wouldn't have been a conservative. Does any of this help to illustrate just how far America has swung to the extreme right?
Or, maybe Norman Podhoretz is just a lone wacko. Let's hope so.