Does Esfandiari’s plight affect the validity of Krugman’s judgment?

Paul Krugman writes today in the New York Times TimesSelect area:

Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.


It sounds so clear: there is no threat from Iran, no cooperative Muslim effort to conquer the West, and no relationship between Osama bin Laden and Iraq.

Regarding Iran, let’s assume that there is in fact no threat of attack within our own borders. But I wonder what Paul Krugman thinks of the arrest and imprisonment of Haleh Esfandiari. Reuel Marc Gerecht, an adviser to the Iraq Study Group, describes her situation thus:

Haleh Esfandiari, an American citizen and the director of the Middle Eastern program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, has been jailed in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since May 8. For years, she has been an articulate and determined advocate of better relations between her homeland, Iran, and her adopted country.
[. . .]
The clerical regime doesn’t play fair: A 67-year-old woman [i.e., Esfandiari] who has over the years shown Iran’s representatives in the United States and other visiting Iranians, including esteemed clerics, the utmost kindness and respect is a perfect target to show the regime’s distaste for Iranians who want to build bridges.
[. . .]
Advocates of engagement don’t want to see that for Iran’s ruling clergy there is no fundamental contradiction between seeking trade deals with Boeing and Exxon and also bombing American troops in Saudi Arabia, abetting the movement of Al Qaeda’s holy warriors (see the 9/11 commission report) and exporting explosive devises to Iraq to kill American and British soldiers.

This is a very big deal, and I think Gerecht is right when he says, “As for the Western powers, they should recall that Ronald Reagan’s finest moments came when he saw that the struggles of Soviet dissidents should be at the forefront of American-Soviet relations. The liberation of one individual should sometimes define a nation’s foreign policy.”

Regarding Krugman’s claim about Mitt Romney’s ridiculous ignorance. Perhaps it is silly to lump Shia, Sunni, Hamas, etc. all in one bunch. But is it false that a large number of Muslims, worldwide, longs for the downfall of the West? Are they kidding when they talk of bringing down the West?

As for Osama, “who isn’t in Iraq”—how does Krugman know this?

– – – –

Side note: I had to laugh when Krugman said, “I wasn’t really surprised by Republican election victories in 2002 and 2004”—that’s probably why, in his last editorial before the 2004 election, he expressed his Jeffersonian love and faith in the democratic system . . . and in his next editorial, after Bush won, he was livid, and announced he was taking a vacation.

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