Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: NYT (6-16-12)
Posted on: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 07:58
SOURCE: NYT (6-16-12)
Robert Zaretsky, a professor of history at the Honors College, University of Houston, and John T. Scott, a professor of political science at the University of California, Davis, are the authors of “The Philosopher’s Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume and the Limits of Human Understanding.”
The 300th birthday of Jean-Jacques Rousseau falls next week, and it is only proper to wish him a happy one. He had a few choice words to offer on the theme of happiness — the sort associated not with fleeting social pleasures but with “nothing external to ourselves, nothing if not ourselves and our own existence.”
In 2010, two Harvard psychologists, Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, performed a study that used an iPhone app to ask volunteers, at random moments, what they were doing and how happy they were. They discovered that we spend most of our lives not thinking about what we are doing at that moment, whether it’s shopping, eating or, in particular, working. No matter how enjoyable or unenjoyable the activity we’re engaged in is, this gift for distraction comes at a psychic cost: “a wandering mind,” they wrote in the journal Science, “is an unhappy mind.”
No one seemed to remark on the incongruity of scientists’ using a technology that, in studying their subjects’ inability to focus, interrupted their focus.
The paradox would not have been lost on Rousseau, who believed we were happy only in our original state of nature — before the advent of technology and society....
Posted on: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 07:56
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (6-28-12)
Laurence Tribe is a University Professor and a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, has argued 35 cases in the Supreme Court, and taught constitutional law at Harvard both to President Obama and to Chief Justice Roberts.
...Chief Justice Roberts has done much to repair the enormous damage done to the Court’s reputation by Bush v. Gore and exacerbated by Citizens United. The Supreme Court's precedents clearly establish that the individual mandate, which doesn’t literally force anyone to purchase health insurance but simply adjusts the income-tax liability of those who don’t, can be sustained as an exercise of Congress's indisputably broad power to impose taxes. By faithfully applying those precedents—regardless of whatever personal distaste he may have had for the law he upheld—the chief justice helped restore Americans' confidence in the political neutrality of their highest court.
That is no small achievement. It is in some ways comparable to what our greatest chief justice, John Marshall, achieved in his landmark 19th-century rulings in Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland. Marbury established the power of the Supreme Court to sit in judgment on the constitutionality of the actions of the other political branches, and McCulloch established the breadth of the political authority entrusted to those branches by the provisions of the Constitution....
Posted on: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 16:49
SOURCE: Balkinization (6-28-12)
Gerard N. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
...Chief Justice Marshall famously found a way out of tough spot in 1803 by reading the Judiciary Act of 1789 in a peculiar way to deny William Marbury a remedy. Following the law would have brought the Court into a terrible (and destructive) clash with President Jefferson. He lectured the President about not giving Marbury his commission, but did nothing to help....
Chief Justice Roberts did something similar today. Following the law and reading the Affordable Care Act in the most natural way (failing to buy health insurance leads to a penalty, not a tax) would have forced him to strike down the individual mandate. So he didn't do that. Why? Because a 5-4 straight-line party decision invalidating part or all of the Act would have have brought the Court into a terrible clash with President Obama. The Chief Justice gave a pretty speech about federalism, but ultimately he did nothing about it. (Maybe I'm underestimating the importance of the Medicaid issue--I'm not sure.)...
Posted on: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 12:44
SOURCE: The New Yorker (6-27-12)
Jill Lepore is a staff writer for The New Yorker and is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University.
The worst decision the U.S. Supreme Court ever issued was delivered on March 6, 1857, a Friday. Like the Court’s decision on the Affordable Health Care Act, the decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, regarding the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise, was anxiously anticipated—even if, by modern standards, everything about it was sluggish.
The ruling had been postponed until after the Presidential election (not a bad idea) and then until after the inauguration. On Wednesday, March 4th, Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the oath of office to James Buchanan, who proceeded to deliver one of the lousiest inaugural addresses of all time. In it, he expressed his contentment with the forthcoming decision of the Supreme Court, whatever it might be. As for the legal matter at hand, the extension of slavery to new states entering the union, “this is, happily, a matter of but little practical importance,” Buchanan remarked. “Besides, it is a judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the Supreme Court of the United States, before whom it is now pending, and will, it is understood, be speedily and finally settled. To their decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit.”
This, of course, was hogwash. Buchanan had lobbied for the postponement of the ruling, and had also pressured at least one Justice, a Northerner, to join the Court’s pro-slavery majority. Indifferent he was not....
Posted on: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 12:23
SOURCE: CNN.com (6-18-12)
Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) -- Late last week, the campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney released Web videos highlighting the mistakes their rivals have made on the campaign trail.
Obama's statement that "the private sector is doing fine" was the highlight for a Romney video, while one of the president's videos featured a remark by the former Massachusetts governor that the nation does not need more firefighters, teachers or police officers. We can expect the gaffe wars to continue, since they are a staple of presidential campaigns.
Even though such statements are far from a fair indication of a candidate's record or stance on the issues, and often they are accurate statements taken out of context, they can be devastating to a campaign.
Some off-kilter comments are too slight to sink a candidacy, but when they play into preconceptions of a candidate, the remarks -- and even sometimes a gesture or sound -- can be potent....
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 13:46
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (6-26-12)
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory" (Yale University Press). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the 1970s, I went to a summer camp whose director liked little boys. That's how we described pedophiles at the time, and all the kids figured he was one.
Our parents did, too. I remember telling my folks that the director often visited our cabins at the end of swim period, because he knew we would be changing out of our bathing suits at that point. He also showed up at skinny-dips with a movie camera. True story.
If you think that's astonishing, consider this: We thought it was funny. My parents laughed it off, and so did I. Later, after I became a counselor at the same camp, the director's proclivities remained a source of mirth. There was a playful, Keystone Kops aspect to it; we would station a kid on "director watch," for example, to warn everyone when he was on his way....
Today, his inclination could have triggered a criminal investigation and a media blitz. The camp that we loved would almost certainly have closed down. And none of that would have been good for the kids who went there.
Unless, that is, they had been sexually abused by the camp director. Since the 1980s, a wealth of psychological research has demonstrated the negative long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse....
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 13:18
SOURCE: NYT (6-25-12)
Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, is the editor, with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Fred Israel, of “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008,” fourth edition.
In running for re-election, Barack Obama commands the most powerful democratic platform in world history and the greatest backdrop, the White House. A seemingly casual announcement in a TV interview can trigger a political earthquake, as Obama did when he endorsed gay marriage. But the president’s magnificent residence can also be what Harry Truman called the Great White Jail.
Presidents are handcuffed by their power. Presidential statements can crash financial markets or start wars. The dignity of the presidency also inhibits, even in today’s brutal political environment. Obama’s campaign ad attacking Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital made some Democrats squirm as Republicans labeled the president “another gut-punching politician from Washington.”
The ambivalence about presidents politicking goes back to the nation’s founding. George Washington liked “going on tour,” getting “huzzahed” north and south – but, reflecting his contemporaries’ distaste for democracy, he avoided explicit political talk. When the less popular President Martin Van Buren toured before his 1840 re-election campaign, his fellow Democrats feted him. Nevertheless, the new partisanship polarizing American politics had Whig Party critics denouncing Van Buren’s activities as “undignified” and “insulting,” while mocking “His Majesty, King Martin the First.”...
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 13:13
SOURCE: CNN.com (6-25-12)
Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of the new book "Governing America."
(CNN) -- When President Obama had his back to the wall after a month of bad economic news, he tried to change the national conversation by shifting attention toward the issue of immigration. Through a directive issued by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to stop deporting some young undocumented immigrants, the administration made one of its boldest moves in four years in this area of policy.
In doing so, President Obama is clearly hoping to exploit the deep division that has existed within the GOP for decades on immigration reform.
One faction of the party, with strong support from the business community, has pushed for Congress to liberalize immigration policy on the basis that this will bring great economic benefit as well as positive electoral rewards for the party in states such as Texas.
The other faction, less hospitable to reform, has a strong nativist tilt and seeks much more stringent laws to crack down on illegal immigration and even curb the flow of legal newcomers....
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 13:08
SOURCE: CS Monitor (6-26-12)
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).
Did the Supreme Court embrace an “elite vision” on Monday when it struck down state laws mandating life imprisonment for juvenile murderers?
That’s what Justice Samuel Alito said, in an angry dissent from the bench. By invalidating such laws, Mr. Alito fumed, the court’s 5-4 majority assumed that it knew better than the 28 state legislatures that have authorized mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for killers younger than 18.
But the court’s majority really does know better. And there’s a simple reason for that: It relied on science – in particular, the science of adolescent brain development....
Science is itself a kind of elitism, insofar as it privileges rigorous experimentation and testing over cant, guesswork, and propaganda. And we need more of it, not less....
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 13:01
SOURCE: The New Republic (6-21-12)
Sean Wilentz is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of Bob Dylan in America (Doubleday). This excerpt is drawn from a longer review of Robert Caro's Passage to Power.
...BARACK OBAMA came to the presidency with enormous gifts but only four years of indifferent government experience in Washington, which partly accounted for his perception of recent political history and the crisis he faced, above all his notion of the Republican Party. Since the departure of Ronald Reagan, the Republicans on Capitol Hill, and especially the House, had lurched fitfully further to the right, their caucus centered in the white conservative South that Johnson and the Democrats had abandoned when they fought for civil rights and which Goldwater first gathered up for the GOP. Like the conservative counter-revolution of 1938 and after, this had been the overriding reality of congressional politics after 1994.
Following the defeat of President Bill Clinton’s health care reform early in his first term, the Republicans regained the House majority led by the right-wing agitator Newt Gingrich; and after Clinton recovered to outfox Gingrich and then win re-election, the Republicans pushed ever further to the right, under the command of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who commandeered the impeachment farce and then forced Gingrich out. The conservative five-to-four majority on the Supreme Court placed George W. Bush in the White House, but Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” quickly gave way to the brutal and politicized methods of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. The DeLay-led right-wing Republican Congress was happy to go along, even after DeLay’s money-laundering corruption came to light, after which the Democrats regained the House majority in 2006. By then, most of the country had turned fiercely against Bush—and so would the irreducible hard-right base over his desperate effort to stanch the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression with a massive bailout of financial institutions. This right-wing revulsion against Bush as a secret “big-government” betrayer would in time explode as the Tea Party.
Looking back on this history, the impeccably centrist political scientists Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann have recently observed that the undeniable reality for decades—obscured by a cowed press corps intent on proving its objectivity—is that right-wing Republicans, especially in Congress, have been the cause of the intensified polarization in Washington, turning their party into “an insurgent outlier in American politics.” Yet in the face of this reality, Obama propagated the idea that both parties were responsible for the acidulous politics of the 1990s, that “politics as usual” and “the old Washington games with the same old Washington players” had produced stalemate. He offered instead a transcendent and “transformative” post-partisanship that would carry the country to the higher ground of peace, prosperity, and social justice. He would be the latest antidote to the kind of low political scheming that an earlier generation of reform Democrats had seen and detested in Lyndon Johnson and, in many cases, in Robert Kennedy as well.
Obama came into office in 2009 with a more favorable political situation than Johnson faced in 1963 and 1964. To be sure, Kennedy’s martyrdom gave Johnson enormous public sympathy, which he was unashamed about exploiting politically. And by the time Obama became president, the sort of right-wing revanchism and even paranoia that in Johnson’s day occupied the margins of American politics, in groups such as the John Birch Society, had become part of the mainstream inside the Republican Party as well as on cable television and the Internet. But unlike the longentrenched bipartisan conservative majority that Johnson confronted, Obama faced a fractured opposition party that was in public disgrace after the eight-year Bush regime and whose candidate, Senator John McCain, had just conducted the feeblest presidential campaign since the Michael Dukakis campaign in 1988. (Even Dukakis had not given America an indignity on the order of Sarah Palin.)
Johnson was an accidental president who had run on a ticket that barely squeaked by three years earlier; Obama had been elected to office with the first presidential popular majority that his party had enjoyed in more than thirty years and the largest in more than forty. On Inauguration Day, Obama enjoyed an astounding 69 percent public approval rating. More important, he enjoyed a seventy-nine-seat Democratic majority in the House and a filibuster-proof ten-seat Democratic majority in the Senate—in short, a working party majority, unlike the Southern-Midwestern conservative axis that Johnson confronted. Johnson, by contrast, began his presidency in political loneliness, detested by Kennedy liberals, alienated from Southern Democrats, and mistrusted by Republicans. And out of this isolation he produced a genuinely transformative presidency....
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 12:31
SOURCE: WSJ (6-25-12)
Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the author most recently of The Syrian Rebellion, just published by Hoover Press.
With the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate in the presidential election, Egyptian history can be said to have closed a circle. This "Second Republic" marks a return to that tumultuous time, six decades ago, when the military officers overthrew the monarchy in 1952 and announced the birth of a new order.
Two forces inherited the wreckage of the Egyptian monarchy: the officer corps and the Muslim Brotherhood. For a fleeting moment, the Brothers thought the men in uniform were their allies. They dubbed the military seizure "the blessed movement." But the coup makers had a different script in mind. The Muslim Brotherhood would come in for decades of repression.
Mohammed Morsi, the president-elect set to be handed the reins of power on June 30, has done time in prison and is now poised to be his country's first civilian president. Ever since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood yearned for power as it ran afoul of the authoritarian state. Its adherents dreamt of and agitated for an Islamic state even as its sly leaders understood the limitations imposed by the poverty of Egypt, its need for the kindness of strangers, reliance on foreign aid and the revenues of tourism...
Posted on: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 13:42
SOURCE: Martin Kramer's Sandbox Blog (6-26-12)
Martin Kramer is Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and President-designate of Shalem College (in formation). He is also the Wexler-Fromer Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Did I predict the “Arab Spring”?
The short answer is “no.” I didn’t foresee that the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor would set off a wave of popular unrest that would bring down the rulers of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, plunge Syria deep into civil conflict, and roil Bahrain.
The long answer is a bit more interesting....
Posted on: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 12:27
SOURCE: Special to HNN (6-25-12)
Elliott Young teaches history at Lewis & Clark College
When President Obama announced that he would stop enforcing deportation proceedings for a select class of young immigrants, pro-immigration advocates cheered. While this is welcome news to the about one million immigrants whom the executive order affects, it is also a Faustian bargain that serves to authorize the continued harassment and deportation of ten million other immigrants who do not qualify for special treatment.
This is not the first time that a president has sought through executive decree to soften the harshness of immigration restrictions. In 1905, in the wake of a boycott on American goods started by Chinese merchants in Shanghai, President Theodore Roosevelt also ordered immigration authorities to relax their enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Roosevelt directed immigration officers not to subject merchants and students, who were exempt from Chinese exclusion, to humiliating interrogations and invasive inspections that required measuring of their body parts. Furthermore, he ordered officers not to arrest Chinese in the interior of the country who were suspected of coming in illegally.
As President Roosevelt put it, “We cannot afford either from the standpoint of our national interests or from the standpoint of civilization to be put in the attitude of failing to do complete justice and to show courtesy and consideration to Chinese who are entitled to come here.” The result of the 1905 boycott and Roosevelt’s directive was a victory for Chinese merchants and students who managed to gain some relief from harsh immigration legislation.
But in bargaining for their own rights, Chinese merchants and students solidified the idea that Chinese laborers were not “entitled” to come to the United States, and thereby strengthened the Chinese exclusion laws that remained in place until 1943. In the same way, Obama’s embrace of certain young immigrants bolsters the idea that there are undeserving illegal immigrants who should be deported.
Obama has deported about 1.7 million immigrants in his time in office, more than under any other president in American history. More than half of these have no criminal record, or have only minor misdemeanors. As one million young immigrants gain a temporary reprieve, another ten million immigrants face the most extreme deportation regime in history.
In his speech, Obama declared that these immigrants are “Americans in their hearts [and] in their minds.” They are “dreamers.” What about other immigrants? The president emphasized his increased deportation of “criminals” to make it clear that there are deserving “American” immigrants who should be able to remain in the U.S., and the undeserving who should be deported.
In the very same speech that hailed the young immigrants as “Americans” and “dreamers,” President Obama said that this was not a “path to citizenship.” The message is clear. Come work and study in this country, but don’t expect full rights. In states like Georgia, these dreamers are not even able to attend public universities. Until all immigrants are given a chance -- not only to work, study and join the military, but to become citizens -- the American dream will remain just that.
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 13:24
SOURCE: CNN.com (6-22-12)
(CNN) -- The comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to complain, "I don't get no respect." Sometimes, it feels like those words ought to be printed on the presidential seal.
Last week, Barack Obama was interrupted by Daily Caller journalist Neil Munro while making a statement on immigration. Munro shouted questions at him until the president was forced to stop and demand silence. Many media outlets, particularly those with a liberal bent, were outraged....
[But] relations between presidents and press have always been fraught. President Theodore Roosevelt was the first POTUS to try to cultivate journalists: He assigned them a room in the White House. But journalists who put out reports without Teddy's consent (so-called "Muckrakers") were cut out of the loop, denied access to any federal department. Incidentally, Roosevelt's relations with ordinary voters were just as prickly. In 1912, he was shot while giving a speech on the campaign trail. With admirable sangfroid, Teddy calculated from the lack of blood that the bullet had not penetrated any organs and finished his oration, before being rushed to the nearest hospital. It puts Obama being told "You lie!" into perspective....
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 12:05
SOURCE: CNN.com (6-25-12)
Stephanie Coontz teaches history and family studies at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and co-chairs the Council on Contemporary Families. Her most recent book is "A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s."
(CNN) -- The July/August cover story of the Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" by Anne-Marie Slaughter, has ignited a firestorm....
Slaughter's article contains a powerful critique of the insanely rigid workplace culture that produces higher levels of career-family conflict among Americans -- among men and women -- than among any of our Western European counterparts, without measurably increasing our productivity or gross national product. And she makes sensible suggestions about how to reorganize workplaces and individual career paths to lessen that conflict....
The irony is that most jobs, even top professional positions, do not actually require as much absenteeism from family as employers often impose. University of Texas sociologist Jennifer Glass, a senior fellow at the Council on Contemporary Families, points out that corporate and government professionals in the United States put in much longer workweeks than their counterparts in Europe, where limits on work hours are common, workplace flexibility is more widespread, and workers are entitled to far more vacation days per year than most Americans -- and actually use them....
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 12:02
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (6-25-12)
During the recent presidential primaries, we heard a great deal, as we do every election year, about the founding fathers, and how their ideals, intents, and religious views were allegedly reflected in the policies and life stories of various candidates and opposed by their dastardly, un-American rivals. In a politically polarized America, it was—and still is—argued, we must consult the founders' writings, probe their biographies, contact them with our Ouija boards if need be to determine what they would have done if confronted with, say, a defense-allocation bill or a proposal to regulate traders of derivatives. If we only did so, we would find our lost sense of common purpose, restore our civic virtue, and return the union to unity.
But those arguments are frustrated by the simple fact that the men who came together to confront a common enemy in 1775 and to craft an enduring alliance in the late 1780s were not our country's founders, but rather the founders' great- or great-great-, or great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
The real founders—early-17th-century Puritans and Dutch West India Company officials, mid-17th-century English aristocrats, late-17th-century West Indian slave lords and English Quakers, early-18th-century frontiersmen from Ulster and the lowlands of Scotland and so on—didn't create an America, they created several Americas....
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 11:09
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (6-18-12)
Washington, D.C., the marble city begun by slave labor in the 1790s, is again in the news. As charges of campaign violations swirl around Mayor Vincent Gray, and the chairman of the city council and another member resign after admitting financial misdeeds, it is often forgotten that Washington once stood as a "city on a hill" to the nation's African-Americans. Just as the Puritan John Winthrop held the biblical image up as the ideal for Boston, so the District has long served as a beacon to blacks seeking freedom—from slavery, Jim Crow, and racism.
But for generations of blacks born and raised in D.C. and others who migrated to the city, the hill has become steeper to climb and easier to fall off. Corruption, crime, unemployment, the lack of affordable housing, and similar urban woes are just part of the problem. How we deal with them is another matter. Will Washington lose its identity in the process?
In 1957, Washington became the first major city in the country with a majority-black population. At the peak of this demographic trend, in 1970, 71 percent of Washingtonians were black, but 2010 census figures show that from 2000 to 2010, the non-Hispanic white population in the District grew by more than 50,000, to 209,000, while the black population declined by more than 39,000, to a little more than 300,000—below 50 percent. Washington is not alone; during the past decade, Chicago lost more than 180,000 black residents, and other cities long known for their black populations, like Cleveland, Oakland, and St. Louis, suffered similar losses....
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 10:58
SOURCE: NYT (6-22-12)
Posted on: Saturday, June 23, 2012 - 17:19
SOURCE: The Diplomat (6-23-12)
Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, and is the author of Leaving without Losing: The War on Terror after Iraq and Afghanistan (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).
The Obama Administration has sought to enlist Moscow in the effort to increase pressure on Iran to cooperate with the international community and verifiably renounce any ambitions it might have to acquire nuclear weapons. But while Russia would undoubtedly prefer a non-nuclear to a nuclear Iran, joining the U.S. and its allies in more forcefully sanctioning Iran for not cooperating on this matter involves risks for Moscow that it doesn’t wish to incur.
The geostrategic, economic, and political relations between Russia and Iran are, in a word, complex. Historically, Russia and Iran have been geostrategic rivals. In the 19th century in particular, Tsarist Russia made gains in both the Caucasus and Central Asia at Iran’s expense. In both the 19th and 20th centuries, Iran often had reason to fear a powerful, encroaching Russia (or Soviet Union) – an important factor underpinning the alliance between the United States and Iran from the end of World War II through the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. Even after the Shah’s regime was replaced by the virulently anti-American Islamic Republic, Soviet-Iranian relations remained tense – especially since Tehran regarded both the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89) and Soviet support to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) as highly threatening.
With the end of the war with Iraq and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, followed by the breakup of the Soviet Union itself, Iranian threat perceptions of Russia were greatly reduced. Underpinned by certain common geostrategic interests, Russian-Iranian relations have been greatly improved since then. First and foremost among these shared interests is a common desire to limit American influence, especially in the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia that became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Another geostrategic interest which Moscow and Tehran share is a common fear of radical Sunni Islamist movements such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban which, in addition to being anti-Western, are virulently anti-Russian and anti-Shi’a. Yet another overlapping interest between Russia and Iran is fear and opposition to secessionism, which both states are vulnerable to it.
Posted on: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 17:08