By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Koppel gets weird

Count yourself lucky this morning if you’re not a TimesSelect customer — you don’t have to read Ted Koppel’s column on Iran and ask yourself, What was that all about?

Koppel is a great interviewer, but his overall skill set may be more limited than anyone had realized. Because, in a rambling piece in which he cites Vito Corleone as his authority (it’s got something to do with not seeking vengeance for Sonny’s death so that he can protect Michael), Koppel argues for (a) letting Iran develop nuclear weapons while (b) subsequently holding Iran responsible for any nuclear-tinged terrorism anywhere. Koppel writes:

But this should also be made clear to Tehran: If a dirty bomb explodes in Milwaukee, or some other nuclear device detonates in Baltimore or Wichita, if Israel or Egypt or Saudi Arabia should fall victim to a nuclear “accident,” Iran should understand that the United States government will not search around for the perpetrator. The return address will be predetermined, and it will be somewhere in Iran.

Now, it seems self-evident that Koppel is wrong about (a). It could be that we can’t stop Iran from developing nukes without paying an unacceptable price — but it would be incredibly irresponsible not to try.

But (b)? You’ve got to be kidding. Koppel is quite plainly saying that we should invade Iran in retaliation for a nuclear incident somewhere in the world regardless of the evidence. Thus does he manage to get it wrong on both prevention and punishment. Quite a feat.

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Driving into the ditch


  1. Stella

    Koppel resides, I think, somewhere within the DC sump. Looniness rampant there, the stench of fear wafts from Manassas to Gaithersburg.

  2. neil

    Sure, do what you want! But we’ll hold you responsible for any trouble, whether it’s your fault or not.It’s a threat of the passive-aggressive variety and is as impotent as any other we can make. Its unreasonableness is an attempt to enhance its scariness, but sounds like Nixon trying to make Hanoi think he was capable of acting irrationally, when they knew otherwise. Look at me, I’m crazy, I’m unpredictable! You can’t tell what I’ll do!Iran will continue to develop its nuclear program whether we “let them” or not because there is nothing obvious and simple (and thus nothing at all since subtlety involves too much “know your enemy” which ick, foreigners!) we can do short of invasion, and invasion is out of the question because we are already overextended in Iraq. The Iranians know it, and Ahmadinejad is having a great theatrical time playing the look at me I’m crazy game, in the face of our predictable empty bluster.So Koppel contributes yet another facile glib solution to a complex problem. Thanks Ted, we don’t have enough of those.

  3. Anonymous

    Just entertaining the notion that he’s speaking “figuratively” here.

  4. Don

    Aw,geez, the Koppel piece was in the NY Times. I’d feel a little soiled if I read it. Shouldn’t Koppel be enjoying his retirement – fishing and playing golf?

  5. whispers

    Um, (b) certainly is nutty.I don’t know if there’s any moral ground stand on if (a) is the goal. We’ve turned a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear arsenal for years, and have done nothing as India, Pakistan, and North Korea have crossed the line in the sand. But Iran – that’s one country too many!I’m really not fond of the “we can’t do anything, but we’ve got to try something” arguments. I’m very interested in any suggestions anybody has to try to stop still more nuclear proliferation, but there are a lot of obstacles to that happening and one of the largest is the man inhabiting the White House, who has no interest in talking to Iran at all. George Bush has helped create the situation where other nations feel that they need to have nuclear weapons to prevent the United States from invading. I’m not comfortable with this side effect of the Iraq invasion.

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