I enjoyed Reihan’s column on Iran, the Matt Frost critique, the Daniel Larison many-barreled rebuttal and the Freddie de Boer effort at contextualization. More than any of them, however, I enjoy that all were written, and that Reihan mounted a good-humored, substantive defense here.
It is helpful to see an author concede, qualify and reassert. I now possess a better understanding of his argument, the matters he cares most about emphasizing, and the parts of his foreign policy posture that persuade me to re-examine my own. Everyone involved in this exchange is better for it—almost as if forceful disagreement among open-minded, intellectually honest people leads at least toward a better understanding of where disagreements lie, and often toward a clearer understanding of the world.
Of course, this could have gone another way. Matt might have decided against offering any criticism of Reihan due to the fact that both are on Team American Scene. Reihan could have responded to Daniel by sanctimoniously lamenting that he is anti-freedom, and dismissed Freddie as unworthy of a substantive response because he is a liberal, and therefore evil. All the while, folks in the comments section could have cheered Reihan on by aiming juvenile insults at his critics and impugning their motives.
It is obvious to me that real Reihan is now far better equipped that counter-factual Reihan to advocate for sound Iran policies — and that the former approach to discourse is self-evidently better than the latter. But it sure isn’t obvious to everyone!