Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Thursday, October 18, 2012

MOVIE TIME

Yesterday evening [well, actually, late yesterday afternoon] Susie and I went to the movies to see Ben Affleck's new film, Argo, also featuring John Goodman and Alan Arkin in marvelous lesser roles.  I have liked Affleck ever since he and Matt Damon made their breakout film, Good Will Hunting. I can watch forever the delicious scene in which Damon, while mopping the floor in an MIT hall, stops long enough to solve a math problem that none of the MIT undergraduates or graduate students can crack.  That scene captures the essential difference between MIT and Harvard, which is that at MIT, all that matters is sheer brains.  Affleck has not had as successful a career as his buddy, Damon, but he has done some fine work, including a lovely minor role in Shakespeare in Love.

Argo tells the apparently true story of the "exfilation" from Teheran of six Americans from the embassy who hide out in the Canadian embassy after the Iranian revolution in 1979.  Never mind the plot.  For purposes of this blog post, what matters is the brief prelude to the narration of the story in which the shameful history is recounted of the coup by MI6 and the CIA deposing Mossadegh in 1953 and the subsequent installation of Pahlavi as Shah.  I almost wept, once again, as a sepulchral voice told the bare bones of the affair over news clips of Mossadegh and Pahlavi.  Had the United States embraced Mossadegh's secular democratic regime instead of overthrowing it because it was "socialist," Iran could have been, these past thirty-odd years, an ally and friend rather than a member of the Axis of Evil.  In just the same way, Cuba could have been the Socialist paradise Castro wanted to make it had the United States poured aid into the new democratic regime instead of sending that hapless collection of exiles into the Bay of Pigs on their doomed mission.  So too could America have stepped into the void left by France's departure from Southeast Asia to help create a flourishing Viet Nam, instead of nearly destroying that country and a generation of American men in the appalling carnage of the Viet Nam War.

There is nothing secret about these events.  All of us in my generation have lived through them and their inevitable consequences.  And yet, as things stand in this country today, it would be simply impossible to introduce what I have said about them into a serious discussion of American international affairs.  The "progressive" position among "serious" people is that Viet Nam was an unfortunate but unavoidable war, that it is time to attempt a tentative opening to Cuba now that Castro has aged sufficiently to step down, and that we ought to impose crippling sanctions on Iran rather than go to war with that country.

Affleck directed Argo, and it was his choice to open the film with that recitation of what is now ancient history.  I honor him for that.  It was a courageous and honorable choice.,

7 comments:

Chris said...

Ironically Chomsky just put out an article on the Cuban missile crisis:
http://chomsky.info/articles/20121015.htm

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Great minds think alike. :)

C Rossi said...

Robert: There is a very interesting new book by Christopher de Bellaigue on Mossadegh called "Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup." Here's the Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/Patriot-Persia-Muhammad-Mossadegh-Anglo-American/dp/0061844705/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350569348&sr=8-1&keywords=Patriot+of+Persia

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you. Have you read it? Can you say anything about it?

Chris said...

I did read Stephen Kinzer's All The Shah's Men, and it was bar none, one of the best works of history I've ever read. The entire book reads like a novel, but none of it is fictional.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

When I get time, I should read it.

C Rossi said...

Robert: Sorry for the delay responding. I was off the grid for a while. I'm reading the Mossadegh book now. I'm a slow reader, a note taker, a lover of diversions and degressions.

de Bellaigue writes well, His wife is Iranian; he lives (or did at one time) in Tehran and knows the place and the people. He is a convert to Iranian Shite Islam (not of the fundamentalist type, Inshallah). His view of Mossadegh is evident from the title; he thinks him a patriot. Here's an excerpt from the preface.

"He started life conventionally enough, a product of the Persian upper class, in the last decades of the nineteenth century. In the 1920s and 1930s he achieved fame with a struggle against royal despotism which almost cost him his life. Mossadegh became notorious around the world in 1951, when he dared to nationalise Britain’s biggest overseas asset, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. He went on to lead the most enlightened government his country has ever known. The British wanted revenge and they enlisted the help of the United States on the grounds that Mossadegh was a communist stooge. On August 19, 1953, he was overthrown by a conspiracy hatched by the American and British secret services in favour of the Shah. He was banished to his estate and became a non-person under the Shah’s new dictatorship. The father of the nation had been cast aside, but he was impossible to forget."

I'm looking forward to getting to 1953. I had thought that he was killed in the coup, but he died an old man. (alas, revolutionaries should die young: Castro in his dotage dressed in a ridiculous, robbin's egg blue athletic sweatsuit is deadly to the dreams of the young) When I get to the nasty US/British business, I'll report in.