IDEALISM AND SUCH. Writing like this from Richard Just makes me suspicious. Ostensibly, the argument is that "there are plenty of ways short of military action that America can oppose tyranny in Iran and elsewhere" and that we should do so. The post doesn't, however, name any such ways, cite any arguments that such ways would be effective, or debunk any counterarguments against any such proposals. Instead, the actual weight of the post is just dedicated to bashing liberals. I'd be interested in hearing about what these ways are -- really!

My read, though, is that the tragedy of the situation in Iran is that there's actually very little we can do to affect internal Iranian developments -- we have almost no leverage over the situation. We might be able to do more vis-�-vis friends and allies, like Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, but even there I'm not sure, in practice, what can really be done. I think it would probably be somewhat helpful if countries that don't have suspect geopolitical ambitions in the region -- Brazil, Norway, South Africa, whatever -- leant a bit more in the way of rhetorical support but, again, one doubts that this sort of thing is actually going to be decisive.

Elsewhere on the idealism front, I'm not much of a civil engineer but one assumes we really could help out with Angola's lack of clean water and consequent cholera epidemic in Luanda. The Angolans, according to The New York Times, don't even really lack the money � they just don�t have logistical ability to organize an effective solution. We could definitely pony up the $24 million dollars the U.N. says it needs to assist the 16 million Africans said to be "facing starvation or debilitating malnutrition." To our credit, and in contrast to our general stinginess with foreign aid, the United States is already a major player in the world of food aid (something about the farm lobby, I think), and this would be a seriously cheap way to help people with little-to-no downside.

--Matthew Yglesias

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