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Nir Rosen and the American Foreign Policy Establishment

6:15 PM, Feb 16, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
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Nir Rosen, as it turns out, had pro-Taliban inclinations for quite some time. And so it should not really come as a surprise that a person who’d be willing to defend the terrorist organization might mock a woman—in this case, CBS’s Lara Logan—for being sexually assaulted in Cairo.

Nir Rosen and the American Foreign Policy Establishment

Photo Credit: Center for American Progress

Rosen was forced out—officially he resigned—from his position at New York University due to his ludicrous comments over Twitter yesterday. As Jeffrey Goldberg notes, though: “It's somewhat amazing, in retrospect, that NYU's Center for Law and Security, which took away Rosen's fellowship this morning, didn't separate itself from Rosen then.” That’s true, and NYU is hardly the only mainstream institution that should never have lent credibility to Rosen’s ilk.

Rosen made his name shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a journalist willing to take big risks to get a story. If his editors never wondered how he was able to endear himself to, say, the Sunni insurgency in Fallujah, or the Taliban, or Hezbollah, that’s because they had more important concerns—like waging a media campaign against the Bush administration. Therefore, it didn’t matter to any of the prestigious press outlets that published Rosen (like the New Yorker, Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, or the Atlantic, which also publishes Goldberg) that he was openly rooting for the other side.

“Hizballah is not a terrorist organization,” Rosen said of the Lebanese outfit that is responsible for killing American soldiers, diplomats, and civilians, as well as Israelis, Arabs, and other Lebanese. “It is a widely popular and legitimate political and resistance movement. It has protected Lebanon’s sovereignty and resisted American and Israeli plans for a New Middle East. It’s also among the most democratic of Lebanon’s political movements and one of the few groups with a message of social justice and anti imperialism.” 

Rosen never hid his convictions or sympathies, and no one ever called him to account for it. Instead he was rewarded, made a fellow at the New America Foundation and then NYU, and invited to share his expertise in broadcast media, like the PBS’s “Newshour” and CNN’s “GPS with Fareed Zakaria.” Most remarkably, he was invited to testify on Iraq before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2008, which includes this telling exchange with then Senator Joseph Biden. “As a journalist,” said Rosen, “I'm uncomfortable advising an imperialist power about how to be a more efficient imperialist power.”

This was classic Rosen: the smug, imperious adolescent lacking all self-awareness, acting out to get attention. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday when he claimed that Logan deserved the beating and sexual assault she suffered at the hands of an Egyptian mob in the streets of Cairo. It reflects poorly on mainstream liberal institutions that they appear to be moved to respond only when it hits close to home. Logan merits all the support that’s come to her in the last 24 hours—but then so have the victims of the Sunni insurgency, the Taliban, Hezbollah and any other bloody gang that Rosen’s seen fit to cozy up to over the last decade or so. The fact that up until yesterday Rosen’s ugly worldview found a place in the mainstream narrative of U.S. foreign policy is a stain on our public discourse.

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