I keep hearing how GOP US Senate candidate Mike McGavick is such a shrewd political operator… how he engineered Slade Gorton’s, triumphant, come-from-behind return to the Senate, and how we shouldn’t underestimate him. And then he goes and does something like this.
Barely pausing to take a breath, Iran announced with defiance that it is pursuing further nuclear capabilities and that it wants Israel wiped off the map.
The international community has rightly turned, for now, to diplomacy, but thus far Iran seems to be growing more defiant. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently said, “Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase–We say, ‘Be angry at us and die of this anger.'”
So, what now? More violence? More words? How do we get across to the people of Iran that their government is, by these actions, isolating itself from the world community? How do we make it clear to Iranians that denying the Holocaust is unacceptable?
The answer: soccer.
Don’t bother waiting for the punch line, you’ll never find one. (At least not one McGavick intended.) Writing in The Weekly Standard, McGavick apparently argues that the best way to make Iran “understand the consequences associated with its headlong push towards developing nuclear weapons”… is to ban its soccer team from competing for the World Cup.
McGavick takes the time to write a major foreign policy piece for a national publication, and this is what he comes up with? The key to heading off nuclear proliferation in Iran is to ban its soccer team from international play? And I suppose, if that drastic measure doesn’t work, then we can resort to nuking them, huh Mike?
McGavick’s proposal not only provides a stunningly simplistic analysis of international diplomacy, it is also utterly ridiculous from start to finish. First, McGavick goes out of his way to reveal that he has played rugby for 25 years… a great line if you’re trying to pick up voters in a bar, but not exactly testament to his foreign policy credentials. Then a full third of McGavick’s 1000-word piece goes on to discuss similar sanctions against South Africa’s rugby team during the 70s — as if that was the key to ending apartheid — while ignoring the fact that the South African sanctions were aimed at the white, minority electorate who held political control, whereas the Iranian people are virtually powerless to remove their hardline mullahs, short of armed rebellion.
But perhaps the most shockingly stupid passage in McGavick’s piece was this:
If they are allowed to play this coming June, Iran will begin the competition in Nuremburg, Germany. Think of it! Nuremburg! In the same stadium, Frankenstadion, where the Nazi youth first practiced how to march in 1931, and right across the street from where the infamous 1937 Nazi political rallies took place, the Zeppelin Field.
It is insane to think that Iran, which has publicly declared that the Holocaust never took place, should play on that field as though nothing is wrong.
Uh… yeah, because you wouldn’t want to um, taint the hallowed grounds of Frankenstadion with anti-semites.
I mean… what the fuck? Sure, it’s not fair to take those couple paragraphs out of context, but they sure as hell come off as a tribute to the glories of 1930s Nazi Germany. You’d think a staffer might have tried to edit this before sending it off to the Standard.
But McGavick’s proposal not only paints him as a foreign policy lightweight (not to mention a lousy writer,) it also suggests a bit of ignorance about international soccer. Iran is currently ranked 22nd worldwide (and on many independent polls, much lower) and had the misfortune of drawing an incredibly tough first-round grouping with both Mexico (6) and Portugal (8).
You want to stick it to the Iranian people? Let them watch their beloved team have their heads handed to them by the Mexicans, followed by a good ol’ fashioned Portugese ass-whooping. The smart money says that two games into the competition, Iran’s World Cup ambitions will be over.
Still, the purpose of art, sports, and cultural exchanges such as the World Cup is to bring people closer together, and McGavick’s call to politicize the games is contrary to the very ideal of international competition. “The goal of Olympism,” explained Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympics, “is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to encouraging the establishment of a peaceful society.”
Or, I suppose, we could just follow McGavick’s advice and use it as just another tool in our nearly three-decades-long political spat with Iran.