The Iranians are observing the President’s regional trip with a raised eyebrow. Viewed from Iran, the administration’s words and actions in Riyadh seem hypocritical. Standing next to Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir, who represents a country that puts Tehran to shame when it comes to human rights violations, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson only had eyes for Iran, calling for it to respect “the rights of Iranians to freedom of speech, to freedom of organization, so that Iranians can live the life that they deserve.”

Meanwhile, Iranians were quick to point out, that unlike Saudi Arabia, their country had held elections, rejected hardliners, and one of its poorest provinces had elected hundreds of female city and village councillors.

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“A GREAT deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep,” the novelist Saul Bellow once wrote. We should keep that in mind when we consider the lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — lessons of supreme importance as we plan the military of the future.

Our record of learning from previous experience is poor; one reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past. (more…)