We don’t understand the Iranians because the Iranians don’t understand themselves. The regime isn’t sure whether it is an ideological movement championing global jihad or whether it is merely regional power seeking Middle East hegemony. Until the Iranians resolve this internal ambiguity, you can talk to them all you want, but they won’t be able to make a strategic shift or follow a more amenable path.Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do? The comfortable pronouncement that some distant They doesn't know what it wants by some cossetted suburban white dude is faintly astonishing. Remember, this is a guy who couldn't find a Red Lobster in South-Central Pennsylvania while writing an ethnography on other English-speaking white people, which should inform you as to his capacity to psychoanalyze the collective consciousness of the heirs to one of the world's oldest civilizations. Iran is not especially hard to understand, in fact. Decades of miserable foreign intervention culminating in the corrupt, repressive, American-stooge rule of the Shah drove popular sentiment toward a political Islam that represented the main pole of resistance and a means of organizing a revolution. They had a revolution. They created an Islamic Republic that placed the majority of daily governance in the hands of an elected government but final veto power in the hands of a clerical authority. The core of the Iranian armed forces remained and remains loyal to the religious authorities, and so they retain their ultimate power. The Iranian people are just fucking people. They want jobs and houses and food and families and the freedom to live under or overthrow their government where and when they fucking please, without a gang of monolingual Washingtonians yabbering at them about a Lockean social compact that, oh, by the way, has never actually obtained in the West anyway. The Iranian government seeks political advantage in the Middle East not because it dreams of the glory days of Xerxes but in order to maintain its national integrity and not, ya know, get conquered by America. I understand that Brooks is a "conservative," whatever on earth that means or signifies, and therefore has a certain doxological committment to preening dumbassery, but the inability to look at the Middle East and think, "Hey, maybe our invasion, ransacking, and occupation of a nation right in the middle of the goddamn place is having a deranging influence on local politics," is in an orbit far beyond Stupid. You cannot shit yourself in church on a Sunday and then call your pewmates weirdos for looking at you funny.