Web Letters II: Lipper, Clark, Iran and Female Fenno


Dean Clark highly supportive of public service opportunities

Upon returning home from a stimulating series of discussions on public service opportunities for students and graduates at the Law School’s reunion on April 12, I was troubled to find in my mail the April 10, 2003 issue of The RECORD containing comments about Dean Clark which are contrary to my own experiences with him, particularly with regards to public service, over some 13 years.

I first met the Dean in 1990, at my class’ 50th Reunion which I had chaired. The Dean and I had an extensive discussion on public service opportunities for students and graduates in which he was clearly interested, with a particular focus on LIPP.

I had been progressively expanding a modest fund which I had established in support of LIPP because I have long felt lawyers seeking to have part or all of their careers in public service should be supported by the alumni to make that feasible.

My views on public service are more extensively expressed in the interview in the current issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin.

In my experience, Dean Clark has been highly supportive of the development of public service opportunities for students and graduates. He has been significantly developing the LIPP program and I have received numerous letters of appreciation from former students benefiting from it. He has also progressively expanded OPIA. This was clearly demonstrated at the Saturday, April 12 meeting in the expert panelists’ exposition of the fruitful results of the OPIA and LIPP projects, as well as in the enthusiastic response from the large gathering of students and interested alumni.

And last June the Dean established the pro bono program, thus rounding out the Law School’s national leadership in public service by allowing its graduates who care to pursue that service do so for their own and the country’s benefit.

I have given a brief outline of my observations of the performance of Dean Clark in the area of public interest. He has also, of course, had a leadership role in developing the all-important Law School Strategic Plan which includes, among other projects, reducing first-year sections from 140 students to fewer than 80, continuing the enhancement of financial aid, expanding the faculty and thus improving the ratio of faculty to students, and increasing globalization of the legal profession, something sorely needed in these perilous international times.

The same RECORD issue leads with a fine article on the Law School’s highly qualified new dean, Elena Kagan. That article points out, among other positive needs, that she believes HLS should encourage students to do more public service and be acquainted with public service opportunities, that Bob Clark had left the School “on a very secure foundation” and that she will be charged with “implementing a master plan that was designed under Clark’s reign.” The article further quoted President Summers with respect to Dean Clark that “no school could wish for a more dedicated and able leader”. That is a large legacy.

– Bernard Koteen ’40

Lipper overlooks obvious points

In typical Lipper fashion, RECORD columnist Greg Lipper continued his onslaught of ad hominem attacks against four of his fellow Harvard Law students last week (“The mother of all columns,” April 10, 2003). As I read his hyperbolic column, I was struck by the irony of Lipper calling my own column “a demagogic rant,” a critique often directed at Lipper’s sophistry. In addition, Lipper made the grandiose claim that I “set the liberal movement back another few decades.” Only in the world of Lipper can a single editorial by a law student have such a devastating and far-reaching impact.

Lipper’s only substantive criticism of my editorial was that it was ironic that I was asking “an administration that you say is hostile to racial minorities” to regulate “campus racial discussion.” Sadly for Lipper, his critique overlooks an obvious point. Whether or not the HLS faculty and administration decide to enact a racial harassment policy, they nevertheless regulate all speech on campus regardless of whether the speech is regarding gender, race or sexual orientation. Case in point: Neither the Administrative Board which censured a student’s speech nor Deans Clark, Rakoff and Richardson, who condemned the racial incidents that occurred last year, relied on a racial harassment policy to regulate “campus racial discussion.” Rather, they relied on their interpretation of what type of speech and conduct was consistent with the mission and goals of HLS.

Thus, the assumption that speech regarding race will only be “regulated” if a racial harassment policy is enacted is not merely wishful thinking, it is patently false. Moreover, since speech is obviously regulated at HLS, we should all demand that it be regulated in a consistent manner that does not advantage one group while disadvantaging another. However, if the HLS faculty and administration insist on keeping the existing sexual harassment policy while refusing to adopt an analogous racial harassment policy, they are sending an implicit message to their students that while women are worthy of protection, African Americans are not, thereby revealing Lipper’s characterization of the HLS administration that he erroneously attributed to me (namely, that this “administration is hostile to racial minorities”).

– Yohannes Tsehai, 2L

The Road From Baghdad Leads to Tehran: Exposing the Iran Fallacy

President Bush’s proclamation that there exists an “axis of evil” is a strategic decision to forego diplomatic niceties and openly confront nations that have been freely provoking and engendering conflict and instability. From the Europeans to critics in the United States, it is not hard to find those who blast what appears to be a simplistic and certainly blunter approach toward dealing with countries that support terrorism and pursue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Unfortunately, in the case of Iran, criticism of the Bush policy is grounded on misconceptions. Critics’ claims that Bush’s approach will serve to isolate the “reformist” President Khatami, radicalize Iranian foreign policy, and stifle change within the regime and a new Iranian outlook in the region, are unsupported by any evidence and expose an ignorance and lack of understanding of Iranian history, strategic interests, and domestic politics.

Historically Iran has seen itself as a regional power, and has sought to have an influential role in the Middle East. One can trace these aspirations to Iran’s strategic geographical location along the Persian Gulf, to its vast oil and natural gas reserves, and even to memories of its superpower status during the Persian Empire. In more recent times, Iran’s regional desires were manifested with aggressive investment in Iran’s military by Reza Shah in the 1970s and his use of Iran’s enhanced economic and military strength to secure a more influential role in the Persian Gulf region. Current geo-political realities in the Middle East along with the Islamic state’s founding principles necessarily transforms Iran’s regional aspirations into building alliances with Syria, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. Furthermore, Iran’s pursuit of a WMD and support for terrorism is not simply dictated by some radical Islamic ideology, but is rather seen by both conservatives and “reformists” alike as necessary steps to counter threats and to make Iran a regional power.

In large part, the nuclear program was started not to develop an Islamic Bomb to counter a Western imperialist threat, but rather to counter an ever-persistent Iraqi threat. Saddam had maintained and supported thousands of Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq fighters in eastern Iraq, which actively oppose the current Islamic regime and have repeatedly fired mortars into Tehran. As a necessary balance to this Iraqi threat, and with fresh memories of Iraqi biological and chemical weapons attac
ks on civilian populations during the Iraq-Iran war, both the reformists and conservatives saw an Iranian nuclear capability as a necessary element to Iran’s security via vie Iraq and other potentially hostile states in the region. Now that Saddam has been removed, an Iranian nuclear capability has taken on a new meaning. Today, the bomb’s primary purpose has been transformed from a necessary means of protection from an Iraqi first-strike, to allowing Iran freedom of action with respect to its sponsorship of terrorist groups without threat of an American invasion.

The Iranian strategic alliance with Syria – supported by both “reformists” and conservatives – underscores this point. These ties are solidified with Iranian sponsorship of Hizbollah in Syria’s satellite state of Lebanon, support for Palestinian terrorist groups, and Syrian and Iranian suspicions of Turkey (Turkey has refused to allow Iran to use its airspace to transport weapons to Hizbollah via Damascus). Indeed, as late as 1999, “reformist” President Khatami personally hosted Hizbollah leadership in Tehran and pledged continued Iranian support for the terrorist group’s activities in Lebanon. Khatami has on repeated occasions attacked Israel’s very right to exist, and Arafat’s political approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute during the honeymoon days of Oslo. Since Khatami’s presidency, rhetoric against the peace process has not subsided from either the “reformist” camp or conservatives, and Iranian financial support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad has actually increased. Under President Khatami, Iran gave Hamas $5 million in August of 1999, the largest lump sum payment ever to that group. As former Iranian ambassador to the U.S. Dr. Assad Homayan argues, Khatami has been actually advancing the foreign policy of hard-line Supreme Leader Khamenei in what amounts to a “good cop-bad cop” tactic. Khatami is functioning chiefly in a public relations capacity, using his reputation as a “reformist” to ease economic pressures on the Khamenei regime caused by its economic isolation from the United States.

Iranian strategic interests also necessarily dissuade any rapprochement with the United States in particular. Firstly, the Iranian leadership still has reservations about cozying up to an America that it perceives as repeatedly “meddling” in the Gulf region (American intelligence was responsible for alerting the Israelis of the Karine A, a vessel that was transporting Iranian arms from an Iranian island to Arafat). Moreover, abandoning regional alliances with Hizbollah (the major Shi’a movement in Lebanon) and Hamas in exchange for closer US ties would cause Iran to lose influence in Lebanon and within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, stifling Iran’s strategic interest of becoming a regional power.

As a further disincentive to stop the sponsorship of terror, Iran has been continuously developing relations with the West because of Europe’s systematic policy of maintaining relations with states that support terrorism. Europe’s lack of moral clarity has led to France’s Total-Fina signing a multi-billion dollar oil deal with Iran. Even British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recently visited Iran to upgrade relations (and win British Petroleum a lucrative contract too). With the potential for securing mutually lucrative oil contracts while still maintaining its support for terror, there remains little incentive for an abandonment of the Islamic regime’s strategic interests for better relations with the US.

The fallacy that a change in power from Khamenei to Khatami will necessarily have an impact on Iranian foreign policy and its inherent strategic interests has dangerous implications toward constructing a sound and effective U.S. policy. “We have to be honest. The heart of the reform movement is really about culture and social issues,” says Saeed Leylaz, a respected political analyst and writer. As such, the only way to deal with Iranian sponsorship of terror that makes Saddam look like a quire boy is to remove the Islamic regime.

Formulating a sophisticated US policy can not solely rely on the military option, as it did not in Iraq. President Bush should first fully enforce the courageous Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, supported overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans, and signed into law by President Clinton. This effectively means boycotting European companies that deal with Iran. “No Blood for Oil” has no meaning if we can not recognize that French investment in Iran finances the deaths of innocent civilians in Israel and makes life hell for Palestinians. The United States should also work multilaterally for UN sanctions. Indeed, it has been the crippling of the Iranian economy over the past decade that has led to the Iranian public’s realization that the Islamic regime cares more about suicide bombers than the average Iranian struggling to make ends meet. Total economic isolation could be the catalyst that propels a revolution from within. Furthermore, arguments contending that sanctions will cause a backlash among Iranians against the US are simply false. According to Dr. Rob Sobhani, an Iran expert at Georgetown, despite years of sanctions the majority of Iranians support Bush, citing the thousands of calls by Iranians to Voice of America, a hugely popular Farsi-language radio broadcast in Iran. Dr. Sobhani asserts that mass demonstrations against the U.S. have been proven to be widely orchestrated, as civil servants will not receive government benefits if they do not report to demonstrations and students are subject to disciplinary action.

The fight for our security and the freedoms of the people of the Middle East does not stop at the gates of Baghdad. Iranians deserve the hope for the dawn of a new era free from brutal dictators. Palestinians and Israelis deserve a chance for peace. The United States deserve security from the dangers posed by an Iranian regime and its Hizbollah death squad who murdered 243 Marines in Lebanon as they slept in their beds. According to Bob Graham, former Democratic chairman on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Iran has more chemical and biological weapons than Iraq, is closer to a nuclear bomb than Iraq, and has stronger ties with terrorist groups than Iraq. The next regime in the axis of terror must fall.

– David Peyman, 2L

I have just received your April 10th issue and have a couple of comments

1. Get rid of the female Fenno column. Over the years I have enjoyed the male Fenno. He is an interesting and entertaining drunk and con man, totally lacking in character and responsibility., and has succeeded in remaining in HLS despite never attending classes or taking examinations. The female Fenno is a complete bore. She lacks imagination and humor and is always on the right side of everything. I’d as soon read “Cathy” in the comics.

2. Concerning George Farah’s column on Dean Clark, I found it shocking. It is mean spirited, ill tempered and dismayingly partisan, suggesting something close to personal dislike and animosity. Not even a fleeting word of thanks to a man who has put in sixteen years of devoted service to Harvard Law School. Fair criticism is one thing but common decency should impose some limits.

– Alfred G. Boylan, ’42

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