Friday, August 25, 2006

Iranian Stupidity

Every once in awhile I lose my mind and get the idea that somebody in George II's administration has brains and the ability to reason from facts. I know it's silliness and wishful thinking, but I just can't help having some faith in human beings. For pete's sake, some facts about Iran actually exist and are available to just about anyone with a 3rd grade education.

Iran has lots and lots of oil.
Iran has lots and lots of money.
Iran is a pretty big place.
Iran has quite a few people.
Iran has a strong military.
Iran has a strong government.
Iran has fought a bloody war against an implacable foe, to stalemate.
Iran has a populous willing to sacrifice for its country.
Iran is Muslim.
Iran shows no liking for the US government.
Iran has influence in the Middle East.
The US has no diplomatic relations with Iran and has some of its assets frozen.
There are a lot more facts around, but this isn't an encyclopedia.

Now the prevailing neo-con view seems to be that the US (and maybe UN) ought to make Iran act the way we want it to, and to do it while the US talks about possibly bombing the place or at least getting rid of its government. That would seem to fly in the face of the above facts, all of them. Since you're reading his I can assume you graduated 3rd grade and I don't need to point out the problems posed by those facts and those objectives. I could point out that those facts might lead to a different policy.

The above facts ought to indicate a stable powerful nation, however reprehensible its rhetoric. This is a simple reality, they may not be a likeable bunch, but it exists as is, not how we might wish. The simple act of establishing diplomatic relations is a recognition of fact, it does, also, carry the risk of a repeat of the Embassy taking, which might preclude a physical presence. Diplomatic relations might open the door to some talk about threats to Iranian security that might dispose Iran to feel nuclear arms are important. I find it intellectually challenging to propose that a country threatened by another high powered nuclear armed country should forego possessing the most powerful armaments possible. I find it even more challenging to imagine what sanctioning could accomplish in the case of a well financed resource backed economy. I do find some reason to think that recognition of a State and its right to exist unmolested could actually have a defusing effect. It is a fact that it exists, it is a fact that trying to molest it would be extremely risky and surely explosive for the region. There is no cost in reality to recognizing and reassuring Iran, we cannot do anything about it, anyhow.

Isolated nations tend to turn inward and amplify the very defects that caused their isolation. North Korea is an example, in its isolation it has become increasingly dangerous and extreme. During China's isolation it became increasingly dangerous and extreme, today, after RM Nixon's outreach China is less extreme, though more powerful. Iran can afford to politically and economically ignore the US, it cannot afford to ignore the US military in only one sense, nuclear capability. Iran, demonstrably need have no over-riding fear of the US conventional military capability; Iraq and Lebanon are military and political lessons. Its life could be made very difficult; but its survival is not threatened.

The real threat to Iran as extant is cultural. Their culture can only thrive in isolation from successful cultures. The stifling effect of the authority of a theocracy is not tolerable to a society that is not under open attack or threat. Such a government begins to lose its justifications in the citizenry's eyes without fear as a propaganda tool and the insidious forces of rationality and personal choice begin to gnaw away at the obeisance to authority. It is important to remember that the theocratic revolt against the Shah was against an imposed, authoritarian, secular government that without external pressure created a closed and isolated culture.

I do not suggest that in the near term the US and Iran will become "friends," I do propose that behavior change can better be accomplished with carrots than sticks and that in the long term actual change in Iran is more likely by cultural intercourse than isolation.

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