Friday, December 23, 2011

What do you think?

One thing I've seen from Ron Paul supporters repeatedly is an assertion that the reason Iran, and by extension the Iranian people, hate the U.S. is that the CIA installed the Shah in 1953.

Given that the Shah hasn't been a factor since 1979, and the mullahs have been in power since the shah was deposed, do you suppose that, today, the average Iranian is more upset about:

a) U.S. participation in the events of 1953; or
b) U.S. non-participation in the attempts to gain freedom from the mullahs in the past few years?

For a bonus question -- do you suppose that the average Guatemalan is also angry that the CIA helped to depose Jacobo Arbenz in 1954?

Lemme know what you think.


Gino said...

those guys are silly. truth is, they hate us for our freedom.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

If I were Honduran I'd be plenty peeved with America right now. Not because we didn't help, but because we actually hindered.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what Ron Paul's supporters are thinking, and don't really know that I want to. But if they actually believe that Iran, and by extension the Iranian people (which I interpret as the current Iranian regime and the Iranian vox populi), hate the U.S., then I think the Paulites are wrong on their basic premise. I am sure the regime isn't overly fond of the U.S., but I haven't seen much evidence that the average person in the streets of Tehran despises the U.S. Certainly, the regime's quislings hate us. But that has been dogma for them for over 30 years.
Furthermore, the notion that there has been no U.S. participation in the attempts of many inside Iran to gain freedom from the mullahs in the past few years is utter nonsense. We haven't acted unilatterally, in the way many of the neo-cons in the previous administration might have, but we have been supportive of democratic movements throughout the Middle East, and have led diplomatically on orchestrated international efforts to organize sanctions against Iran's nuclear ambitions and weaken the regime within. So there has been an American-led strategy to cajole, threaten, and sanction Iran into submission and to delegitimize the mullahs. But it's mostly diplomatic efforts that aren't going to produce any quick outcomes. And, quite frankly, no one should expect any easy solutions.

As you know, Iran is a large, ancient, and ethnically diverse nation. And while it is dominated by the Shia, it has a considerable religious minority of Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Christians, Jews, Bahais, and Zoroastrians. It is, demographically, one of the world's youngest nations, with over 70% of its population born after the Islamic revolution on 1979. These kids want rock music, Budweiser and KOOLs. They re sick of the mullahs, and they are waiting for them to fade into oblivion. Iran also has democratic traditions and democratically elected officials (which have certainly been weakened in the last decade), and it has one of the most Westernized and well-educated populaces of any country in the Middle East. But also, one of the proudest and most nationalistic. Persians have been a force in the world for over 5 millenia, and they are proud of their track record. It is a sophisticated culture that resists Manichaen analyes. Simplistic assessments of what "Iran" is thinking are dubious at best.


Anonymous said...

While it has become abundantly clear over the last three years that there is a growing level of dissatisfaction with the current regime inside Iran, the mullahs, exploiting religious fervor, Iranian nationalism, urban vs. rural, and western vs. traditional divisions within Iranian society, have been bolstering their position with large swaths of the Iranian populace. There is no single voice in Iran, and as much as we all want the Green Revolution to succeed, we appear to be at least a few years to a decade away from that being feasible. And, due to the complicated dynamics of Iranian society, and the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces remain in the hands of the mullhas, we need to proceed with caution. Unilateral action on the part of the U.S. may have the opposite effect than what we are trying to acheive (see Iraq): Just as American politicians routinely bolster their patriotic credentials by talking tough about Iran, Iranian hard-liners burnish their own nationalist credentials with pledges to stand up to America. Indeed, such nationalist rhetoric is one of the only planks Iranian hard-liners have left to run on. Especially since their country is faced with so many domestic economic and social challenges as a result of U.S. led sanctions. This is how economic diplomacy works. It's not a quick fix, but an attempted quick fix would more than likely stir up national honor and pride in most Iranians, including the legions who don’t support Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.

Ahmadinejad is a jackass who appears to even be losing the support of the mullahs. Both the Obama and Bush administrations have proceeded cautiously against the current regime, because it is the only viable option we have. Pretending otherwise is wrong and dangerous. And attempting to demonize any American leader who isn't dumb enough to try to swagger through Iranian diplomacy by pretending that we can solve this with the threat of unilateral military action is dumb. Constant threats from the U.S. does not constitute the basis for a responsible or effective Iran policy. Addressing the challenge of Iran is going to require a long view, and a smart strategy combining carrots and sticks, diplomacy and sanctions, and strong U.S. participation and leadership. And while the option for military action is always available, even its threat should be reserved as the option of last resort. The regime is hobbled. The last thing we should do is hand it crutches.

Regards and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Mr. D said...

First, Merry Christmas to you and your family as well, Rich.

Second, your analysis is mostly right, I believe. I might quibble with a few notions here or there, but generally I agree. The question I'm getting at is that it's silly to believe (a) that many Iranians have 1953 on the brain and that (b) offering Iran "friendship" is useful, unless the friendship is carefully defined. We aren't ever going to be friends with the mullahs, but the young people of Iran could be, and should be, our friends.

I understand that you have to be careful in how you handle things, but I was disappointed in the way the U.S. has handled their responses to the two separate uprisings that have happened in recent years. From my perch, it seemed like we missed an opportunity to help. YMMV, of course.

Ron Paul's candidacy raises a number of important questions for those of us on the starboard side. I made a comment on another blog that sums up why I'm uneasy about things: I have read Hayek, but I've also read Eric Hoffer. I suspect you understand what that means.