Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Iran. Iran. Iran.
The country that cannot stay out of the news. Why are they so hell-bent on irritating the Western world. Why must their President (mind you I didn't say leader) say the most inflammatory things? All these questions make me think.. why do they dislike us so much?
Well, the problem with those questions is that we, as Americans, have a unique place in the world that no one but perhaps some Western European nations enjoyed. I am talking about being the number one dog in the neighborhood.
For the United States the "neighborhood" is the majority of the world and all of the areas the US has serious interests. This is the mentality of American Exceptionalism, the thought that America is special and there never has been nor will there ever be anything like it. While there is some truth to this claim if you buy into it there are plenty of dangers. American exceptionalism rejects the idea that we can learn from other 'empires' and civilizations that also enjoyed success beyond what had been imagined. Simply patting ourselves on the back for having the luck of being born into this country at this point in history is not going to be enough to sustain the hard work of previous generations (and a little luck).
What does all that have to do with Iran?
I'll tell ya! There is a saying that even the most insane person believes they are sane and the rest of us are the crazy ones. It is beneficial to look through Iran's eyes in order to understand their actions. The first thing that we must realize is that while we here in the US use a metric of global consequences, Iran (along with most of the world) uses the metric of regional power. Iran is looking wearily at its neighbors as well as the global implications of its actions. This is the sort of thing that led Saddam Hussein to refuse admitting he had no WMDs, he was afraid of an Iranian invasion.
Iran's regional neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt all have a stake in the failure of Iran. This can be seen in a semi-binary fashion if one takes the Sunni-dominated versus Shi'ite-dominated leaderships of each nation. Iran over the years has made many enemies amongst its neighbors and now that the United States and Europe have put it in their bull's-eye those who felt slighted are licking their chops for revenge. (Sound familiar? It is basically what Iran has done with Iraq)
This neighborhood brawl has created a stir because with disagreement comes rhetoric. It is important to note that Iran's President is perhaps the 15th or 20th most powerful political figure in their system. He can afford to make populist hoopla, deny history, and threaten nations he has no chance of even scratching. When we listen to him it would be as if we took Representative Dennis Kucinich as the spokesman of the Democratic Party every time he opened his mouth, or if we believed that Micheal Savage was the mouthpiece of the Republican Party. Both make a difference and have a following but they are by no means important in the final product of political decision-making.
Ignore him. What is going on in Iran goes far beyond the yammering of a rhetoric-spewing, election-fixing, ill-dressed maniac. Let us look beyond him to the nation of Iran and its true political structure. That is what will truly enlighten our path to understanding Iran's nuclear policies and allow the global community to ensure they do not turn to violence.