The Situation in Iran

Most of you know about the unrest and protests happening in Iran.  The question that people have been asking is what should we, as a nation, do about it?  Here is what Senator John McCain has said here.

Basically, McCain is saying we should publicly side with the protesters because they are fighting for freedom and that is what America is all about.  We should side with history because we’re right and we should publicly support people who fight for their freedoms.

While I do think that the protesters do have the right to fight against their regime, it would be a bad idea if the President actively supported the protesters.  This would inflame the regime in Iran, which would put tighter restrictions on the protesters.  Obama is doing the right thing by simply saying that the regime should not oppress the protesters.  Let’s look at the argument McCain gives:

  1. We have a moral responsibility to publicly condemn any regime that represses people.
  2. Iran is a regime that represses people.
  3. Therefore, we have a moral responsibility to publicly condemn Iran.  (Modus Ponens from 2, 3)

That’s a fair argument, but number one is questionable when it comes to politics.  Publicly condemning regimes could actually make things worse for the people which would just make the regime even more oppressive.  By saying these words, it’s similar to what Bush called Iran part of the “Axis of Evil”: it just inflames them and makes them even more furious toward us.  Imagine if Spain called us the Great Satan of the World, you can get the the relations between us and Spain would be strained.

The brilliant Fareed Zakaria explains the situation in Iran in a recent article.  He has made good predictions in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s right again when he says:

We are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy in Iran. I don’t mean by this that the Iranian regime is about to collapse. It may—I certainly hope it will—but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. We are watching the failure of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian government.

Again, Zakaria talks about the situation in Iraq with Brzezinski about Obama’s policy toward Iran and the situation happening.  By the way, Brzezinski is a realist and is considered the Henry Kissinger to the Democratic Party.

We need to not get involved, if we do, things will get worse.  Yes, this may be a human rights issue, and I understand that principles and ideals matter, but we need to be practical here.  There is a difference between the ideal world, and the real world.  Let us deal with the real world, and then maybe we can work our way to the ideal.  Starting with the ideal just makes things worse.

Another reply has been Bill Bennett here.

He goes even further and says we should be actual participants with the protesters.  This is just dead wrong.  This will inflame the Iranian regime even more.  He even says we might as well meddling because they’re going to accuse us anyways.  That’s a horrible argument.  By analogy, that’s like saying:

  1. She is accusing me of rape.
  2. Therefore, I might as well rape her because she’s just going to accuse me anyways.

Mr. Bennett, that is a horrible argument.  Again, when it comes to international politics, the key action is practicalities, not principles.

One more from John Bolton.

His argument basically follows thus:

  1. We need to side with the reformer and get involved.
  2. The way to do this is to overthrow the regime.

To Mr. Bolton, Mr. Bennett, and Senator McCain, you are dead wrong.  Apparently, you have not learned the lessons of history.  We did meddle in Iranian affairs ever since the 1950s.  They had a democracy in the 1950’s and then we staged a coup in 1953 and replaced it with the Shah.  The Shah was seen as an American puppet and the Iranian people couldn’t stand him.  Finaly, the Iranian people got so fed up that they overthrew the Shah and replaced him with Sharia law and an Islamic theocracy.  If we intervene again, they will think that it’s 1953 all over again.  Indeed, they thought that was what was happening in 1979 and that created the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  If we meddle in their affairs, it will be 1979 all over again.  We must stay out of it.  Through this, neoconservativism is seen as a defunct political philosophy.  It’s time to get practical.  I will end it with a message from Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American, who sums up nicely of our proper reaction to Iran.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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10 Responses to The Situation in Iran

  1. Cody says:

    Also if the U.S. were to condemn every repressive regime then we’d have to condemn practically everyone of our allies in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, etc. I don’t hear any calls to do that.

  2. Kevin says:

    First off, America has never done anything purely to protect human rights. Now that that’s out of the way, Iran is a country with a population mostly under the age of 30 that all have cell phones. If America really wants to intervene to assist the Iranian people, they should do so via a propaganda campaign using the same technology we share with them. It’s obvious that they are ready for a free society. Rather than calling them part of the “axis of evil”, we should embrace their use of american run social networks and technology and make an ally in the muslim world with Iran.

  3. thekillerj says:

    I like this Kevin guy. Second time I have agreed with him. Let’s use propaganda!

  4. thekillerj says:

    Shaun, I don’t agree with your rationale for not publicly condemning countries. Sitting in silence while inhumane practices carry on is enabling the behavior. Public condemnation at least lets the world know where you stand. Despite all the hate the U.S. receives from the rest of the world, when we speak EVERYBODY listens.

    Whether they agree or not depends on the country of course, but the point is that the spoken word has power. Especially if spoken by the good ol’ YOU ESSAY!

    • shaunmiller says:

      I would have to disagree. Being pro-active could make things worse. That’s what’s happened in many parts of the world when we have taken a stand. However, I’m not suggesting we sit in silence. Obama is NOT silent, he has condemned the Iranian government for silencing and arresting the protesters and he’s done it publicly. I don’t mind if Obama does that, I actually laud him for that. But to do what Bolton and Bennett suggests is downright impractical and it just emboldens the enemy.

  5. thekillerj says:

    So you DO agree with me. Or you DON’T agree. Which is it?

    I didn’t say I agreed or disagreed with Bolten et. al. I said it’s important for our country to take a stand and not be silent. Read what I wrote, BRO! I think you may be confused as to what you actually believe.

    • shaunmiller says:

      I’m claiming you’re committing the Strawman Fallacy. If you read what I wrote, you will see that I’m disagreeing with Bolten et. al. You don’t claim to agree or disagree with them and that’s fine. I’ll accept that. I agree that we should publicly condemn countries that violate human rights, but if you read my original post, I’m saying that Obama is already doing that. As I said in the original post:

      Obama is doing the right thing by simply saying that the regime should not oppress the protesters.

      Thus, you already agree with me that Obama is doing the right thing by condemning the Iranian government. So I agree with you, but it’s kind of ironic because you originally agreed with me in the first place. So when you say that you don’t agree with my rationale for publicly condemning countries, I’m not sure where you get that because we do condemn them (if it’s convenient to us, as Cody and Kevin pointed out) and I did state that in my original post. I’m basically saying that Obama is doing the right thing by condemning the government, but it would be a mistake if we publicly sided with the protesters, and it would be doubly wrong if we followed the advice of McCain, Bennett and Bolton.

  6. thekillerj says:

    The way I read it, I thought you contradicted yourself. I guess not, as your last post clarified your thoughts for me somewhat. I’m still a little confused though. How can we publicly condemn Iran without appearing to side with the protesters?

    • shaunmiller says:

      Good question. It’s a tight-balancing act. So the way I see it is we condemn the Iranian government for not letting the protesters march on the streets. That lets the government know that their actions are unjust. If, however, we publicly supported the protesters, the Iranian government would look at that action as either American-sponsored or maybe that we’re meddling into their affairs. That would just raise more tensions.

      Now, I could imagine you say, “But Shaun, condemning Iran for not letting the protesters march is exactly the same as supporting the protesters.”

      I would say, “you’re right.” 🙂 However, the intriguing thing with language is that there’s always some ambiguity. After all, isn’t politics filled with ambiguous language? To make this concrete, here’s an example:

      In 2003, we invaded Iraq and there were a lot of protesters (mainly in NY and Washington). Now, imagine that the Bush Administration started to break some freedoms and started jailing, torturing, or even killing these protesters. Ok, now suppose some country (say France) starts condemning the Bush government for doing this. So it’s a critique of the government. But what if France started supporting the protesters? I think everyone in America (and especially the government) would get suspicious with the French.

      How about another example? Let’s say that two of our married friends got into a big fight and one started beating the other. To make this simple, let’s say A hits B. Now at the same time, B is deflecting and defending the blows from A. Now, I think we would both condemn A and support B. However, let’s say that you publicly condemn A and and I publicly support B? Is there any difference? I would say yes.

      Now, if you say, there is no difference. Then I guess we’re stuck and I’d have to (1) come up with a better example, (2) show why condemning A and supporting B and two different things qualitatively, (3) relent and say that you’re right, that there is no difference, or (4) give up because there’s no way I can explain this.

  7. Pingback: What I’ve Learned this Past Year — 2009 Edition « Shaun Miller’s Weblog

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