An intellectually honest discussion about IRAN: what we can learn from history and our present options

There are basically two American viewpoints on Iran.  1.) Iran is full of religiously radical and irrational Muslims that are determined to destroy America and Americans at any and all costs.  2.) Iran has been radicalized by decades of US intervention in the middle-east and wants a Nuclear weapon so the United States and their allies have reason to respect and fear them.  Both of these ideas have an element of truth to them, but which is the reality?

If you ask a far right conservative they will undoubtedly tell you Iran is irrational – if you ask a leftist you will get the exact opposite answer.  I think like so many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

To understand Iran and Iranians I think it’s important to understand our history with them.  That could take a while since our history in the middle-east spans decades. In general, it hasn’t been peaceful.  Here are a few quick reads.

1. CIA intervention for decades
2. History of US and Iran since 1950
3. Brief Summary of US/Iranian History

It becomes quickly apparent that this isn’t just a “Good vs. Evil” scenario.  I know that it is unpopular to admit that the US has anything to do with the discourse in the middle-east and that anyone who does so is immediately labeled un-American or anti-American, but here I go.  I’ll admit it for all American’s – we had our own part to play in the radicalization and anti-American sentiments of Iran. 

It’s easy to say that Iran “hates” America because it is wealthy and full of Christians, but is that really the case?  I have to ask myself, if that’s true, why doesn’t Iran have this same attitude toward Australia, Canada, or every other predominately Christian-filled wealthy nation?  I think the answer to that question, an honest answer, lies in our constant and sometimes violent involvement in the politics around the middle-east. 

Is Iran Rational?

One of the most popular arguments to pro-war advocates is that “Iran has threatened to wipe America off the face of the Earth and when someone makes a threat, I’m inclined to believe it.”  Or they say, “Iran is full of suicidal irrational terrorist.”  Again, a grain of truth, but not the whole story.

To generalize about Iran, I agree that many of Iran’s ideologies are immoral and irrational.  (i.e., radical Islam) However, there is no doubt in my mind that Iran knows without a doubt that launching a nuclear weapon toward the United States is unthinkable.  It’s suicide. 

While Iran, Ahmajenidad specifically, may be morally irrational – his lust for power and life is no doubt rational.  That rationality will undoubtedly prevent him from pressing the button on the United States.  He has no desire to see the country he rules over to be obliterated by the stockpile of WMD’s the US has. 

Furthermore, Ahmajenidad knows the obvious.  The US doesn’t mess with countries in the middle-east with Nuclear weapons.  (i.e., Pakistan) It seems perfectly rational and even logical that they too would want something the US perceives as a real threat.  Do I want Iran to get a Nuclear Weapon? No, I don’t want anyone to have a weapon that can destroy the entire earth. That doesn’t mean that war is necessary to prevent that. 

What should we do about Iran?

The best thing we can do about Iran is the same thing we should do with all countries.  Maintain intelligence, strong and positive foreign relations, and a powerful national defense.  All those things I support and are more effective in the long run than initiating a pre-emptive war on any country.

I think it’s important to remember, what we call a “pre-emptive war” our enemies call an unprovoked “attack”. What more fuel does a population of any people need to radicalize and unite themselves against an intruder than the idea that another country is imposing their will on you?  Pre-emptive war can only lead to one place – further war and hatred toward the United States.  Pre-emptive war is the worst thing in the world we could do for our national security.  That path is killing our children and grandchildren.  That path is immoral and illogical.  That path is a guarantee for more conflict.

Unless you are the biggest weapons producer and distributor on earth why would you want that? (The US is the biggest weapons producer and distributor on earth. Conflict of interest?) The United States is a great country and has the chance to be a pillar of morality and justice for the world – A country to be modeled and copied.  We need to be that country.


8 thoughts on “An intellectually honest discussion about IRAN: what we can learn from history and our present options

  1. amelie

    So well said, Atticus. Doesn’t it seem like the argument met with the most hatred in this country is one of rationality and calm? Well, anyway, I wonder if you have any optimism over Clinton’s recent statement that they may have talks with Iran.

    Oh, and if you haven’t seen this, it’s a great clip from the Daily Show. It’s only 6 minutes long, but watch the whole thing. Seriously, it’s true, we have some gumption to do this to Iran.

    1. Atticus Finch

      To be honest I don’t have a lot of faith that we will have peace with the middle east any time soon. We have had a bad habit of finding excuses of staying in and around the middle-east for the past few decades.

      On top of that there are some issues surrounding the Laviathon Pipelines in Syria that will not doubt give the US further cause to stay in the middle east.

      As much as the popular media likes to play this up as a situation of a hostile Iran full of radical Islamist I keep finding more and more evidence that points toward it being about greed and oil.

      I hope that we can, at a minimum, not start an all out aggressive war with Iran. NOT preemptively bombing Iran would be a GREAT start… I’m happy to see I’m not the only peace loving American left though. 🙂

  2. amelie

    Oh, of course you are not alone at all…….I am glad that Paul has the guts to disagree with his own group. We need more independent thinkers. Atticus, and hopefully more of us can cheer them on! 🙂

  3. allthebestnameshavebeentaken

    Hmmm… Iran… I have acouple of Iranian friends (one was a physicist, the other is an electonics PhD) who now live here in NZ and I still haven’t really got a handle on it all. I will offer a few opinions, largely unqualified and possibly unhelpful..

    Amadinejad is not in charge, he is more a frontman as far as we are concerned. It isn’t government as we know it. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the ruling clerics control the levers of power. It’s hard I think, for us in the west to get a grip on what makes them tick.

    They are definitely after a nuclear weapon but it’s more likely to be about international respect and bargaining (being in the big boys club) than attacking America. Some have pointed to iranian drills that seem to be rehearsing an EMP strike from cargo ships (go forth and Google) which they could do to the the US but again, it’s more likely to be bluff and posturing.

    The problem is Iran’s preoccupation with Israel and it’s stated committment to Israel’s destruction. This is more than just rhetoric. Iran doesn’t just fund Hamas and Hezbollah – their involvement is much deeper. Israel regards Hezbollah as a proxy of Iran and during the last debacle with Lebabnon, uniformed Iranian National Guard (their equivalent of the US Marine corp) were seen working with Hezbollah inside Lebanon. From Israel’s point of view, Iran is firing missiles into Israel already, via Hezbollah. So Israel are super-twitchy about Iran going nuclear and almost certainly will stop at nothing to prevent that. Hence the recent cyber attacks on Iranian research installations and the mysterious assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. Iran has responded by murdering Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia (no, not that Georgia..) I think alot of Iran’s hatred of America is from America’s support of Israel, especially the provision of weaponry to Israel which Iran may view as the one thing that has prevented Iran from fulfilling its dream of Israel’s destruction.

    I don’t think we’ll see American troops in Iran. No need really, the Israelis will take out Iran if Iran needs taking out. If it does come to that though, it will be one heck of a mess.

    1. Atticus Finch Post author

      I agree with you analysis, sir. However, I disagree that America will not get involved. If it’s not troops on the ground then it will be via Drone attacks or funding of Iranian opposition.

      There is a lot of rhetoric in America around the “impending threat” to America if Iran gets WMD’s. Some people really believe that Iran will launch a nuclear attack on the US as soon as possible and want to launch a preemptive military strike. I disagree with that rhetoric.

      I think we can maintain good diplomatic relations, continue intelligence gathering, and thus avoid military action. Even Isreal has said they DO NOT want our help in their politics yet the US continues to intervien.

      I just do not want to see the US continue to act as the police men of the world. That’s not our job and the tax payers do not want to pay for it.

  4. allthebestnameshavebeentaken

    Noted. I hadn’t picked up on the anti-Iranian rhetoric in the US. Not much of a sniff of that on the radar here, just occasional soundbites from Hillary. I take your point that the US is likely to get involved somehow. They didn’t with Libya but then perhaps were just letting the UK etc run with the smallish problem and see how it went. Maybe there’d have been some input if the Brits had started to flounder. Everywhere else it’s been the US cavalry to the rescue so as you say, there’s likely to be involvement in Iran. probably, as you say, less overt involvement since Israel is on the spot – there was no Israeli equivalent with Iraq/Afganistan.

    Pre-emptive strike (aka ‘starting a war’) is dumb and hopefully unlikely – i’m surprised (but maybe not) that voices are getting into the mainstream with that. Surely just a whacky minority? Iran doesn’t have the capability to hit the US except maybe by covert means – the missile hidden on a container ship plan – but it’s oh so unlikely to get anywhere close to within range before the US takes it out.

    Yes, we are all a bit fed up of the US global policeman! Not the most endearing foreign policy you’ve had… i’m not really sure where this thing with iran will end up. It seems they’re so determined that they’ll get a nuke together eventually, whatever Israel does. Perhaps the answer is to facilitate a ‘regime change’ in Iran. Now where have we heard that before…

    1. Atticus Finch Post author

      I’m hoping we can just continue talks with Iran to promote diplomacy instead of violence.

      As far as the “preemtive war” rhetoric. You would be very surprised just how common that is within the US Government. A few members of the Republican party who are trying to go against Obama in the election this year are all too supportive of that “starting a war”. What’s scary is that there are people supporting that idea. It’s a very interesting thing to watch and I imagine someone watching from a different country would think it is insane.

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