A view from inside the country:
and a view from the Ayatollah:
So good of the man to give his take on the relative influence of our nations.
My two cents:
- The regime in Iran is not merely Islamic and thus counter, and resistant, to much in Western society for its own reasons (pre and post-Enlightenment), it is ideological and revolutionary. The regime’s got America and ideas of America stuck in its craw; already having elements of Western influence contained within the revolution. The current regime’s expansionism, violence and repression is baked in the cake, to some extent, and helps explain why it aligns with Moscow, Damascus, and even Havana. This makes it really hard to do business with them at all.
- This regime is quite authoritarian, repressing other factions within Iranian civilization who disagree, despite the country’s representative mechanisms and procedures. I think former President Ahmadinejad’s Member’s Only jacket could tell us something about his populist appeal to Iranians who mobilize into the Basij (part of the Revolutionary Guard of which Ahmadinejad was a part, and which does a lot of dirty work).
- As a Shi’a, more geographically/ethnically homogeneous nation, Iran is involved in a bitter, intra-Islamic war for supremacy within the Muslim world, funding guns, terrorism, drugs and proxies around the region and more broadly whenever it can (Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Argentina, even to Britain and into the heart of free-speech debates within the West with the crass political maneuvering of the Salman Rushdie affair).
- The Iranian regime is involved in a lot of black-market activity in order to achieve deliverable nuclear weapons. This could easily start an arms race with the Saudis, Sunni factions and other very unstable regimes and States within the Muslim world. American influence has been greatly diminished, especially in the last decade.
I’ve been asked why I didn’t support the Iran deal (see here), and it’s mostly because I think many factions in the West, including those in power during the Obama administration, didn’t have a good enough moral/political map to understand the risks and the rewards in doing American business with Iran. The logic of ‘this deal or war’ was always flawed. The sanctions that were lifted were, in fact, doing a lot of work. Dealing with deeply anti-American thugs is still dealing with deeply anti-American thugs, and it damned well better be worth the costs.
On that note, allow me to explain a deeper disagreement with the ‘inside every Iranian is an activist waiting to get out‘ approach, and why I am more sympathetic to our current approach under Donald Trump.
To say nothing of the totalitarian impulses and consequences of actual Communist revolution often tolerated beneath liberal sentiment (see many universities), nor the radical and rule-of-law-undermining authoritarian populism of many Western activists (gelling upwards into impossible politically idealistic demands upon our institutions, erosion of the rule of law, and resulting in ideological actors personalizing bureaucracy), this reminds me of a quote from Kelley Ross on the problems even deeper liberal political thinkers have had in providing sufficient moral foundations for liberal political order.
Here he is on Isaiah Berlin’s ‘value-pluralism’ while discussing John Gray as well:
‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.
Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question.’
The above could help explain why the previous administration put a lot of effort in reaching out to our historical enemies (Cuba, Iran) and left many alliances to wither (Israel, arguably Britain). The West must be hard, or softly, remade from the inside-out. The real problem is within the West, after all, and American military, economic and political resources should, at best, be morally justified in including enemies into a ‘community of nations.’
***In all humility, however, there is a seduction of the more personal kind, and a lot of pride, truth, and principle in wanting to see one’s own map of the world extended as far as it will go. I expect a lot of liberal American publications (hip-deep into activist ideology these days) will still invest in the Obama plan or back away from human-rights and push for caution regarding events in Iran, while many on the American right (Constitutional Republicans, neo-conservatives, and the Religious right) will probably more openly support regime change in Iran.
It’s important to remember: The map ain’t always the terrain.
Honestly, I can’t say I disagree too much at the moment with the following:
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.