15 March 2012

Idealism and realism: the case of Iran

It's hard to imagine a crazier policy proposal for the U.S. government than to initiate or support an attack on Iran, but some Israeli sources say that their country has already been given a tacit go-ahead by U.S. president Obama. Others, while skeptical of success, feel that hot rhetoric is fueling a war-momentum that may become hard to resist. Our own Friends lobby in the USA, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, is urging us to help legislators resist this rhetoric and support House legislation that prioritizes diplomacy.

With all the enthusiasm for war that features prominently in U.S. political life these days, it took a comedian and his fake news program (Daily Show link) to expose the opportunism behind so much of this truculence on all sides, and to call on everyone to calm down. A calmer atmosphere might help us all to consider some of the complex sides of the concern about Iran:
  1. Hawks! Remember Robert McNamara's first lesson of war ("Empathize with your enemy") and ask yourself what the world looks like from Iran's perspective. The nations that have the power to destroy Iran have (a) nuclear weapons, and (b) pre-emptive-strike defense doctrines. Furthermore, Americans and Israelis don't even question that we and our nuclear weapons and angry politicians are self-evidently on the side of the angels. In other words, no other country can justify having the kind of defenses against us that we maintain against them. Is our use of drone assassin airplanes, our falsely-hyped war against Iraq, our support for dictators whenever convenient, and Israel's peremptory and often lethal occupation policies, consistent with this angelic assessment of ourselves? Аre we as trustworthy as we want our adversaries to be? If not, why should Iran be weaker or more angelic than us--simply because might makes right?
  2. Doves! The case is not at all clear that Iran wants nuclear weapons, even though its main proclaimed enemy, Israel, already has them. Nuclear weapons are hard to build, hard to deploy, hard to store, and extremely hard to deliver!--and that's not even considering the political cost of having them. However, what if it's true? What if Iran's leaders don't simply want to get the theoretical capacity to develop weapons eventually (something every medium-sized power in a hostile neighborhood would probably like, rightly or wrongly)--what if they actually want the weapons and are crazy enough to deploy them? Our analysis as disciples of the Prince of Peace can certainly be based on nonviolence, but it should never be based on wishful thinking. What do idealists concretely do in the actual presence of evil?
  3. Presidential nominee candidates say that the time for talk is over. Is it, however, true (as the FCNL FAQ sheet for Iran asserts) that "U.S. and Iranian officials have reportedly spent a grand total of 45 minutes in direct, one-on-one talks in more than 30 years"? There is a strange political and intellectual laziness--or maybe it is cowardice--in official U.S. circles about vigorously pursuing high-level contacts with Iran in favor of trying to guess what their official pronouncements really mean. (See "The first rule of gracious correspondence.") Maybe there are secret communications all the time, but communication that does not influence public perceptions and rhetoric eventually is useless.
I'd like to see more proposals along the lines of Thomas Buonomo's "green energy" proposal for Iran--offering a blessing to Iran that has the added advantage of offsetting (or challenging) Iran's nuclear-fuel option. This proposal alone is hardly enough to calm down war fever, but it is the sort of proposal that can remind us what's at stake and that we're not trapped! The search for alternatives to war should get as much enthusiasm and resources as are devoted to promoting war--in fact, more.

More on Iran from bitterlemons.

Christ at the Checkpoint: Statement and a Messianic response to the conference.

Punishing and defending Pussy Riot after their "performance" in Christ the Savior Cathedral: Some news coverage to think about.

I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to Dr. House, but I'm grateful for eight years of material to draw on for illustrations of faith, corruption, redemption, and ethics. The show is ending; is the time right?

Three evangelical blind spots. And her.meneutics on "The best naked pregnant woman on a magazine cover."

Little Charlie and the Nightcats, appearing in Poland back in 2004, give a wonderful performance of "Clothes Line" (starting at 0:55). It's a delightful song--although you can imagine how hard it is for students when I use it as a listening-comprehension exercise! (Compare with this version, also excellent--Kid Anderson on the guitar instead of Charlie Baty.)

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