The famous letter sent by Cheney and others to the White House late in Clinton’s presidency advocating a global “take charge” foreign policy made quite clear the kind of America the neo-cons wanted and for a decade they got it: violence amazingly profitable for a handful of CEOs, vast losses of U.S. blood and treasure, and a string of Muslim societies trashed and radicalized. What kind of
Americaequivocating Obama wants still remains a mystery, and his Iranpolicy does little to solve that mystery.
If Obama wants to shine an American beacon of hope to all aspiring to peace and democracy, his careful avoidance of a positive-sum outcome in relations with
is likely to be the death knell of such aspirations. Whether Iran is even half
as significant as Washington lackeys of the Israeli right wing make it out to
be, the wild-eyed rhetoric of this faction and its hypnotic hold over
Washington have made (relatively) little Iran the symbol of defiance to the American
superpower. Bloodying Iran’s nose has become the measure of
manhood on the Potomac. These are not the men who
and met the victorious Soviets in Berlin
or remotely the men who succeeded in sailing between the Scylla of Soviet
expansion and the Charybdis of World War III.
Men on the Potomac stand short in the 21st
Nevertheless, the fact is that Tel Aviv and Washington have handed
Tehran an image it did not
have the remotest chance of obtaining by itself: any country capable of
inspiring such fear on the part of the world’s
only superpower and the Mideast region’s nuclear monopolist must be a
giant! If little (by all standard measures of state power) Iran
can defy the U.S.,
then who will ever again be impressed by its image?
By essentially doing nothing, just following a classic “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of nuclear ambiguity, little
has tied the world’s last superpower
in knots. If, in the end, the humiliated superpower destroys Iran,
it will prove exactly nothing…except
that the superpower cannot even control itself, much less its pushy allies or
little, irritating regimes that demand recognition. Giants gain no credit for
Conversely, if Obama wants to turn the neo-con aberration into
America’s course for the future, creating
a permanent violence-addicted Imperial America, his Iran
policy seems likely to puncture that balloon as well. If it was the “greatest generation” that won WWII and laid the
foundation via self-restraint for a half century of peace, historians will see
those who ran the U.S. during the first 15 years of the 21st century
as the “dwarf generation:” a pathetic, unimaginative bunch
of toadies for out-of-control capitalist greed destroying everything Americans
have labored for two centuries to construct. If this generation manages to turn
Iran into a
large Iraq or Somalia
or Palestine or Yemen
exactly who will sigh with admiration? Will Turks and Indians and Brazilians
strive to emulate America?
Will the politicians of Moscow and Beijing
tremble with fear at a global superpower that finally, after 30 years, succeeds
in punishing Iran
and once again forcing it into submission? On the other hand, if Washington
fails to curb Tehran’s penchant for independence even
after all this sturm und drang, then what? The whole world will be laughing.
To be fair,
policymakers may well be putting great effort into seeking a solution that
avoids both Iranian militarization of its nuclear technology and open war.
Maybe. But even if so, effort by itself does not suffice at their pay grade.
Policymakers, to deserve the power they wield, must also have vision, and none
is detectable on the Potomac today.
Precisely, policymakers need a vision of the kind of world they hope to create.
is not Hitler or the USSR
or Genghis Khan or the 7th century Arab expansion or any of the
greats of yore (Alexander, Cyrus). Iran
is a political mirage, a puffed up image in the eye of the beholder of a much
smaller and more distant reality. Iran
does pose a small potential military challenge, but a host of options are
available to Washington were Washington
to decide that persuading Iran
to forego nukes was really the objective. More important, Iran
poses a political challenge, but so do Russia,
many others. Yet Washington has
chosen to replace the “10-foot-tall” Soviets with Ahmadinejad as the “main enemy.” Like a man crawling across the desert desperate for
water, Washington politicians are
desperate for a “mission,” which they sadly interpret to
mean an “enemy” and absurdly identify as the Islamic Republic. A far
better mission for a superpower would be the positive articulation of the kind
of world one wants to create. Were that done, it would immediately be apparent
that the road to glory does not go through Tehran.
If Ahmadinejad really wants to tie
in knots, he should snap his fingers and move Iran
to a different dimension. Without poor Iran
to hate, what would all the little men on the Potomac
do? Not one of them would have a clue what the goal should be, and no two of
them would agree on anything whatsoever, not even on what to argue about first.
The last figment of unity gone, they would be running in circles, tripping all
over each other, until each and every one of them was stuck in the mud that lines
the Potomac’s banks. Then
everyone on earth would see that there really was no superpower at all, and
Ahmadinejad could safely come back to our dimension again.