Mittwoch, Dezember 14, 2005

Iran and Catastrophe

We've all read what Ahmadineschad, the leader of Iran, has said about Israel, not only that it should be eliminated from the map, but also that Israelis should be relocated to Europe.

Let's step back a moment to understand what is going on.

First: Iran was, is, and probably will be the local regional power. It's the largest player in the region. It also has a long history of imperial glory, one that has been abstracted nowadays to a sense of resentment that things are not today as they once were. This is a key problem not only in Iran, but elsewhere as well.

Iran wants to be handled as an equal, it wants to be taken seriously as a business partner, as a regional power, as a political power.

But what does this mean? It means that Iran should take the same place in the political world as, say, France or Germany takes; that it no longer be considered a developing country, but rather a mature country that other countries listen to out of respect, because what it says is important. That its politicall views have as much importance as, say, France or Germany, or for that matter Portugal.

This is what Iran wants, it's been an undercurrent of Iranian politics for the last several years. What Iran wants is for the West to cease to ignore it's desires - eliminating Israel as the core problem in the Middle East  - and to give Iran its due as a country with a long cultural history that is the regional power.

Of course, there's very, very little chance of this happening. Iran for the West (and by this I mean Europe) right now is a convenient source of oil and a place to sell goods.

What are the implications of these issues?

Simple. First, Iran wants nuclear weapons. As far as they are concerned, they are the only reason that Iran will gain respect from the West: not so much as their ability to build them (that's a technical problem, one not to be discounted, but nonetheless "merely" an engineering problem) as far more the ability to use them. Not that they necessarily will: after all, neither Pakistan nor India have used their nuclear weapons, despite conflicts, since both know that nuclear weapons are political weapons and sometimes more of a hindrance than help.

And today (this post has been incubating for the last two days) we see that Iran is now calling for a investigation into the Holocaust.

This is what will be the norm when Iran has nuclear weapons: of demanding to be heard and demanding to be listened to regardless of what it is they are saying. I remember a university colleague when I was working towards my philosophy doctorate in Germany from Iran with whom I had a number of, shall we say, interesting discussions. He was intelligent, was an excellent debater. But we ceased being able to have discussions once he returned from a vacation in Iran and had gotten religion: from that point on, he viewed me as a tool of Satan for not being one of the true believers. He was not merely annoying, but downright insulting about it: how can anyone intelligent, according to him, not be a Muslim? I'd had enough of similiar discussions where I did my undergraduate degree in philosophy from the theists, the worst of whom was a converted atheist who found Aquinas and converted to Roman-Catholic with a vengeance, ultimately divorcing his wife and abandoning his children to become a priest.

This is what we will have to listen to if Iran gets the bomb: the absurd theories and speculations about the world and everything that comes from intelligence unguided by logic and empiricism. And we'll have to listen to it, since they've will insist that we do so: that is the point of the rhetoric coming out of Teheran.

And he seems to be getting the attention that he wants. The problem is that he will find that the attention he will be getting is not the attention that he wants: it will, rather, be the attention paid to a snarling dog.

One of the basic tenets of diplomacy is that sometimes diplomacy fails: in that case, diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" while feeling around for a big stick.

It's gonna take a big stick for this one.

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