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REALPOLITIK; Sociology 101B!

By Kam Zarrabi

My March 3rd satire, Sociology 101A, ended with "Please don't ask me 'Noble' according to whose definition?" In that article I was referring to noble causes for which man kills man, tribes massacre tribes, and nations go to war with other nations.

If men, tribes, or nations, are ready to sacrifice their lives or the lives of their young innocents for a cause, how could there be any doubt, at least in their own minds, that the cause is indeed noble and righteous?

Tradition tells us that committing aggression and taking life or lives may be morally justified if such actions are taken in self-defense. This is why in a stereotypical Western movie the hero never draws his gun first, but only a microsecond after the villain reaches for his gun. Of course, the town Sheriff is monitoring the duel, chronometer in hand, to make sure our hero didn't start the aggression by going for his gun first. While this "fair-fight" principle works well in the movies, the situation is much more complicated in real life.

Starting with the concept of self-defense; what does it exactly mean? It is easy to see how, if an aggressor is imminently threatening one's life, eliminating that aggressor constitutes legitimate self-defense. This, in fact, is the rabbinical tradition in the Jewish faith. In this tradition you are not allowed to just guess whether you life is in danger; the danger has to be not only beyond doubt, but also imminent. This is why the phrase "clear and present danger."

How "clear" and how "present" was the danger to the United States posed by Iraq, for which we have unleashed the world's mightiest forces against that "evil" regime? And, more importantly, at least as far as the Iranian community is concerned, how clear and imminent is now the danger posed by Iran against the United States to warrant all this talk about Iran being next on the American agenda? A more pertinent question would be, Is there really a need for a clear and imminent danger if other parameters warrant targeting Iran or Syria after Iraq? What could be some of those other parameters that fall beyond clear and present danger to the safety and security of the United States?

To find out, let us examine the Statements of Principles of the Washington-based thinktank, "New American Century", with a roster of the most influential hardcore neo-conservative minds, from Dick Cheney to Paul Wolfowitz. In summary, this steering committee behind America's foreign policy initiatives believes as follows:

  • America stands alone as the global superpower at the dawn of the 21st century.

  • There is a vacuum of effective leadership in the world that is headed for instability and chaos.

  • This vacuum must be filled by American power.

  • America's cause is a just cause. What is good for America must, by definition, be good for the world at large.

  • This will require proactive measures and the adoption of preemptive initiatives to prevent "evil" from challenging America's global agendas.

In a recent interview for PBS, Fresh Air program, Terry Gross asked William Kristol, the Chairman of the thinktank, how he felt now that the scenario created long before 9-11 by him and other members, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, had gone from the drawing board onto the actual staging grounds in Iraq, and whether he was bothered by those televised war scenes. With a sense of pride in acknowledging the group's role, Mr. Kristol said that, considering other alternatives, he wasn't bothered at all.

Unless one has just arrived on Earth from Alpha Centauri, the regime change in Iraq was the real objective from the beginning, and weapons of mass destruction or violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions a politically correct pretext for war. This much is obvious. But, outside its blatant hypocrisy, is there anything fundamentally wrong with that? If what we say, what we think, and what we do, are all the same, who'd need politicians or diplomats in the first place? We know that the projected image or public perception of any government is seldom if ever the same as the regime's inner workings; it simply cannot be. That sense of moral pride and self-righteousness that any public is entitled to enjoy comes at a high cost: realpolitik! Failing at realpolitik could result in the rape of this public innocence.

Realpolitik, meaning pragmatic, rather than necessarily ethical, political gamesmanship, is the true essence of international diplomacy. Turning realpolitik around to address internal audiences, the job is just as difficult. While the administration must engage in geopolitical strategies that bring about the desired objectives for the nation, public relations apparatus must be at work to create the necessary illusions that cater to the cherished moral and ethical principles of the masses.

Success of any administration depends on its ability to secure the nation's geostrategic objectives, without tarnishing the righteous image that the public demands of it. As we have seen, all public demonstrations against the war with Iraq have been on the premise that no convincing case was made that Iraq posed a clear and present danger to America's security. A much more convincing argument could be made against North Korea who is quite belligerently waving the matador's red banner at the bull. No doubt, if the American public, or the world public for that matter, were convinced that the Iraqi regime was an imminent threat to any country's security, no sane person anywhere would have objected to any action necessary to stop Iraq. As it stands, the Administration has not done a good enough job locally, and has failed miserably in rallying the international public opinion.

It should now be quite clear to any observer of international affairs that Iran did not become a member of George W. Bush's axis of evil, or Tom Lantos' world's most notorious supporter of terrorism, etc., because that is the truth. If Iran is truly targeted for any aggression or interference by the U.S., directly or indirectly, it must be for reasons other than allegations of nuclear weapons development or support of international terrorism.

As we have seen in the case of Iraq, reasons do not have to be legitimate to justify action. What can justify action in the absence of internationally accepted rationale are factors that come under the umbrella of realpolitik. Such purely pragmatic decisions are adopted behind closed doors, then dressed in proper attire and brought out for public approval and consumption. If the results of such actions prove positive, the nation could care less if the means to those ends were less than honorable.

For Iran, the groundwork has already been prepared and ample pretexts ready for the pressure to begin. The question should not be about the truth or falsehood of allegations against Iran, or the legality or legitimacy of aggressive intentions by the United States. The correct approach is to question whether or not America's best interests are being truly considered in adopting such policies against Iran.

Is the current campaign in Iraq aimed at securing America's best interests in the region? On the surface, this is the only reason officially given and publicly accepted here. Yet, even though the American nation is unanimously supportive of the troops at war, as it should be, at least half the citizenry are not convinced of the merits of this war. The international community is by a huge margin against this campaign. Interestingly, the one and only country that is an absolute winner in this affair is Israel.

There are those diehards who would say that the liberated Iraqi people are also the winners, and so will be the rest of the countries of the region once the dominos begin to fall. Yet, few would ask why this principle of liberation and domino theory was not implemented elsewhere, such as in many African countries where it could have done more good.

The reality is that states like Iran, Iraq, Syria, as well as Saudi Arabia, are sources of concern for the state of Israel. Without political, financial and moral support from these states, Palestinian militancy and opposition to Israel's agenda would be quickly and effectively defused. For Israel to feel totally secure against any potential aggression from outside, it must remain the region's unchallenged nuclear power. The thought that Iran could someday be in a position to develop nuclear weapons of its own, worries Israeli leaders. If any nuclear parity evolves between Israel and Iran, Israel's invulnerability become neutralized - this, Israel cannot tolerate. The threat that a nuclear-armed Iran might potentially present will be to challenge Israel's regional supremacy, not to the United States.

While for Israel the game of realpolitik is quite clear, at least in the short term, there are important long-term issues that the Likud hardliners fail to appreciate. Be that as it may, the concern here should be America's long-term strategic and security interests in the Middle East, not Israel's. Are America's objective interests being hijacked by influence peddlers whose loyalties should be brought under closer scrutiny? Is America losing men, money, international goodwill and reputation, as well as strategic advantages, in order to ensure someone else's regional ambitions? From a global perspective it certainly seems that way.

Perhaps powerful foreign lobbies and related Washington thinktanks that staff and steer our foreign policy apparatus cannot be effectively challenged or exposed for what they are anytime soon. There visibly exists a rift within the American administration as to how the Israeli/Palestinian issue should be handled. On the one hand we have the sworn backers of Israeli agendas who prefer to regard Israel as another State within the United State of America. On the other hand, there are those who believe that our blind and unequivocal support for Israel has not been conducive to our best interests.

As an example, the said New American Century thinktank has issued several memoranda within the past year, all critical of the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, for suggesting that both the Israeli regime and the Palestinians should cease hostilities and make efforts toward a peaceful resolution. The memoranda also objected to Mr. Powell's decision to meet with the Palestinian leadership. In short, the point was that Israel should remain immune to any admonition or criticism for its policies.

It is safe to assume that, regardless of the apparent impunity with which Israel has been pursuing its interests, even a staunch and passionate supporter like the United States would rather see Israel's security achieved through more peaceful and less costly means. In this light, it is reasonable to at least suspect that America's seemingly one-sided policies in the Middle East might be aimed at securing the grounds for a more objective and evenhanded approach to the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma. If that indeed is the case, it would be wise for the current Iranian leadership, as well as any future hopefuls, to also partake in their own realpolitik: Let the crowds chant the patented slogans and burn those flags for now, while keeping the undercurrent flow of pragmatic horse-trading alive. In realpolitik, ends always justify the means; better yet, ends and means justify each other.

About the author:

Kam Zarrabi is author, writer, lecturer, former president of the World Affairs Council of San Diego - North County.

... Payvand News - 4/9/03 ... --

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