Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse
There is an old Iranian expression that goes something
like this: The pebble that a fool drops into a well will require a hundred wise
men to retrieve. To get out of the quagmire that the Bush administration has
gotten us into might need more than the proverbial hundred wise men. Now after
the loss of 2000 young American lives and over two hundred billion dollars in
It is time, perhaps, to think outside the box.
Any seasoned analyst appreciates the role that the administration’s propaganda machine always plays in rallying the public in support of its policies. This is particularly true in matters dealing with foreign affairs, an area to which the American public is, and has been historically, blissfully distanced. The information propagated through the mass media helps formulate the general public’s perception of the global affairs. The mass media’s power of persuasion among the masses is supported by the prevailing myth that the freedom of the press in a capitalist democracy ensures open and honest reporting.
One of the basic responsibilities, perhaps the chief
function, of the propaganda machine is to create and perpetuate myths that play
into the collective sympathies of the masses in order to generate a more durable
public consent. Ironically, the fundamental myth that paves the way for the
success of the subsequent mythmakers is the American people’s almost religious
faith in the honesty, nobility and purity of
The reality is that any nation in pursuit of its own best interests will inevitably encounter resistance and opposition by competing, and just as self-righteously motivated, nations who seek their own best interests. Even when the dominant powers resolve their conflict of entitlements in a mutually satisfactory manner, their gain is more than likely at the expense of the less fortunate underdogs who have traditionally been unable to do more than watch the clash of the titans and keep from getting trampled.
In today’s world, however, the traditional underdogs have been gaining a gravity never before witnessed, and now increasingly acknowledged, by the heavyweight champions of the global arena. The unconventional methods and tactics employed by the heretofore inconsequential forces have exposed an alarming degree of vulnerability in the defenses of the mighty. Now, even scattered bands of poorly organized troublemakers can threaten and disrupt the safety and security of nations and inflict significant harm.
It is perhaps too early in historical terms to accept the fact that small and disparate gangs of militants with an agenda could intimidate and terrorize powerhouses of the world. The established mindset dictates that only well organized and amply funded quasi nations or states are capable of carrying out such seemingly elaborate strategies. What is also an established mindset is that whatever opposes or stands in the way of righteous, noble and honorable pursuits is, by definition, immoral, ignoble and evil.
Based on such presumptions, the evil is first identified and introduced to the public as, by necessity, a large and well organized group or a combination of groups supported by equally evil states with vast resources and global reach. That step is then followed by strategies drawn to confront and eliminate the evil at the source, rather than wait for the dark forces to gain the upper hand.
This is thinking inside the box, and it isn’t working; it is time to step outside the box. “Staying the course”, the President’s favorite slogan, means remaining trapped inside the cubicle with no attempt to find a way out. This attitude is not a sign of prudent resolve; it means keeping the nation in a perilous trap.
This leads us to the current affairs and
Looking ahead to the next elections campaigns, potential candidates in both political parties are increasingly distancing themselves from the pro-war lobbies and openly support finding expeditious exit strategies. Unfortunately, even these anti-war politicians never challenge the fundamental principles upon which American foreign policies have been structured. They also believe that “evil” is clearly identified and must be confronted and defeated or contained before it could do more harm; the only disagreement is in the methods and tactics involved in combating this evil. They are also trapped inside the same box.
Thinking inside the box means adhering stubbornly to a
set of established mindsets or paradigms, even in the face of clear evidence to
their falsehood or ineffectiveness. When it comes to dealing with the ongoing
campaign against international terrorism and involvements in the
In addressing our current concerns with the war on terror and our deepening involvements in the Middle East, the following is a short list of particularly troubling points that deserve careful scrutiny for potential reevaluation:
1- The very meaning of war on terror.
2- Factors that motivate the terrorists.
4- The proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
5- The resurgence of Islam as the foundation of political ideologies.
8- Last, but most importantly, the issue of
Now, let’s examine these issues from the perspective of the prevailing conventional wisdom; inside the box, that is:
1- To define the concept of war on terror, we must first define what terror constitutes. Terror or terrorism is universally defined as acts of violence or intimidation against civilian or non-combatant populations for political or military motives. But, here our concern is with terrorism aimed at us and our interests. Next, we must identify what or who is to be the target of our war on terror; a target must have a face or an identity. Fortunately, we have been able, we are told, to isolate and identify the culprits; they are Islamic extremists, otherwise known as Islamofascists or Islamic fundamentalists, well organized and well funded and supported by states that encourage, harbor and back such terror networks.
2- As the president has said, it is clear what motivates these terrorists to strike at us and threaten our global interests: they hate us not for what we do, but for who we are. They simply hate our freedom and democracy and civilized values. They also see us as the main obstacle in their way to achieving global dominance under the banner of fundamentalist Islam.
3- As the only superpower on the global stage, it is
4- These terrorists, we are repeatedly warned, with the help of the outlaw countries that support them, are trying to gain access to weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, to threaten and blackmail the region and the civilized word in order to accomplish their evil mission. We simply cannot and will not allow that to happen.
5- As civilized, open-minded people, we know that Islam is in principle, like any other religion, a religion of peace. However, Islam has been hijacked by many extremist groups and derailed from its righteous path. Today, it is Islam that threatens the civilized world, and it is the civilized world that must stop this menace before it is too late.
6- We are told that
7- We can reduce and finally end our dependency on the
8- Israel, we have come to believe, is the only true democracy
in the Middle East, a staunch friend and ally of the United States, and a
vanguard of Western values and civilization in that turbulent region.
A few excerpts from recent statements by some high profile Administration officials will help demonstrate the above points:
The following quotes are from
President Bush’s speech given at a National Endowment for Democracy event,
these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader
“Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum
created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which
to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments.
Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted
“...and we must recognize
“Third, the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.
“With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation.”
“The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They have been sheltered by authoritarian regimes: allies of convenience like Syria and Iran that share the goal of hurting America and moderate Muslim governments and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West and America and on the Jews.”
“No act of ours invited the rage of the killers, and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.”
“...We will never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory.”
In the same speech, the
president goes on say, “[We] are determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to
outlaw regimes and to their terrorist allies who would use them without
hesitation.” He continues later, “[We] are determined to deny radical groups
the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes. State sponsors like
Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was, as expected,
quick to parrot her boss in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on
Wednesday, October 19. Here are some comments she made in response to questions
posed by the Committee members with regard to the possibility of American
military action against
“I don’t think the president ever takes any of his options off the table concerning anything to do with military force.”
“Syria and, indeed,
In an interview with BBC 2 on October 14, John Bolton,
"The real issue is whether an international community is going to accept an Iran that violates its treaty commitments under the non-proliferation treaty, that lies about its programme and is determined to get nuclear weapons deliverable on ballistic missiles that it can then use to intimidate not only its own region but possibly to supply to terrorists."
It is never easy and is generally counterintuitive to question or abandon “facts” that have taken decades of incessant propaganda to become established as gospel truths. But, when harsh realities on the ground seem to discredit the established facts, stubborn adherence to the conventional wisdom might prove disastrous.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to
President Carter, wrote in an article dated
“That war, advocated by a narrow circle of decision-makers for motives still not fully exposed, propagated publicly by rhetoric reliant on false assertions, has turned out to be much more costly in blood and money than anticipated. It has precipitated worldwide criticism. In the
“It is a self-delusion for Americans to be told that the terrorists are motivated mainly by an abstract hatred of freedom.”
“Terrorists are not born but shaped by events..”
“Flailing away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming ‘I will stay the course’ is an exercise in catastrophic leadership.”
foreign policy based on bipartisanship and with
Dr. Brzezinski refers to a narrow circle of decision-makers for
motives still not fully exposed, as the minds behind our foreign policies in
The last paragraph of the Mission Statement of this group says it in a nutshell:
• We need to accept responsibility for
Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral
clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the
Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, Midge Decter, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle, Donald Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Dan Quayle, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen Henry S. Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber, George Weigel, Paul Wolfowitz
In this list of members we see a few high profile names that represent the honest philosophy of the founder of neoconservatism, Leo Straus, and his disciple, Irvin Kristol. For the rest, it is up to the inquisitive reader to investigate their backgrounds, affiliations, loyalties and agendas.
recent event at the House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on the
To read the full text, please refer to the web site, http://www.afpc.org/lnews.shtml .
According to Mr. Berman,
Last May, the Israeli lobby organization, AIPAC, held its
annual event in
AIPAC held its largest-ever
Policy Conference in
If it is hard to believe for most Americans that the
foreign lobby of a tiny country half-way around the world is the site of the
most formidable gathering of
Of course, political action committees and lobbies, as
well as foreign lobbying organizations, have a legal right to engage in their
respective activities within the halls of Congress. That is not the issue. Also,
it should not surprise anyone that foreign interests do pursue their own agendas
as best they can and as well they should. The only logical point of contention
is whether the agendas pursued by foreign lobbies interfere with or contradict
Even though we see legitimate concerns expressed here and
there over the price we are perhaps paying globally for
President Bush referred several times in his speech to moderate regimes in the
It is time to think outside the box.
Things aren’t going too well for us or for the greater
For those who take the president’s emphatic remarks to heart, that we are succeeding in our war on terror, and that we will stay the course until complete victory is achieved, there is no need to read any further. There are many who also believe that the earth is flat and that god created the heaven and the earth in six days; neither of which costs any money or lives. For some others, Mr. Bush’s “resolve” is divinely ordained to bring about the prophesied Armageddon, the end-time, and the second coming of Jesus Christ; surely worth all the death and devastation it might require.
At the same time, there are those in the narrow circle of decision-makers, who,
for motives still not fully exposed,
know where we are headed, but disregard America’s interests in order to
pursue their own ulterior agenda. In the middle are the silent or duped majority
who worry about the price of gasoline and hope that
By now, all but the most stubbornly innocent would have to admit that a/ we were fools to allow ourselves to be dragged into the mess we are in, b/ we have made things a lot worse for ourselves by creating enemies where there were none before, and c/ the light we see at the end of the tunnel is likely the headlights of another truck loaded with explosives.
As an academic exercise, let us close our book of self-redeeming mythologies and start on a fresh clean slate. We have to base our study on a set of logical presumptions and avoid far-out, self-deluding hypotheses.
It is one thing attempting to persuade the public of an enemy or antagonist’s “evil” or uncivilized character; but to use this line of rhetoric to conduct official foreign policy is ill advised and counterproductive. As hard as it is for many to believe, there do exist alternative views of the history of the Middle East and America’s involvement and interference in that region, some rather unpleasantly in contradiction with our accepted narratives.
The three most important concerns for
From a pragmatic perspective, guaranteeing the survival of the ruling class in exchange for its cooperation sounds like an equitable arrangement. Also from a pragmatic standpoint, we could choose to adopt the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation by ignoring the regime’s corrupt and repressive rule. After all, the object of the game is to advance the policy of compliance, not to promote democratic movements that might result in the creation of independent, self-serving “rogue” states.
The hope as always is that imposing such compliance comes at as low a cost as possible to us and, at the same time, proves advantageous to the subject states. However, simple logic dictates that, when our interests clash and the stakes are high enough, and when coercion and propaganda fail to do the job, the use of any covert or overt method to maintain compliance cannot be ruled out.
It is, therefore, clear that when we are told
Our concerns over Iran should actually be addressed in conjunction with the case regarding America’s Israeli connections, since, as it will be argued, the two cases are intimately intertwined.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, posted the text of President Ahmadinejad’s recent address, with the opening statements that follow:
What prompted or emboldened
1- The man is clearly crazy and possibly a suicidal maniac.
2- He is simply retaliating in response to Bush and
3- Perhaps he knows something we don’t know: perhaps Iran already has the capability to inflict irreparable damage to Israel with nuclear and other WMDs, and the Iranian hardliner president knows that Israel is aware of that and wouldn’t dare attack Iran.
4- Or, perhaps, he believes the Israeli and American designs
5- But, could it be that Mr. Ahmadinejad has finally sensed
the inevitability of some form of preemptive strike against
Ahmadinejad’s comments have already received condemnation
from the West;
If Ahmadinejad’s comments were no more than loose talk
with nothing to back up his boisterous gestures that were obviously aimed at the
local crowds, the possibility of American or Israeli attack against
Behind all this charade lies a set of irrefutable facts
that is seldom brought out into the public domain. Clearly, mistakes in
political strategy in the
Let us start with a series of “What if” questions:
if American aid to the regional countries
were limited only to non-military and non-security projects, in exchange for
mutually productive economic and trade relations with the
What if the term terrorism, especially international terrorism, were to be used more objectively, not selectively to only apply to militancy against Israeli interests? States that commit similar acts should also fall under this category.
What if honest public opinion were allowed to become the determining factor behind each nation’s style of government and leadership? In the short-term, many if not all the so-called moderates and allies of convenience would lose power. In the longer-term, true business partners, bound by mutual respect and trust, would prove much more productive. Love affair is not a prerequisite or even an essential ingredient for a mutually fruitful partnership.
if diplomatic and economic sanctions
against the Islamic Republic of Iran, instituted by the
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