Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Iran, America and the Left

Tom Englehardt, the author of such books as "The American Way of War" and "The United States of Fear," wrote a very long and pedantic article about what America would do if we were in Iran's shoes. No, I don't mean if we were under the rule of a regime that has no issue with shooting and beating protesters, gender apartheidstate sponsored rape, or hanging people for being gay. He means if Iran was harassing America for no reason at all, just because they are mean. Here's a selection:
"Imagine that, in late 2007, Iran's ruling mullahs and their military advisors had decided to upgrade already significant covert activities against Washington, including cross-border operations, and so launched an intensification of its secret campaign to “destabilize” the country’s leadership -- call it a covert war if you will -- funded by hundreds of millions of dollars of oil money; that they (or their allies) supported armed oppositional groups hostile to Washington; that they flew advanced robot drones on surveillance missions in the country's airspace; that they imposed ever escalating sanctions, which over the years caused increased suffering among the American people, in order to force Washington to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and give up the nuclear program (military and peaceful) that it had been pursuing since 1943; that they and an ally developed and launched a computer worm meant to destroy American centrifuges and introduced sabotaged parts into its nuclear supply chain; that they encouraged American nuclear scientists to defect; that one of their allies launched an assassination program against American nuclear scientists and engineers, killing five of them on the streets of American cities; that they launched a global campaign to force the world not to buy key American products, including Hollywood movies, iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and weaponry of any sort by essentially embargoing American banking transactions. "
Now look, I'll be honest. I am not sure if the way America is dealing with Iran is productive or helpful. It is a very complicated issue. However, there are some things that I know about that Mr. Engelhardt is leaving out of his narrative.

First of all, you might notice that in his rewrite of history, America just started bothering Iran and violating its sovereignty for basically no reason.  No mention of the covert nuclear program, no acknowledgement of the sponsoring of world wide terrorism, no memory of bellicose threats. To hear it from Mr. Engelhardt, Iran was sitting around minding its own business when all of the sudden evil evil America decided to slap them around for kicks and giggles. Of course. In this narrative Iran never took American hostages and never supported the killings of Americans in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Why? It's inconvenient I suppose.

Secondly, in his narrative Iran would be harassing America by itself. But in the real world, Iran is isolated and sanctioned not only by America but a great many countries around the world. Even China doesn't want them to get a nuclear weapon and when Ahmadinejad goes on tour the only places he is welcome are in fellow dictatorships like Venezuela. Now maybe you can explain all this by simply stating that America forced everyone to follow their example. Maybe. But it isn't just America and Israel and the West that is concerned about Iran potential gaining nuclear power. But one again this is left out because it doesn't fit Mr. Engelhardt's narrative. 

As I said before, if you don't agree with what America is doing about Iran, okay. That's perfectly acceptable. But don't try to bury it in half-truths like this. Because that only hurts your point. Here is how Mr. Engelhardt concludes:
"Just as a small exercise to restore some sense of proportion, stop for a moment the next time you hear of American or Israeli plans for the further destabilization of Iran and think: what would we do if the Iranians were planning something similar for us?"
 It's a real stretch for Mr. Engelhardt to claim that what America wants is to "destabilize" Iran. But that is not really the important bit. I can't say for certain what I would when faced with the hypothetical scenario that he devises. But I do know what Mr. Engelhardt would say: He would say that America is getting exactly what we deserve. He would point the 1,000 military bases or "the military industrial complex" and say that of course it would come back to hurt us sooner or later! Just look at his books That is very much how the left thinks: America is always wrong, whether we are on the giving or receiving end of violence.

Don't believe me? Let's hear it from the man himself:
"And here’s the oddest thing, given the blowback that could come from a blowup in the Persian Gulf, it might even make us all safer."
Of course, for those of us who aren't on the professional left, "blowback" is colorblind and can move in more than one direction. And the ruling regime of Iran has been accumulating blowback for a long, long time. Maybe Mr. Engelhardt didn't think that there should be consequences for Iran's support of terrorism from Buenos Aires to Mumbai and their training of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are the ones receiving blowback right now. What goes around comes around.

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