Outside View: The Foggy Bottom puzzle

By PAULO CASACA, UPI Outside View Commentator  |  Dec. 20, 2012 at 12:16 AM
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BRUSSELS, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Dated August 2012, Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, published a special edition comprising nine contributions on the Iranian nuclear bomb, tellingly titled "Solving the Persian Puzzle" and therefore paraphrasing Kenneth Pollack's work of art Iranian regime apology "The Iranian Puzzle."

Five of the contributors make the case to appease Iran within the standard diplomatic scholastics under the various tonalities we have become accustomed to. The most straightforward and consequential of these is signed by Kenneth N. Waltz and openly defends the case for allowing Iran to build a bomb.

Next we have James Lindsay and Ray Takeyh explaining why we will have to live with an Iranian bomb, although they concede that this might not be a positive development.

Jacques Hymans makes the case for not hindering Iranian efforts to build the bomb, on the astonishing argument that we should trust Iranian political incompetence to derail the bomb-making process and Richard Haas and Scott Sagan present two contributions pleading for the continuation of diplomatic efforts.

A single diplomatic contribution -- "Time to attack Iran" by Matthew Kroenig -- disagrees with the "business as usual" tone and proposes a military strike on Iran as the best option, albeit a limited strike that should be coupled with all sorts of guarantees that the United States doesn't wish to change the existing Iranian regime.

The contribution is rebuffed on the following pages by a special piece written to disavow it -- the only contribution being contradicted in such a way across the publication.

Michael Ledeen writes a piece rejecting sanctions or armed actions in favor of what he calls "regime change" made by the former leaders of the regime Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi; that is, two former leaders of the regime who always guaranteed they would never change the nature of the regime they worked for.

Ledeen's contribution, from someone whose links with Tehran became famous via the so-called Iran-Contra Affair, is very similar to most of the others one can hear from people coming recently from Iran claiming to be critical of the regime but apparently being more concerned with defending the regime from sanctions or armed threats.

Suzanne Maloney, a usual presence in pro-Tehran initiatives, makes the case against new sanctions on Tehran.

Gideon Rose, editor, introduces the publication including a quotation of Gary Sick -- the veteran of the U.S. pro-Iranian lobby -- and presents what is a completely one-sided engagement with the Tehran rulers' proposal as "informed and independent."

The points of view of the Muslim World seculars, liberals and democrats or of the Iranian internal opposition, an analysis of the Islamic fanatic ideology in the region and specifically the Iranian brand, of the geopolitical context of the Persian Gulf, Iraq or Afghanistan are nearly completely absent in a very one-sided dogmatic view of the necessary engagement with Tehran's regime.

The mockery of debate promoted by this issue of Foreign Affairs and the obsession by its promoters of defending the regime that mostly attacked the United States openly and consistently, whose ideology is the perfect antonym of the free and democratic world, is the real puzzle we ought to decipher.

Whereas the evil logic of religious fanatic regimes has been ever more understood either by intellectuals or by people at large -- as we can see by the Iranian popular uprisings or the most recent Egyptian ones -- I believe little attention has been paid to this sort of "Whale suicidal Syndrome" that has been assuming the statute of official doctrine in diplomatic corps such as the ones of the United Kingdom or the United States.

If we take the invasion of Iraq by the United States, for instance, we see the bulk of common analysis broadly divided into 1) those who understood it as an oil-grabbing plot; 2) those who see it as an imperialist plot; or 3) those who see it as an exercise of democracy by force.

The fact is that any of these perceptions flies in the face of the most indisputable facts: 1) the United States or U.S. oil interests gained no oil from the Iraqi invasion; 2) the United States has never been so disengaged from the region and less imperial as it now is after the invasion; 3) Iraq became one of the worst dictatorships in the region, with the joint effort of Washington and Tehran to impose the leader who lost the elections against the one who won them being just the most telling U.S. action undermining democracy.

Needless to say, several idealists thought the Iraqi invasion to be the appropriate step in the democratization of the Middle East. Certainly, several others who were less idealistic followed James Baker's favorite quotation of the three main reasons for the importance of Iraq (oil, oil and oil). Still many others reasoned according to a classic imperial mind set. Political mismanagement certainly played its part.

However, none of this can lead to a coherent understanding of events. The truth is, there is no single rational explanation for the Western -- most particularly, Anglo-Saxon -- attraction for the Muslim fanaticism whose avowed main goal is to destroy all the values proclaimed by the West.

The "Foggy Bottom" Puzzle cannot be deciphered without a full understanding of the historical, cultural and psychological development of Western societies, a sort of anthropological study that was never equated toward the West.

The first step to make is, nevertheless, to understand that our efforts now have to be driven toward understanding what is going on in the Western elites, rather than what is going on in the minds of the religious fanatics, which appears to be less irrational.


(Paulo Casaca, former member of European Parliament from Portugal, is executive director of Brussels based ARCHumankind -- The Alliance to Renew Co-operation among Humankind.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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