To the dismay of many observers, current U.S. strategy towards Iran is shaping up to be a near-repeat of the path that led to the current situation in Iraq. Yet, as Poland's former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Professor Grzegorz W. Kolodko argues, a U.S. attack on Iran would serve only to stymie the potential for a democratic, free-market revolution in the country.
”In my visits, I have found people to be open-minded, multicultural, pragmatic and looking both towards East and West. They are definitely not hostile to the West in general — or to the United States in particular.”
In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll conducted in 27 mostly Muslim countries, only in Iran have sentiments toward the United States improved. The percentage of people with “unfavorable views” of the United States fell between 2001/2 and 2005/6 from 63% to 52% — while, for instance, it rose from 33% to 62% in Turkey.
At the same time, we all know that Iran is neither an epitome of democracy — nor is it a part of any axis of evil. We would do well to remember that it does have a fine and functioning system of checks and balances, including the right to undertake votes of no-confidence in parliament against the sitting president — something that even the United States cannot claim for itself.
(I don’t know if I would call it “fine and functioning. But Iran does have far more institutions and habits of lawful and accountable civil society than any of our so-called “allies” in the region, by a far cry. Institutions and habits that could function ten times as well the moment the corrupt and oppressive top-theocratic hierarchy were removed. Indeed, I wonder if Iran may be a model of where WE seem to be headed... a future America that still maintains many institutions and processes of an accountable democracy, under the heel of a narrow and corrupt ruling caste. This notion -- that a tyrannical situation need not be uniformly on-off -- is one that we should ponder, whether it is our fate (and Iran’s) to spiral downward into sham-democracy or else shrug off corrupt castes and bring civil society to full vibrancy and life.)
Continuing with the article:
This nation of almost 70 million well-educated people is also a country of robust changes. Few people in the West realize one of the mullahs’ biggest challenges: Two-thirds of the population is too young to remember the triumphant comeback of Ayatollah Khomeini 28 years ago.
Kolodko’s key point is that saber-rattling and “axis-of-evil” rants have only served to delay an inevitable transformation in this country, which is the ONLY one in the middle east where the neocons’ dream (establishing an oasis of democracy in the Middle East) would seem to have a chance of actually coming true. I said all of this at a presentation before the CIA way back in 2002. Alas, at that point, a Nixon-to-China peace offensive to Iran would have been low-risk and potentially a strategic jiu jitsu move of potentially staggering effectiveness.
What do we see instead?
The second worst cliche of strategic thinking is to assume that those who dislike you are automatically evil and stupid. The fact that this has been true for most of American history does not guarantee that it will continue to be so, especially in an era when stupid leadership has dissolved our alliances and eviscerated our popularity, even among friendly nations. In the case of Iran, this cliche tends to make us assume that “Iran” is a monolithic badguy, instead of a land of opportunity for us, diplomatically, socially and commercially, if only the people could be helped to deal with their local bad guys.
The worst cliche of strategic thinking is always this one: “If we smack our opponent hard, across the cheek, he will respond by backing down.”
Um, does anyone recall that this was the exact thinking of the Japanese High Command, when they ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines? Indeed, it is the logic that nearly always draws nations into miscalculated wars... falling for the smug and alluring psychological trap of assuming that your enemy is a bunch of cowards. Above all, never imagine that they might respond to a slap the way you would. By standing taller, with a sense of outrage and patriotic fervor.
The assumption that your (dehumanized) foe will react to force in the exact opposite way that you would is not only stupid, it is cosmically self-indulgent and unsupported by history. We always need to ask - “How would Americans react, if such a strike was aimed at Duluth.” Indeed, how DID we react to the slap of 9/11?
This is a fundamental fact, one that the right wing needs to have crammed down their big, loud craws.
A few dozen pin-prick missile attacks on Iran will not force them to change a single policy. It will cause them to mobilize, as a nation under attack. Exactly the effect it would have upon us. It will turn millions of youths from angry, anti-mullah protestors and liberal reformers into angry recruits for the Revolutionary Guard.
Dropping all thought of Sunni-Shiite division, they will fall into line with the real leaders of the Uma movement. And we will have accomplished the chief goal of this administration. Uniting the entire Islamic world as never before.