Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Did they laugh at Hillary Clinton's fears of an Iranian military dictatorship?

One report says that as Hillary Clinton was expressing her concern for the authority of Iran's Supreme Leader, President (!), Parliament and formal political system some in the audience audibly expressed skepticism.
Two Clinton statements during her Gulf trip this week were particularly revealing of why Washington continues to fail in its missions in our region. The first was her expression of concern that Iran is turning into a military dictatorship: “We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship,” Clinton said.

Half a century of American foreign policy flatly contradicts this sentiment (which is why Clinton heard soft chuckles and a few muffled guffaws as she spoke). The US has adored military dictatorships in the Arab world, and has long supported states dominated by the shadowy world of intelligence services. This became even more obvious after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when Washington intensified cooperation with Arab intelligence services in the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.
The idea that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have mounted a coup that didn't actually remove anyone from office or institute any changes to any laws defies evidence. The theory itself is that the Revolutionary Guards have taken power but have not taken anything that would provide evidence of their power.

I guess this idea has filtered directly from Gary Sick through the US foreign policy establishment. Or at least that the idea was concocted once (whether Gary Sick was the ultimate origin or just the first source I heard it from) and sounded compelling to the US foreign policy community members who heard it. Since it is not the result of evidence, it is the result of someone's imagination. It's not really important whose.

What is interesting is why this idea seems so compelling that it spread unchecked through the US foreign policy community. So compelling that it resulted in the US Secretary of State traveling to to Qatar to deliver this laughable theory to a Middle Eastern audience. One reason is that nobody in the Western foreign policy establishment treats the October Balochistan attack as the major event it was. The reason for that is that the attack was so immediately obviously counter-productive to US interests that it is uncomfortable to think of the implications of it happening. So a coup that produced no indications is a more comfortable explanation of why Iran became more hostile against the US in mid-October.

Another reason is that it is something negative to say about a country that does not accept Israel. For the US foreign policy establishment, to question a negative statement about a party that does not accept Israel is, by itself, uncomfortably associated with anti-Semitism. When a colleague tells you about this theory that makes a lot of sense, that the Revolutionary Guards have staged a coup with no visible mechanism at all, so now Iran is a military dictatorship, you can't ask for evidence.

When someone calls a country that believes Palestinians should be able to vote away Israel's status as a majority Jewish state a "military dictatorship", to ask for evidence is to defend that country. You can't defend Iran in the US foreign policy establishment because even if you are not bigoted against Jewish people, charges of anti-Semitism, even if false and unsupportable, can take a practical toll on one's career and are either way mentally stressful in themselves.

So the idea was stupid when Gary Sick first wrote it in public. It is stupid now with Hillary saying it. It will be stupid when Barack Obama repeats it later this year. This idea has spread rapidly and without challenge because it fits extremely well into the blind spot of the US foreign policy, especially Middle East policy, analysis apparatus.

The worst part is that Gary Sick has mounted a coup and taken control of the United States. He hasn't changed any laws. He's left all of the US political figures in place. The policies he's agreed with all along are continuing. There is no policy I can point to that he disagreed with that is changing. There is no tangible indication of this coup, but that just makes it more pernicious.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, I'm not going to express this theory on a stage in an auditorium full of Americans who would just laugh at me.

1 comment:

lidia said...

I have read that she was challenged by students about this rubbish.

On the other hand, the same people call Chaves a "dictator" , while Honduras is now happily democratic