You say “Iran is evil.” I say “What is ‘Iran’?”

Posted on March 1, 2012 at 4.55 pm

Q. War should be the last option, but we can’t pretend that Iran isn’t evil. Are we supposed to wait til they blow up Israel to react? I do agree with you in that we do need to get out of nation-building during war. Hit the facilities and pull out. — redbloodedamerica, from tumblr, in reply to this post.

A. “Iran” is evil, huh?  See, there are a couple pretty major problems with that statement:

  1. The government of Iran is not the same as the people of Iran.  And when we sanction and bomb Iran, you know who’s going to suffer?  I’ll give you a hint:  Not Ahmedinejad.  It would be one thing if Iran had a legitimately representative government, but we know they don’t.  Why should the civilians suffer for their government’s errors if they don’t even support those errors?
  2. Because they don’t, you know — support those errors, I mean.  Polls,like this one from 2007 (at which time we were basically in exactly the same “are they or aren’t they; should we or shouldn’t we” situation with Iran), show that the Iranian people do not want their country to have nuclear weapons.  Nuclear power, yes.  Nuclear weapons, no.  71% said they wanted a nuclear weapon-free Middle East, and 68% said they’d like to see the elimination of all nukes.
  3. But while we’re on the subject of nukes, recall the post which spurred your comment, and one of the facts I cited there, sourced to a report from the New York Times about the Senate testimony of the director of national intelligence:   “American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb” — in fact, that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weaponry is “the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.” This is hardly some fringe opinionating from a a rabid antiwar activist.

So how exactly — specifically — is Iran “evil”?  Is it the government or the people?  The people don’t want nukes, and they’re the ones who will suffer most from our attacks.  Meanwhile, our best intelligence agents all agree that the government doesn’t have nukes.  Where is this evilness of which you speak, and how do you propose to punish it without also punishing those who neither want nor can do anything to stop it (if it actually existed)?

Now, let’s take a look at Israel.  Unlike Iran with its decrepit army which could in reality do comparatively little damage to Israel, Israel has nukes.  I don’t know if anyone is still pretending they don’t, but let’s stop that now, because it’s silly.  Israel also has mandatory conscription for everyone once they hit 18, and about 50% of the population actually does serve in the military.  Oh, and the United States has been sending $3 billion in aid to Israel every year for decades.  The practice stopped in 2007, but appears to be resuming again as President Obama requested $3 billion in specifically military aid to Israel for 2011. Israel is hardly undefended.

But, to continue this conversation, let’s suppose a number of false things, namely that:  Every man, woman, and child in Iran is evil and should be punished; Iran has nukes; Iran has a modern and legitimately threatening military; Israel does not have a modern and legitimately threatening military.  Again, all of these statements are false.  But let’s pretend they’re not and ask:  Even if all of that were true, why should America be involved in this situation?  

Last I checked, Israel is not America, which means that at a basic level, it’s not our problem (politically — what you personally support is another issue).  If our alliance with them is supposed to be promoting peace or democracy or something in the Middle East, it’s failing miserably.  If it’s supposed to be helping us make friends in the Middle East, it’s failing even more miserably.  We’ve already thrown literally tens of billions of dollars at Israel and gotten — what?  A bad reputation among all of Israel’s neighbors, at whom we also throw billions of dollars?  And all this while we’re $15 trillion in debt?

All that to say:  This is a murky situation at best.  Going to war in Iran is going to cause a lot of strife, death, and hatred.  It is not a step toward peace in the Middle East, and it is not a cut and dried situation in which we can charge in yet again — always the guys in the white hats! — and kill the bad guys as we fight alongside our favorite little sidekick, Israel.  War with Iran is neither justified, necessary, nor wise, and we would do well to be a little more thoughtful about the situation than blatant claims that “Iran is evil” allow us to be.

Posted in , , ,