A rare point of agreement between the critics and advocates of a deal with Iran starkly captures the nature of my own disaffection with it and with the current state of affairs in our world. The point simply put is this: the deal is being inked with Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni blood.
But while the critics of the deal point to this fact either as their main reason or simply as an additional reason for them to oppose the deal, the advocates, motivated, as they say, by their sense of realism, see Iranian involvement in supporting genocide as a natural, if not even legitimate tactic, one that has been employed by states and nations since time immemorial. Power politics have always been amoral in nature, they contend, the United States itself has often been guilty of practicing them, and there is little that we can do to change that.
I am not sure I could believe that last part. Indeed, working to change the nature of power politics is exactly the fight in which we have been engaging over the last few centuries, if not throughout the course of our entire civilizational history. This is how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came to be adopted, why the UN was established, and why the Responsibility to Protect was born. Regardless of continuing complaints regarding Western aggression, in reality, it’s getting increasingly harder for Western countries, and for democratic states in general, to make the decision to go to war, irrespective of the reasons involved. More importantly, the cost of war and the safety of Western troops are not the only reasons making things difficult. Costs to the other side, human and material, are an important factor in this regard as well, thanks to efforts by various human rights groups as well as those of the anti-war and anti-imperialism movements.
But it seems that only democracies are expected to live by the rules. Countries ruled by corrupt authoritarian regimes get a free pass on these issues, because standing up to these countries and forcing them to reverse their policies is “hard.” For this, the man who once made the statement below and the people who applauded him and continue to do so seem to have been blatantly lying to us.
“We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard.” (Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech)
What’s the reason behind such an about-face, one has to wonder? Have some people become so overburdened and confused that they can no longer distinguish realism from cynicism? Or is ideology at play here? Well, considering the intelligence of the people involved and their persistence in pursuing seemingly cynical policies we cannot but face the reality that these people know exactly what they are doing. Her actual power and potential notwithstanding, they want to take America back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when she was simply one of many strong states around the world all of which quite at ease with the amoral nature of power politics. Their reason for wanting to do that is plain and simple: the change makes things easier, or so they believe, as America wouldn’t have to worry about leading the world anywhere. In this vision, peoples and states will be left to make their own destinies – a state of affairs that sounds good, reasonable, if not even laudable in theory, but which, in practice, translates into chaos: a world where the strong feeds upon the weak, and where the law of the jungle prevails.
The calculations involved here are too intricate to be the mere product of indifference. No. This is, in fact, revenge. Obama and his acolytes are in effect telling the world, their friends and enemies included:
“You think the world will be a better place without us trying to impose certain rules because our efforts in this regard have admittedly been flawed? We understand. We will not try to do that anymore. In fact, we will abandon any sense of manifest destiny that have guided the policies of earlier administrations, perhaps since WWI, and any attempt at infusing a sense of morality into politics, and we will behave just like any other powerful state in the world, and all through history: We will doggedly pursue our interests, as we define them, and we will move into and out of alliances, as we see fit, and we expect other to do the same. And may strongest survive and prosper.”
America’s attempt at playing a central moral role in managing global affairs might have always been problematic, and on many occasions it was obviously at odds with her immediate interests leading to the adoption of hypocritical policies, still, and without America’s efforts and leadership over the last century or so, most people on earth would have been languishing under totalitarian rule of one form or another.
Be that as it may, this new old attitude comes as welcome news to countries like Iran, Russia, China, and many others across the world, as they rush to fill the gap left by the U.S. and take advantage of the absence of any enforceable rules. But there are other celebrants of this state of affairs, because few seem to realize the dangerous nature of this transition and its far reaching implications for global security. Indeed, we are now living in a world where our security is a mere product of fragile truces based on lies and deception, and where our basic freedoms are being eroded in its name.
Indeed, a deal inked in blood and reached at the expense of the legitimate aspirations of so many millions for a better life cannot and will not lead to peace, but to thoughts, then, plans for a payback. And what has our history been but one long series of paybacks? This is the best that cynicism, amorality and power politics can deliver.
“… a deal inked in blood and reached at the expense of the legitimate aspirations of so many millions for a better life cannot and will not lead to peace, but to thoughts, then, plans for a payback.”
I am torn at this stage between wanting to live long enough to see it all happen, to see those responsible for destroying my country pay the ultimate price, and hating myself for it. It’s not my desire or intention to see more bloodshed, nor have I ever worked to that end or ever will, regardless of how I am perceived in certain quarters. Still, the injustice of what’s happening is too staggering for it not to challenge my perception of right and wrong, and the fact that so many seem to be oblivious to it makes it hard for me not to hate humanity as a whole and not only myself.
Still, I am not one to abandon a struggle just because it is hard. I am exhausted today, I have been exhausted for a long while now, perhaps a lifetime. But I am a child of tomorrow, not the past, and I cannot silence its siren call, nor can I ignore it.
So, this is my new cause, which comes as a natural extension of my old one of course: working for a global order where those with power cannot shirk the moral responsibility that comes with power, a global order where security and freedom are not presented as mutually exclusive expectations, no matter how hard harmonizing their requirements happen to be, a global order where mass murder is not tolerated, ignored, handled with indifference or justified as the price of doing business.