Monday, June 22, 2009

something a bit more important

So I was going to write a timely follow-up to my intern mockery but I have all summer to do that. I wanted to write about something a tad bit more pressing. Iran.

I don't want to do a recap, I don't want to do a history lesson of US involvement and the evolution of social movements leading up to the events of the past 2 weeks. I'm gonna assume that if you're still reading thus far you know all that

So I was watching the medley of political TV shows on Sunday morning. By the way....when did the happen? Who determined that Saturday mornings will be all about cartoons for kids and Sunday mornings will be political cartoons for adults?

Well I basically watched in horror as like a band of Republicans, like Mr. McCain, spoke about how they wished the US/Obama took a more vocal role in supporting the Irani protesters.

Now I agree that we should speak against the violent treatment of protesters. That's not right. We should also make it clear that that applies to both the reformers and pro-Ahmadinejad supporters.

But for the US to vocally support challenger Mousavi has a lot of problematic implications from my point of view

1) Legitimacy. What makes the protests so hard for the Irani Supreme Leader & Co (doesn't the phrase "Supreme Leader" sounds silly? ...it's like something out of the movie the Planet of the Apes or like Star Trek) is that it's the genuine will of the people. For a leadership that has created its vision of Self through the definition of the Other (i.e. the West) this is a bit of a trip. In other words if you claim to be against the West, then your identity is deemed as being un-Western. But if someone else besides the West is protesting against you, you face a serious identity crisis.

You need the Other to be You. If you don't have the Other, then people start asking "what do YOU stand for?"

So if the US were to vocally support the protesters it provides the Super Leader the usual "anti-West" stance. The protesters can be dismissed as being encouraged by America and the meaning of their movements gets lost. In short, the Movement loses its legitimacy. And political legitimacy is what being in power or challenging power is all about

2) Being vocal now is short-sighted at best. The demographic of Iran (70% of the population is under 30yrs old) makes me think that this movement won't just "go away." I'm not an expert on Iran but the protests feel like they have evolved from being about a particular candidate losing to a much deeper/broader statement against civil liberties and freedoms. But to simply put our full faith behind Mousavi or any particular candidate, who may arguably be a leader who found a revolution (as opposed to the other way around), risks really knowing what we get. He may seem great now but to assume that he will be perfect would be naive at best.

Hence support should be given for preserving a just process, not necessarily the outcome (yes, yes, this sorta goes against most US foreign intervention policies of the 20th/21st century)


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And to me what really strikes me is that for the first time in a while outsiders are forced to looks at Iranians/Muslims with a slightly more nuanced view. Just because their leader makes a mockery of rational thinkers and the properly educated (I mean he's questioning the Holocaust and claims Iran has no gays... at some point you have to tell a guy to stop being dumb) doesn't mean you can blindly assume the rest of the of people are like that.

It's sorta like when I'd go abroad from 2000-08 and people assume that all Americans are simple-minded and shallow thinkers at best based on our President at the time.

Here you can see a proud culture that has seen its potential get stunted...and there's a leader in power who is more interested in rhetoric against the US as opposed to helping the day to day lives of his people. That just kills me. At least this is causing a most unusual event to occur...kids here are relating to kids over there. A few years ago the Iranians might have been characterized as radicals or another wave of violent youth...now they're kids fighting for fairness.
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Look I may have things wrong and I know there are parts I need to be better informed about as I form a narrative of understanding for myself, but my central thesis remains: to some degree the US needs to not appear to be an active participant, a source of tension/hate that has already damaged relations for years, but rather do the harder job of letting events unfold a bit while without being apathetic.


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