Setting the Record Straight

June 10, 2008

Too-Little, Too-Late Foreign Policy?

Talking Instead of War-Mongering

          As the count-down to George W. Bush’s last days in office neared the 200-day mark, he set off on another probably embarrassing foreign trip. But this one may actually have some value to it. At the very least, one of its alleged purposes may signal a too-little, too-late change in policy.
          It was not that long ago that Vice President Strangelove was rattling sabers, aiming all sorts of angry threats at Iran. Dick Cheney’s apocalyptic bogeyman turned out not to be Saddam Hussein after all, so he turned his fear-mongering towards Mah-moud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran.

          The Bush farewell trip to Europe included a summit meeting with Euro-pean Union leaders in which he urged the Western World to adopt a strong-er stance vis a vis Iran, complete with expanded United Nations sanctions.

         Whereas Cheney’s blustering made it appear the United States was about to bomb Iran, the policy now appears to include diplomacy largely absent for the past seven-plus years. The new policy would combine stiffer sanctions with incentives for Iran to pull back on its efforts to enrich uranium, whose main purpose is use in weapons.

         This message was to be carried by an EU envoy to Tehran and the latest Ayatollah Khomeini who really rules the country. Notice, it is not a U.S. leader attempting to talk to Iran’s leaders.
          Bush and John McCain, the Republican candidate to be his successor, pooh-pooh talk with anyone who appears to be a U.S. enemy. Barack Obama’s suggestion he would meet with any other national leader, terrorist or not, without pre-conditions was a bit naïve and off the mark for the way international diplomacy is practiced, but it was not as far off the mark as Bush and McCain would have you believe.
          At the same time the EU is talking with Iranian leaders Israel, a charter member of the eye-for-an-eye crowd, nonetheless is willing to sit down with one of its arch enemies, Syria. If highly vulnerable Israel can talk to its enemies, why cannot a highly invulnerable United States do so?
          It is probably too late for this administration, but it is about time a U.S. leader also learned something about this part of the world and find out how to get along with its residents. Obama’s youthful exposure to Islam and his own distant Muslim heritage puts him in a position no U.S. president has had. Let us hope he uses it well if he is elected president.
          Obama could put us on the road to a real understanding of the differences in that part of the world. We cannot change the dynamics there, but we can adjust our own accommodations to them, beginning with a basic understanding of what we are up against.
          Admittedly this is overly simplistic, but the three major religions of the world–Judaism, Christianity and Islam–derive from the same source, in that order, and not so surprisingly, with the same basic set of beliefs.
–The oldest of the three, Judaism, believes there is only one god (a fairly novel thought at the time it was formulated thousands of years ago) who will come to Earth before an ill-defined “Judgment Day.”
–Then Christians came along and said the son of the one god already came to Earth, about 2,000 years ago now, and his name was Jesus. But he is supposed to come again before that same wispy “Judgment Day.”
–Then along came Islam, which said the other two were wrong, that the son of its version of the one god will be the one returning to Earth. The Shiite branch of Islam believes that son will be the 12th one of Muhammad and that his pre-“Judgment Day” plans include a well-defined reign of terror.
That’s it. Three divergent beliefs that draw on the same account in the same book, the Bible. Basically, the divisions in the Middle East constitute no more than another clash of mythology, perhaps a later version of the clashes of Greek or Roman gods, or name your region of the world and local myth.
Ahmadinejad is as whacky a representative of Iran as our current leadership is of the United States, with Dick Cheney pulling increasingly entangled strings.
Cheney failed to point out in his apocalyptic message that Ahmadinejad is mostly a loopy figurehead president of Iran and that the power there still lies in the hands of religious leaders we hope are more rational, but whose thoughts we cannot discern as long as we are focused on the Bush administration’s latest bogeyman.

1 Comment »

  1. “Obama could put us on the road to a real understanding of the differences in that part of the world.” I doubt that in a BIG way. I will say I agree with those that say an Obama Administration might allow the Iranians to shift down the conservative rhetoric and again see one of the “reformers” or moderates step up. Our (Bush) saber rattling only begets scimitar rattling.

    Comment by Alfie — June 11, 2008 @ 9:40 am | Reply

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