The United States, especially with regard to its foreign policy in the Mideast, is not a country whose leaders appear to put great value in the idea of winning the hearts and minds of the citizens of geopolitical foes. Instead, crippling economic sanctions followed by covert destabilization of governments the Nation opposes is the modus operandi.
But the unintended — or perhaps of little concern to U.S. politicians — consequences of American imperialist behavior in the Mideast have very human impacts.
There are a few key facts about war and its modern visage to the greater American public:
- America’s most recent military engagements have been a far cry from the “total war” efforts the Nation has seen in the past. There has been no draft, there has been little economic impact recognizable to the Average Joe and a large part of the populace has remained relatively unaffected by the near-constant military adventurism on which the Nation has embarked over the past several years.
- America’s efforts in the Mideast have failed to produce any sort of real stability as Muslim extremist groups continue to gain control in the region, remaining troops in Afghanistan continue to be attacked by Afghan troops and police officers, and Iraq is a cesspool of corruption.
- War is money. When the U.S. engages in military conflict, there is a great deal of money to be made by a large number of people, including those with strategic interest in foreign assets, the media and the military-industrial complex.
Life in the Mideast is a world away — unimaginable to most Americans. This makes it easy to picture thousands of desert-dwelling barbarians blowing up one another for extreme religious reasons in a giant sandbox full of camels and destruction.
In reality, however, the Mideast is a region where many countries are trying to reconcile traditional theocratic governance with growing popular dissent. Just as young Americans did in the United States throughout the 1950s and 1960s, young people in places throughout the Mideast are tiring of uptight social policies based in traditional interpretation of religious doctrine. A shining example of a cultural clash between new, more liberal ideas and traditional Islamic custom goes largely unnoticed by most Americans, as it is constantly drowned out by the war drums of the Jewish pro-Israel lobby and mass media pontification of danger: That is, Iran.
The Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd, in his 2008 effort The Ayatollah Begs To Differ, attempts to make clear to American readers that there is more to Iran than mainstream media offers up and military-industrial-aligned politicos are willing to offer up. For example, the Iranian people, though heavily Muslim, have traditionally decried their Arab neighbors’ disdain for the arts and sciences. Majd also notes in his work that, while they get the most media play, shrieking fundamentalists, stern clerics in black turbans and women imprisoned in chadors are not representative of Iran as a whole.
The bottom line, according to Majd and his ideological allies, is this: Iran may be a country whose government is defiant and extreme at some levels, but it is not an Islamic penal colony. Furthermore, the average Iranian is more likely to embrace certain Western ideas than to hate the United States, as social taboos in the Mideast nation slowly fade away to reveal a creeping and, importantly, organic embrace of more democratic values.
Despite spending billions of dollars, sending thousands of soldiers to an early grave and ruining the lives of countless innocent foreigners, the United States has yet to make any nation in Mideast more democratic in a truly meaningful way. And therein lies the folly of the American power brokers’ current attitude toward the Iranian situation. While the nation’s general public is moving in the very direction, albeit slowly, that the United States wants it to, the military-industrial complex’s impatience, or indifference, will lead to a pre-emptive strike to mitigate nuclear threats that may or may not exist. (Remember Iraq?)
It seems almost impossible to deny that anyone observing the current goings-on in the Mideast, who hasn’t a financial incentive or fanatical religious reason for supporting American interventionist foreign policy, would deduce that the U.S. is dangerously close to coming out on the wrong side of history with its current policy in the region. Only time will tell what the long-term result of the Afghan, Iraqi, Libyan and Syrian conflicts will bring about; but if history is indicative, it will be more of the same. Destabilization has historically produced long-term instability, and unstable environments often create paths to power for the most ideologically insane among any population.
Currently, the Iranian everyman lives in a nation plagued by economic instability brought on by crippling sanctions because of disagreements between the country’s leaders and the United Nations’ strongest members. The power the average Iranian wields over his political system is likely no different than the miniscule power the average American has over the vast bureaucratic machine controlling his country. Given that, some observers have begun to question whether military might, overthrow and installment of a puppet government in Iran would change anything or if a more successful route would be the gentle fostering of grass-roots democracy in the nation.
In the video below, Iranian artist Ali Molavi makes a strong case for the latter option. In asking 50 random people in Tehran what they would wish for if they could have one wish come true by the end of the day, Molavi shows that many Iranians are no different than average Americans: They wish their children success; they wish for a better economy; they wish for peace with other nations. It seems they simply have the same problem many Americans have recognized in their own Nation, a government out of control and out of touch with the wishes of the people it is supposed to serve.
*Click the Closed Captioning button for English subtitles.