The past few days I've been mulling an idea which I'm going to share here, especially as more heat is being generated about and towards Iran. Bush's decision to invade Iraq was a disaster, I think most of us agree now. I've always believed this. As Bush tries to figure out a way out of historical infamy, it seems he's casting his eye towards Iran, and I can only see the arguments now: well, maybe Iraq didn't have what we thought, but we know Iran is going to. So we recycle essentially the same arguments for the Iraq War for justifying aggression against Iran. I know none of this is a new concept for most of us, but the essential idea is to frame this as a "mulligan", and, from there, to question the very notion of Iran being our "enemy" right now.
There's a larger essay in all of this, but I'm going to keep it short and sweet today. I'm not afraid of Iran. If you ask a random politician talking tough about Iran today, you'll probably get back something about American strategic influence being the reason we need to face down Iran. Sure, there are plenty of other reasons - Iran is aggressive and expansionary (laughable), Iran hates Israel and their president is a psycho, Iran is going to get nukes and use them on their neighbors, etc. - but none of these are convincing. Iran's history is not one of aggression, their president has little actual power, and Iran is not likely to develop nukes soon, or to use them once they have them, or to allow them into the hands of terrorists they cannot control.
Ultimately, when this argument to use aggression against Iran goes forward, if it goes forward, we will end up in a place amongst serious thinkers where it's about a power struggle with Iran that we must win because we're a liberal democracy on a hill and they're not. I don't believe that. I'd like Iran to be a liberal democracy as much as anyone, but I have few illusions about that. I'm more interested in helping encourage a unique strain of Islamic democracy that agrees to the most basic rights doctrines. This is not an impossible task, but it gets much more difficult if we treat Iran as an enemy, rather than a competitor.
And, if we look at this honestly, and at Iran as a competitor for influence, wealth and power, what are we worried about? Do you seriously know any American that believes that Iran, especially the way they're set up, is going to be able to out-compete us? Hell no. I'm not afraid of competing with Iran at all, and I'd be much more interested in reconciling with Iran along the lines of a Grand Bargain so that we can get to the important business of living together in the world peacefully, competing with each other in a lot of ways, while also leaving room and enough good will to be able to cooperate on our most pressing global challenges, like global warming, hunger, poverty, the commons, etc.
So Bush gets no mulligans, and his approach, his doctrine, the PNAC, and all that crap should be tossed out the window. The myopia is mind-boggling, and Sun Tzu is surely laughing in his grave at our lack of foresight and wisdom. We can compete with anyone on the global stage, and without being a bully who wants to break the legs of ambitious neighborhood upstarts who want to prove themselves to us. We don't need to be that insecure, or to be a bully. We just need to be America, and in the first place look out for our own, followed by looking out and seeking common ground with those around us to ensure our security (and deal with our common problems and global challenges), while also staking out ground and competing with these folks for whatever it is we're always competing for (God knows we have enough food, water, and shelter to feed Americans a million times over).
I don't want to take away anyone's toys, and at the same time I don't want to sacrifice lives, American or otherwise, for foolish schemes to protect privilege without having to honestly compete for it. Iran does not have to be our enemy, and we can out-compete them and anyone else who comes along, so I'm not worried about being desperate to hold on to what we have now by tilting all the rules and the playing field in our direction. We don't need to do that, and we shouldn't. Not only to save lives from being senselessly sacrificed, but to preserve our honor, and perhaps even our place on that glittering hill.