Recently by Michael S. Rozeff: Revolution in Libya and the CIA
Harmonious relations between the West (led by the U.S.) and Islamic countries and states are achievable. Some rapprochement already exists. It can be extended. Where peace exists, and much peace does exist, it can be deepened and widened. That is one of the effects of rapprochement.
By Islamic countries and states, I mean all those countries and states in which Islam historically has been the dominant religion and still is. I mean to include all such states, including those that have more secular governments, like Turkey and Egypt, and those that have more Islamic governments, like Iran.
The rapprochement that I envision gives rise to a higher degree of independence in the Islamic states. They then deal with Western countries on a more equal footing. These states should not be creatures of the West or heavily influenced by the West; nor should the East dominate them, for that matter.
Dominance may exist even when two nations are officially at peace, that is, not fighting a war. The U.S. once dominated Iran when it dislodged one government and installed another. A higher degree of independence augments freedom and peace by removing what is a hidden aggression against a nation or hidden threats that are being used by one nation in order to control another nation. That is why rapprochement that strengthens a nation's independence is a movement in the direction of freedom and peace. Freedom, however, is always freedom to do good or evil. A nation freed from the domination of another may choose unwisely or badly.
By outlining what is involved, we can see a number of obstacles and problems. We are not going to create a more peaceful world without a clear vision of what greater peace looks like and what problems must be surmounted to succeed in shaping it.
Western leaders lack a vision of Western-Islamic rapprochement. Instead, they have a vision in which the West is dominant and the Islamic nations subordinate.
America's highest leaders have not promoted a vision of peace to the American public. What our leaders have gotten across to us is the dreadfulness of 9/11 and fear of more such occurrences, the prospect of a long global war on terror, a vision of stubborn terrorists who forever arise hating us, the supposed necessity of internal security measures and loss of freedoms in the U.S., and a heightened uneasiness, insecurity, and fear in the presence of Islam.
All of this involves very negative emotions and thinking. It cannot last indefinitely. Americans at some point are going to rebel against this negativism and look for leaders with a truly constructive attitude and vision who mean what they say and will follow through on it.
American leaders have also expressed a desire that every Islamic state should have democracy. This is a convenient catchall category to deflect all criticisms from their actions, such as attacking Iraq and Afghanistan. What U.S. leaders actually want and support are governments that are friendly to policies that the U.S. is pushing. When a country isn't doing what the U.S. wants, the U.S. will claim it's not democratic or perhaps harboring terrorists or perhaps sympathetic to terrorists. One or more of these will provide it with an excuse for interference of one kind or another. When a country is not democratic but is doing what the U.S. wants, the U.S. will do nothing and provide some excuses for why it isn't interfering.
Extending rapprochement involves several elements like the following. One, the West withdraws its forces from Islamic countries, especially Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Two, the West stops pressuring Islamic countries and attempting to manipulate them into choosing one form of government or another or one particular set of leaders or another. The goal is that the Islamic peoples gain a greater degree of independence in shaping their own political forms. Three, Islamic countries with oil agree to sell it to all comers and not use it as a political weapon. This is to assuage Western fears so that Western countries are more willing to step back. Four, Russia agrees not to step into a power vacuum in Islamic countries. Five, in return, Russia needs to be given access to European and Islamic markets. Six, the parties concerned resolve the Palestinian-Israeli problem. This is largely a U.S. problem. The U.S. has to go against a number of Israel's positions in order to make any headway on this, and it has to do so very strongly and sternly.
These steps are feasible, although made very difficult because of longstanding attitudes, positions, fears, and habits of thought. They are achievable because nearly all the parties involved gain from bringing them into existence. The exception will be Israel if it remains as intransigent as in the past. Very little can be achieved unless the U.S. changes some of its positions on Israel substantially.
Another large problem is that it is often the case that the parties involved may not see the potential gains, and they may not realize that their countries and peoples will be better off if such changes are brought into being.
Rapprochement doesn't guarantee endless future peace. There still can develop wars between one Islamic nation and another, just as the Western countries have fought many wars against one another. There still can be frictions that develop as a consequence of commercial and economic relations among all the countries involved. There are still going to be frictions that arise over other matters such as disputed territories. There still can be very serious frictions within countries.
What can emerge is a series of states that are more independent in that the West stays out of them militarily. They would include all the states in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia; also, the Islamic states in Asia. One of the goals of rapprochement is a larger degree of independence of the Islamic states. It is to stop treating them as subordinate states or states that are playgrounds for West-East competition, or as states that benefit from playing off one major power against another.
Yet another large problem remains. The West, Russia, Brazil, China, India, and other countries are all capable of selling sophisticated arms and weaponry to Islamic countries. The selling of weapons usually brings with it closer military and political relations for many reasons such as training, maintenance, weapons upgrades, replacements, ammunition, and financing of sales.
Arms can bring stability if they even out a power imbalance and counter threats. Arms can bring instability when one state has expansionist designs on others. If the larger powers agree not to interfere militarily in the Islamic states, that is the larger part of the problem. If the Islamic states or some significant portion of them agree to limit their arming, that might mitigate their potential hostilities.
The larger powers may fear that several or many Islamic states would federate and attempt to constitute or re-constitute an empire or some aspects of an empire. If this fear dominates their thinking, they are going continually to poke around in the Islamic countries, foment wars between them, keep them off balance, and, in general, keep them weak economically. They will want vassal states. The larger powers are key to world peace and progress in this respect. If they can overcome and set aside their fears of each other and of potential empires, they can create an entirely different and better world.
The war on terror initiated by Bush and continued by Obama is not central at all to the larger issues facing the world's states, one of which I am pointing out here, which is the relations of the Islamic states with one another and with the major powers, East and West. The war on terror is only important because of its effect of badly diverting attention away from the larger and far more important issues like Western-Islamic rapprochement. The war on terror confuses and obscures the larger issues facing the world's peoples immensely. It is a near certainty that most Americans now think of Islamic countries in terms of their terrorist potential, which is extremely minor, rather than in terms of political relations and geopolitical relations.
Bush's crude approach to terror (either you're with us or against us) is wrongheaded in all respects. It beclouds the issue. It confuses the public. It creates antagonisms. It views many Islamic states as inferior partners. It views the U.S. as dominant worldwide. It makes the U.S. into a threatening and bullying party. It presumes that Islamic states do not already view terrorism as an evil thing as do western states or Russia or India.
Furthermore, the U.S. views several Islamic states, like Iran and Syria, as supporters of terror. This confuses al-Qaeda terrorism with Hezbollah and Hamas. It confuses terrorism with the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
U.S. leaders have let loose large internal and travel security bureaucracies that shape thinking about Islam and Islamic countries. Constant references to 9/11 do the same. This is the "bloody shirt" of a new generation. These are extremely negative ways to proceed.
The U.S. leaders have often said that they are against terrorists, not against Islam. This is fine, except if it is used to reinforce fears of terrorism. But our officials have done a poor job of articulating what kind of a world they are seeking, other than a world without terrorism. They have not provided a picture of Western-Islamic rapprochement.
The notion that the U.S. wants democracies or stable democracies or Western-style democracies is not at all credible. The notion that our leaders can tell what sort of democratic government is better for a people is also not credible. There are as many different kinds of governments and democracies as there are forms of shelter. One people cannot tell another people what sort of shelters they should construct. Government is even more complex. A few provisions of a constitution can easily change the outcomes dramatically.
U.S. policies with regard to democracy and the Islamic states are often contradictory, with one state being treated one way and another state being treated the opposite. U.S. policies with regard to the Arab Spring similarly vary according to the country. Libya is attacked while Syria and Bahrain are not touched.
These apparent contradictions are resolved when one realizes that the U.S. vision is that the U.S. control these states. Democracy is not the actual goal. Even if it were, the term "democracy" is simply too general and vague to give rise to a specific goal of U.S. policy. What actually happens is that the U.S. chooses some form of government or some persons to support that seem to give it the best deal. After a rather short time, it often finds out that even when it got its way, the results are not at all what it wanted.
Khamenei has a great deal of dictatorial power. He can be and has been very brutal. He has instituted many oppressive measures, so much so that resistance to him is coming out in the open calling for his death. A long letter written by Iranian clerics called him a dictator and demanded his removal. Nevertheless, nothing that he or other Iranian leaders have done or are doing is significantly different than what many world leaders have done or are now doing, including American leaders. When the U.S. sanctions Iran and regards it as in the axis of evil, it is not because of Khamenei himself or other Iranian leaders, it is for other reasons such as the nuclear issue, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, and Hezbollah.
Khamenei doesn't want the U.S. to interfere with Iran, but he doesn't want to confront the U.S. He distrusts the U.S. due to its past and present interferences with Iran, and that is why he is extremely wary concerning an accommodation.
"Dealing with the presidents who have served during his reign, Khamenei has successfully scuttled President Rafsanjani’s attempts to find a modus vivendi with the United States, President Khatami’s aspirations for a more democratic Islamic state, and President Ahmadinejad’s desire for confrontation."
"Khamenei has been described as consistent in his opposition to the United States and the Western World in general, reportedly including this theme into his speeches no matter whether the topic is foreign policy, agriculture or education. He has declared that it is u2018clear that conflict and confrontation between' Islamic Republic of Iran and the U.S. u2018is something natural and unavoidable' since the United States u2018is trying to establish a global dictatorship and further its own interests by dominating other nations and trampling on their rights.' However, while u2018cutting ties with America is among our basic policies,' and u2018any relations would provide the possibility to the Americans to infiltrate Iran and would pave the way for their intelligence and spy agents,' Khamenei holds the door open to relations with the U.S. at some future date, saying u2018we have never said that the relations will remain severed forever. Undoubtedly, the day the relations with America prove beneficial for the Iranian nation I will be the first one to approve of that.' However, in a speech to Iranian students on October 29, 2008, which was quoted on Iranian TV (as translated by MEMRI), Khamenei stated that u2018the Iranian people’s hatred for America is profound. The reason for this [hatred] is the various plots that the U.S. government has concocted against Iran and the Iranian people in the past 50 years. The Americans have not only refused to apologize for their actions, but have continued with their arrogant actions.'
Notice how badly the CIA operations in Iran have poisoned the possibility of restoring good U.S.-Iranian relations. Since the CIA infiltrates a country through the U.S. embassy and peaceful business and other missions, and since Iran experienced this and more in the past, Khamenei is wary of any relations at all with America. Notice also that he recognizes the American desire for empire and domination of other nations as a second basic obstacle to relations.
Despite all this, Khamenei leaves the door open for relations that may benefit the Iranian nation:
"On March 21, 2009, a day after US President Barack Obama unprecedentedly offered Iran a u2018new beginning' of diplomatic engagement between the two old foes, Khamenei said a change of US u2018words' was not enough and added: u2018We will watch and we will judge (the new US administration) … You change, our behavior will change.'"
In a recent statement, Khamenei said
"The West is very afraid of the establishment of a government with Islamic persuasions in Libya and (it) wants to prevent it."
This is true. If Gaddafi is dislodged, we shall see whom the West backs. It won't be the kind of Islamic fundamentalists that Khamenei probably means. The West will seek the most secular government possible.
The West's aggression in Libya is Obama's doing. It shows that the U.S. ambition to control nations has not changed. This reinforces Khamenei's caution, which is shown to have been warranted.
It's going to take a real change in U.S. actions before a process of rapprochement stands a chance of being initiated and conducted to a satisfactory conclusion. Michele Bachman is the latest person seeking the Republican nomination. She hasn't ruled out a nuclear strike against Iran. Neither has Obama. Romney, who is a leading contender, has said that Iran is "unalloyed evil" and that it's run by "ruthless and fanatical" leaders.
Bachman is as fanatical as they come. Look at her remarks about America and Israel. But how different in terms of policies would be most of the other Democrats and Republicans on Israel, even if they do not have the same religious reasons for holding to these policies? Not much different.
Need we go on in order to demonstrate that the U.S. vision of Western-Islamic relations is wildly warped and that it doesn't even come close to contemplating rapprochement and peace? Is it any wonder that Khamenei's position is not to deal with the U.S. until some concrete change occurs?
It has not my goal here to present what I think can be or will be achieved at any time soon, and it has not been to go into detail about the knotty problems. My goal has been to present an alternative view (rapprochement) that I think is a goal consistent with greater liberty and peace. By doing so, we can see more clearly that what's going on now in U.S. foreign policy is really very negative.
The war on terror is really a very bad excuse for a foreign policy that benefits Americans. It's really an insignificant sideshow that is confusing the foreign relations of the U.S. badly and diverting them from far more constructive channels. Thinking about rapprochement and peace helps us see that this is not what the U.S. has been about for decades and not what it's about now. It helps us see why Khamenei thinks the way he does about the U.S. and that he has good reason to think that way, even though he has some positions that are as far out and fanatical as Bachman's (like suppressing music in Iran).
Obama has toned down the rhetoric on the war on terror somewhat while maintaining and enhancing its substance. So when it came to Libya, he didn't invoke the war on terror or terrorism that much. Instead he invoked a prospective massacre. The idea is the same: There are these bad guys about to do something bad and we must stop them. This too is a policy that doesn't benefit Americans. All it does is give the U.S. leadership an excuse to intervene when it wants to intervene for other purposes that typically involve domination; for there are always some killings going on somewhere or some prospective killings, or some instabilities or prospective instabilities, or some civil wars or prospective civil wars. It's very easy to manufacture interventions under cover of excuses like terror and humanitarianism.
Non-intervention and neutrality are the foreign policies that would end all of this U.S. interference overseas, and then as a consequence the U.S. could develop harmoniously peaceful relations with many more nations and states. This, by the way, is not isolationism. If a Western-Islamic rapprochement actually occurred, the war on terror could be shelved and the U.S. could start to find its way back to normality. Terrorism would not disappear, but a lot of its current reason for being would evaporate so that it would probably decline greatly.
For those of you who vote, my advice is straightforward. Look at the candidate's foreign policy positions on Iran, Israel, and the war on terror. If he or she shows no constructive attitude but instead is anti-Iran, pro-Israel, and pro-war on terror, forget them. Candidates like that are going to keep America embroiled overseas endlessly and that's going to hurt us domestically. These candidates are blind to your welfare, or else they lack vision, or else they lack the courage to lead us to non-intervention. Or perhaps they've sold out to special interests.
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.