Sunday, April 22, 2012

Attacking Iran, not Iran's Nuclear Program

A response to another person on a specialist web site who argues that Iran's nuclear program is not just a pretext for regime change. I have excised personal names except my own.

Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2012 13:17:01 -0500
From: William Beeman

Professor C_____ continues, with Professor K_____ to demonstrate my contention. It is Iran that is under attack, not Iran's nuclear program. If Iran shut down its nuclear program tomorrow, those who want to see the current government in Iran destroyed would find another pretext to gain public support outside of Iran to do it. Indeed, Professor C_____ demonstrates this point by correctly stating that "there were plenty of other and earlier pretexts for such a policy . . ."  I know this so well, I wrote a whole book to document it (The "Great Satan," etc.).

Iran knows very well that its nuclear program constitutes no danger to anyone, but if the world wants to exaggerate its abilities, why should they disabuse anyone. As Machiavelli said, "It is better to be feared than loved"--a favorite neo-con quote. Being "the greatest threat to humanity" is quite an accomplishment, wouldn't you say? Especially when such a title is a ridiculous exaggeration. As one of my friends from the opera stage once told me: "I'm so happy. I gave a s----y performance and got a great review. It's like winning the lottery."

Iran treasures its reputation as a modern, progressive civilization. This has been true for more than 100 years, and is a desire that unites the Pahlavi regimes with the current government of Iran. Engineering and scientific skills alongside the arts and humanities are ways of demonstrating this, whatever one thinks of the politics or ideology of the government. Denying Iran the right to nuclear development is seen as a put-down and an insult--a declaration that it is a backwater state that can be pushed around. Likewise denying Iran its international treaty rights under the NPT is a way to make it seem a second-class civilization. These insults are not going to go unnoticed. Iranians will sacrifice mightily to protect their reputation. Look at the development today--Iran claiming that it has reverse-engineered the captured U.S. Drone. Anyone can see that this is a poke in the eye to those who think that Iran is somehow a backward nation with no scientific or engineering skills.

I understand all too well that millions of Iranians now living abroad in Switzerland, France, the UK and the United States among other places, who went into exile at the time of the Revolution hate the current regime and want it gone by any means, but as Professor C_____, as one of the most respected Iranian scholars, knows even better than I do, foreign interference in Iranian affairs is seen through the lens of the past. 150 years of foreign meddling in Iran has left its mark. Nothing we do from the outside is going to change the Iranian government or modify its actions. Indeed, the more we try, the less effective it will be, since "foreign control" of individuals and policies is absolute poison in Iranian political life. We can, however, start to build a base for Iranians voluntarily improving their international relations, starting with talking to them--and without the absurd posturing that for the United States to "speak" to Iran is to reward them.

Bill Beeman
University of Minnesota

William O. Beeman
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology
University of Minnesota
395 HHH Center
301 19th Avenue S. 
Minneapolis, MN 55455
(612) 625-3400