Archive for the ‘The Middle East’ Category
The Middle East has been a hotbed of instability since I, and everyone reading this today has been alive. I say today, because I for one still harbor hopes that someone reading this in the future may know a time that finally sees the peace that has proven so elusive in the region for millenniums.
How to deal with the Middle East has baffled America and our Western allies for an eternity. I can’t think of a measurement adequate enough to describe the cost of lives, time, energy and treasure we’ve poured into the abyss, yet we still find ourselves mired in the conflicts raging in Afghanistan and Iraq, we still find ourselves targeted by a fanatical portion of the Muslim world that have labeled us as the Great Satan and will stop at nothing to see our way of life fall, and we still find ourselves hooked on the black gold that is at the heart of our attraction to the region to begin with.
So why do we keep trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole when it comes to dealing with our interests there when time has proven over and over again that it simply will not work? How many times have peace talks stalled and failed? How many times have we reached a cultural impasse on issues like human rights, democracy, religion, or even capitalism? How many times have we tried to solve the same old problems with some variant form of the same old tactics – sanctions upon sanctions eventually followed by a military show of might, followed by more and more hatred of the West? When are we going to finally break the chain?
America is the leading superpower in the world today, which is astonishing when you take into account that our country was established just over a meager 230 years ago, a mere drop in the bucket when it comes to the history of the world. In that time we have assimilated countless cultures from all over the globe, not by force, but by the divine right of an individual’s choice and free will. We have always been the open arms embracing the oppressed and the light of hope for those suffering from tyranny in far away lands. It is through this glorious melting pot that we found the wisdom and strength born from tolerance and acceptance. We have been unmatched in the technological breakthroughs that saw the face of humanity change during the last century. We have unparalleled military might, even if we don’t include the devastating arsenal at our disposal that could obliterate our entire planet many times over. The mettle of our citizens has always proven to be of steeled resolve and we have never failed to rise to any challenge presented. So why are we so insistent on using a 20th century mentality in a 21st century world when it comes to dealing with the constant and ancient ways of the Middle East?
For the purposes of this story, and because I think the history of tomorrow will prove it to be the lynchpin to either our eventual success, or our defeat in seeing real peace finally find a foothold in the Middle East, I am going to use the very real and pressing events playing out in Iran right now.
Let’s get this fact out of the way right out of the gate. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a thug. He is throwback to the days of WWII style tyranny, a fanatical leader that has zero regard for the opinions or actions of anyone or anything outside of the scope of his immediate control. He is a man that will lie with a straight face and say some things so ridiculous and defiant that all we can do here in the West is look on in disbelief and shake our heads. He is the epitome of arrogance and false pride and nothing more than an extension of the hard-line Iranian clergy that is determined to keep a stranglehold on the people of Iran at all costs. The bad news is that we helped put him into his perch through a myriad of ill conceived ideas and actions that many of our previous administrations have made in the past. The good news is that he is actually just a small cog when it comes to solving the enigma of Iran. The real force in Iran is found in the same place it is always found, among the people, and if their is even a breath of hope to usher in a more moderate and level headed sea change in the political power structure of Iran, it is in giving the current moderate opposition the ammunition they will need to convince the rest of the masses that the road they are now is a dead end.
The weekend saw Ahmadinejad once again proudly raise his head in defiance, actually going as far as putting the world on notice that his ultimatums must be met and that we have no recourse in altering his perceived reality. He will stay bent on their current path which is leading them ever closer to the nightmare scenario of a nuclear armed Iran and he will continue lying to the world that it is about peaceful energy. It is high time we find a way to yank off the sheep’s clothing that this particular wolf has been using to fool and subdue his own countrymen with his ridiculous lies and domineering propaganda.
I had an idea that would not only oust him for the liar that he is, but also create some desperately needed jobs right here in America, lower the cost of oil on the world market, stem the gushing flow of military spending on far away wars that could be used to vastly improve things on our own home front, finally generate some good will towards the West, and take some wind out of the sails of the recruitment arm of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and their likes. It is also not a very big leap to say that if we can find a way to strike a real peace with Iran, a lasting peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis may not be too far off without Iran’s constant meddling. Oh, and we may even be able to help fight global warming in the process for a little icing on the cake.
It all starts with understanding the nature of our adversary. The Iranians, like their Middle Eastern neighbors, are a very proud people with a history that dates back over 5,000 years and these people have known war and conflict since the beginning of recorded time. They have been invaded and occupied by the Romans, Greeks, Mongols, Arabs, and Turks, just too name a few. They are no strangers to the ravages brought by war and they are experts in biding their time and lying in wait for the resolve of their enemies to weaken or even for their mighty empires to eventually collapse completely, each time reasserting their Iranian identity like a phoenix out of the ashes. America’s very existence in time is like that of an adolescent by contrast and sometimes we fail to find the wisdom that the lessons of a longer history would have undoubtedly taught us. We are also blessed that our own proud history has known relatively little conflict that was brought to our own soil by an outside force. Couple that with our unquenchable thirst for progress and the do-it-now idealism that has propelled us to such great heights on so many fronts in such a short span of time, and you can see just how illogical it is for us to think we can outlast them in any kind of waiting game when so much of our collective future is on the line today.
These are the realities we are facing today as I see them. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the current Iranian leadership say they want clean, peaceful energy. They masterfully use that premise to disguise their ambitions of obtaining nuclear weapons which would solidify them as a force to be reckoned with, in the region and all over the world. To meet that end, they constantly stir the pot of Western contempt among the Iranian people and the broader Muslim world by constantly going back to the to same unifying mantra that has been used since the very first human beings ever tasted the bridle of oppression – “the man is trying to keep us down” and they have relentlessly made the case that the West is now “the man”. So I say, let’s give them what they want. Let’s help them attain the clean, peaceful energy they profess to want … just not the way they hoped.
Iran today is floating on a sea of crude oil, but due to decades of sanctions, we and our Western Allies don’t buy it and today Iran finds themselves ill equipped to refine it for their own energy purposes. This forces them to import increasing quantities of the refined fuel they need, sapping their already dwindling coffers of more than they can really afford. This makes energy unreliable, it causes other elements of their infrastructure to go unfunded and it makes the people suffer, and as we all know, suffering breeds hate, which is a tool the Iranian regime and the Al Qaeda’s of the world are is quite adept at using to their advantage.
So here is what I propose. Why not change the sanctions we have against Iran, not to buy their oil, but to trade for it, not to line their pockets with cold, hard cash that could be used for any number of evil and deadly purposes, but to provide the equipment they would need for a stable energy environment for the people of Iran, the same promise that Ahmadinejad is using as his best pitch to keep the population believing he only has their best interests in mind while keeping the moderates at bay and the volume turned on high against America and the West. Although we should be desperately trying to get away from using oil for reasons that should be known to all of us by now, we are still going to need gobs of the stuff to keep the motors turning in our own country for at least another decade in even the most rosy of predictions. We already have the technology to harness green solutions like wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal as alternatives to nuclear energy which has its own laundry list of problems, but we face the dilemma of a big oil industry that has such bottomless pockets that they have the ability to thwart most attempts we make to try to replace their usefulness. Iran would be a fairly clean slate to start with on that front with no good alternatives to speak of.
Our government would take this oil in trade for the alternative energy equipment that we will manufacture right here, equipment that could never be turned into a weapon. We will sell the oil to our own oil industries at a fair rate. I’m sure we could also find a way to finally give big oil some hefty incentives to entice them to be hands-on involved in the transition to clean energy and by giving them at least a decade’s notice, they could seize the opportunity to stay in the loop by using some of their riches to help create and own some of the infrastructure we will need for the next generation of energy. It would also go a long way towards alleviating their ever growing fear that they will end up going the way of the Dodo bird in the not to distant future. If they choose not to participate, they will just buy the oil and continue doing what they’ve been doing, but all of the proceeds would then go to directly subsidize the millions of green jobs that America wants and needs through some robust start up grants for private businesses, it would go to funding production plants and manufacturing facilities, it would go to help finally renovate and upgrade to a smart energy grid that is essential for the overhaul we all see on the horizon and get the infrastructure in place to finally wean us from the demons of fossil and nuclear fuels that are sucking the life from our planet.
On the other side of the coin it would create a ton of new jobs in Iran too, as they will need to install and maintain everything once we get it there. It is a lot harder to keep hating the man when he is bringing jobs, prosperity and energy independence to your shores. By putting a big dent in the desperation caused by utter poverty, we would also be putting a big dent in the idealism of anti-Western hatred and crippling the tools of recruitment for that fractional percentage of the Muslim world dedicated to doing us harm.
But here is where I see the real beauty and strength of a win-win scenario just by making this proposal. We have a most powerful and dynamic weapon in Barack Obama. How hard would it really be for our president, one of the most gifted orators of our time with a proven knack for connecting with the spirit of hope common to people all of over the world regardless of their station in life, to eloquently deliver another masterpiece to the Iranian people and the Muslim world? He could play on their fierce pride and ask them why they are trying to evolve to the very technology that every advanced nation on earth is trying to break away from. He would make the case that Iran would have the opportunity to be a model for the world to follow, not a second rate nation digging through a garbage dump looking for the treasures that others have discarded as useless. He would make them see themselves as tomorrow’s news, not yesterday’s. He knows better than any president we’ve had in ages how to push the right buttons and make even the most vehement opponents of his views at least take the time to listen to his words, and we all know that every big speech he makes is sure to be the top story in news rooms all over the globe. He would be setting a very public stage and he would be handing Ahmadinejad just enough rope to hang himself.
If Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leadership stay true to form, they will reject the idea as nonsense outright and in one fail swoop they will give the moderate opposition in Iran the firepower they need to make a bold stand at long last by vastly swelling their numbers as they could then easily convince more and more Iranians that they are being lied to by a regime that does not have their best interests at heart. They will have fertilized the seeds of the revolution already rooted right at their own door step with no one to blame but themselves and their days in power will be severely numbered. If by some miracle they says yes, we all win again because as part of the deal they would have to completely dismantle their nuclear program, and be willing to prove it. As a nifty little byproduct, Hezbollah in Palestine would see their most ardent supporter crumble and they would find themselves alone and extremely weakened. The endless stalemate could finally be broken and peace talks could be resumed with a newfound enthusiasm and vigor. Israelis and Palestinians would both sleep much better at night, the rest of the West would sleep better at night, and we would have a model in place that would be easily repeatable with every oil rich nation in the Middle East, all the while creating jobs, prosperity and the infrastructure for our own energy needs of tomorrow right here at home.
It is imperative that we finally change our tactics and try something new. As the president likes to say, doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. I will leave it to the think tanks and the people actually getting paid to turn ideas into reality to mull this over, but as I see it, it’s a win-win scenario and a path to a new foundation of peace in the Middle East, all powered by their own oil … just imagine.
Has the ruling government of Iran finally bitten off more than they can chew? I think they have.
For a regime that depends on fear and oppression as their governing tools of choice, they are about to learn the cold, hard lesson that destiny has been teaching since mankind first grappled with the concepts of society and governing so very long ago … vices will be punished and virtue will be rewarded, especially when it comes to leading others. The most ironic twist of fate is that their complete undoing may just come by one of the most ancient catalysts of revolution that human history is littered with and their own culture reveres, the power of martyrs.
Peaceful opposition protests have been a common occurrence since the controversial Iranian elections saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retain his seat back in June. While the power of peaceful protests cannot be overstated, they rely on an ingredient that has now been publicly and thoroughly proven lacking in today’s hard-liners that are in power in Iran, that a peaceful protest will be met in kind with a peaceful debate about the problem. With this one heinous act, they have opened the doors of vengeance and retribution that may break the chains of restraint their opposition has generally abided by. They have set the stage for a revolution long in the making and I have a hunch they will soon be reaping what the sowed.
Our own history shows precedent of what kind of power a singular event like this can have in moving a nation from the ground up. Remember the Kent State shootings in 1970 that left four of our students dead and nine others injured, one permanently paralyzed? These were concerned young Americans protesting our invasion of Cambodia and calling attention to what they believed to be a misguided war in Vietnam. In a span of just 13 seconds the actions of eight National Guardsmen galvanized a nation. John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller would go on to become one of the iconic images of the movement against the Vietnam War, forever seared into our American consciousness. In the aftermath, hundreds of campuses across the country were closed because of millions of striking students and just five days later a flood of protesters, over 100,000 strong, descended on Washington and helped grease the wheels of change. Time may well find that the casualties of the Ashura Protests in Iran on December 27th rock the foundations of their iron-fisted government in the same, if not even a greater way.
Our priority now should be to make sure the Iranian people that are choosing to stand up for their freedom know they are not alone, to make sure that they understand the West is not their enemy in pursuing a transition to peace and tolerance, but a mighty ally that they can count on. We must ensure that Ahmadinejad’s formidable Anti-Western propaganda machine is not the only voice the people hear. Hitler’s own propaganda machine proved just how lethal fabricated truths can be and we can not let that kind of history repeat itself in any form or fashion ever again.
The future of Iran lies with its youth and they are the ones that we must compel ourselves to nurture right now while they find themselves looking for an identity to claim as their own. They are the ones that will determine the trajectory of their country in the years to come and make or break any hope for lasting peace in the Middle East. We in the West can beat our chest and stomp our feet all we want, but the only ones that have any realistic chance to defeat a regime born and raised on Anti-Western sentiment and affect the change we are collectively hoping for, is the generation that is forming its identity right now. Is there a force more powerful than the innocence of youth asking why you are doing something that’s not good for you and forcing you to defend a position that is so obviously wrong? I’ll bet more people quit smoking because their children forced them to question their reasoning and actions than any gum or patch ever did by a long shot.
From the smallest tribes to the mightiest empires, our common aspirations have always been to leave a better world for those that follow. I don’t think any parent worthy of being a parent would willingly condemn their children to a harder life, or a worse world to live in than they had, do you? That is the crux of the power the new generation in Iran wield. Archimedes said if you give him a lever long enough and a fulcrum to place it on, he could move the world. The youth of Iran are a lever long enough and this latest deadly protest may very well be the fulcrum on which to place it. This is their chance to move the world.
We saw it happen on our own shores during Barack Obama’s historic election. We saw our young people take unprecedented interest and action in the governing of our nation because they connected with someone that finally decided to publicly take on the demons of division and hate. While he certainly didn’t solve all of the problems that have long ailed us, he did put one heck of a dent in them and helped start a new generation along a new path of tolerance and prosperity, not only here in America, but all over the world. Their force did not only show up in their own actions, but in the countless stories we all heard of parents, friends and relatives being moved by their passion. They made us take a long look at ourselves and focus on the things that are truly important today to move forward, not the things that drove us apart in a past that can never be changed.
There is a reason that we all have a rebellious streak early in our lives, the troubles of every day life haven’t beaten the hope out of us yet. It is a time that we refuse to accept many things that seem profoundly nonsensical to us in the grand scheme of things as we see it through the pristine lens of our innocence. It is a time that we still have the energy to ride the wave of defiance against the absurd. It is the same reason that the protesters in Iran are largely made up of the young, they are refusing to accept hate as a way of life they want to pursue, they are refusing to concede that oppression and being denied their human rights is the life they must lead. They have seen with their own eyes the broken down, hopeless old souls left in the wake of the carnage that those ideals have brought to those that came before and they simply don’t want to turn out that way themselves. They are finally tasting the power of a little American style “Yes We Can” and I have a hunch that this time they will.
Yes, I think Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rest of their flagrantly arrogant hard-line cronies have finally cracked the lid on their very own Pandora’s Box, infinitely strengthened by the names of at least eight martyrs of the Ashura Protests that it now bears. They can try to steal the bodies in a desperately feeble attempt to quell the unrest sure to be focused on the funerals like a laser beam, but it is indeed too little, too late. They have stirred a force that isn’t going to come at them from outside their borders, they have ignited a nightmare right under their own noses that may finally see the fall of the Islamic Fundamentalists that have been perched in the seats of power for over three decades. They should know that the Iranian people are not going to let themselves be their punching bags forever and like I said, the vices of a governing body will eventually be punished. Now they are about to get a taste of something that we Americans are testament to and know a little something about, the power of a righteous revolution.
The tide has turned indeed … Godspeed.