One criticism of Ron Paul I hear frequently has to do with his foreign policy. Many people do not like Paul’s noninterventionist policy and believe preemptive strikes are necessary for the security of the United States. During every Republican presidential candidate debate the issue of Iran comes up and many people strongly oppose Dr. Paul’s policy of leaving them to their devises.
One of my readers, plblark, e-mailed me yesterday and asked if I would write an analysis of Dr. Paul’s stance on Iran, a subject I am always more than happy to spend time on the keyboard about (yes if you wish to read my analysis of something feel free to e-mail me and make a request, I have no problem fulfilling most requests).
The situation in Iran is incredibly complex and involves a great deal of history. Before we can discuss Dr. Paul’s foreign policy as it relates to Iran today we must first look to the past and find out how that country arrived at its current societal structure.
Iran wasn’t always the despotic religious state that we know today. In fact many people are surprised to learn that Iran, at one time, had a democratically elected government and was a fairly peaceful state. In 1925 Reza Khan overthrew the Qajar dynasty and began programs to industrialize Iran and construct railroad infrastructure throughout the country. Unfortunately the rulers of Iran decided to establisher closer ties to Nazi Germany during World War II, which lead to an invasion by Britain and Russia to obtain power of the Iranian railroad infrastructure.
In 1951 the prime minster of Iran, Ali Razmara, was assassinated and replaced by Mohammad Mosaddegh in a parliamentarian vote. Mosaddegh was very popular with the people of Iran but made a decision that ultimately lead to his overthrow, he nationalized the Iranian petroleum industry.
Nationalizing the petroleum industry did not go over well with Britain who imposed an embargo immediately afterward. In 1953 Britain and the United States instigated a coup d’état and overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, replacing it with a brutal authoritarian dictatorship.
After 26 years of this authoritarian regime the people of Iran finally had enough and revolted in 1979 establishing the current government of Iran. People who have lived under harsh conditions are usually willing to align themselves with anybody who can promise salvation from the current oppressors. In the case of Iran salvation came from anti-Western followers of Islam.
As you can imagine a civilization brutalized by a Western establish dictatorship developed a very strong anti-Western culture. Revolutions are commonly followed by a period of developing cultural hatred of those who had previous oppressed that civilization. The Iranian revolution was no different and the new leaders wasted no time instilling an even stronger hatred of the United States and Britain in the populace. Part of the reason for instilling such a strong hatred was to give the people an enemy, which would make them more willing to comply with the demands of the new regime.
If you need an example of this look at the current United States and terrorism. The United States government uses terrorists as the boogeyman to justify the passage of authoritarian legislation that strips rights form the people of the country. The United States and Britain are the Iranian government’s equivalent to our government’s terrorists.
Another reason for instilling hatred of the United States and Britain in the people of Iran was to prevent a future overthrow of the government. The United States and Britain had caused the last overthrow, which lead to 26 years of despotic rule and the new leaders of Iran didn’t want to see it happen again. This hatred has lead to a rejection of everything perceived as Western including manner of dress and culture. The current regime is a direct result of United States interference in the country.
The Situation Today
Knowing previous interference in Iran directly lead to the current anti-Western culture you would think the United States government would be doing everything in its powers to make amends or at least alleviate the country’s fears. If the fear of Western invasion and a return to a more brutal dictatorship is what allows the current government of Iran to rule with an iron fist removing those fears would be the fastest way to foster another popular revolution. Instead of doing so the United States government has done everything in its powers to perpetuate those fears.
Since the 1979 revolution the United States has done nothing but threaten invasion and establish numerous economic sanctions that are acts of war. Those Washington bureaucrats are helping the current Iranian regime continue to hold their power. Remember economic sanctions are extremely detrimental to the people of the targeted country. Sanctions placed on Iraq by the United States lead to malnutrition and sickness due to lack of clean drinking water. Iraq was also one of the few Middle Eastern countries investing in educating women but that was stopped as more resources had to be poured into military assets. The Iraqi sanctions, like the Iranian sanctions, only helped the dictatorship maintain power over the populace who was being harmed by United States actions.
Iran is also in pursuit of nuclear technology, which they claim will be used to provide power and the United States government claims will be used for weapons development. Truth be told I believe the latter because it only makes sense. Iran is under constant threat of United States invasion and the Iranian government knows the United States hasn’t invaded a nuclear armed country. Therefore in the eyes of the Iranian government the best way to stave off a United States invasion is to become a nuclear armed nation.
Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy and Iranian Salvation
Now that I’ve laid out the situation it’s time to talk about Ron Paul’s foreign policy and what it means for Iran. Paul’s foreign policy is noninterventionist, meaning he doesn’t believe one country should involve itself with the politics of another country. As a libertarian Paul also subscribes to the non-aggression principle, which states the initiation of violence is always wrong. The only legitimate use of violence is in response to violence initiated by another.
Therefore Paul is against warring with countries unless they attack first. In the case of Iran Paul would lift the current sanctions and cease the constant threats of bombing and invasion. On the surface this policy looks to be a bad move because of the fear of Iranian attack. You can never judge a book by its cover and you can never look at foreign policy solely by viewing the surface.
Without the credible threat of the United States the government of Iran will lose its boogeyman. Once their boogeyman is removed and the people have something to do besides fear another United States invasion they are going to begin looking at their current situation. Historically revolutions that have lead to freer societies have been done when outside threats of invasion are either nonexistent or highly unlikely. The United States revolution for instance was done at a time when invasion from a non-British force was fairly difficult and unlikely. Had the United States been under constant threat of invasion from Russia it’s unlikely the Revolutionary War would have happened because the people of the colonies would have felt the need of British military might for protection.
Thus the chances of popular revolution would become greater as the people of Iran stopped fearing Western invasion and stopped feeling the need to submit to the current regime. Lifting the current sanctions against Iran would also improve the quality of life for the people living there. Doing this would cause the people to see the source of their strife no longer being United States interference but the current Iranian regime. Were the current Iranian regime no longer viewed as necessary for protection and instead the source of current strife the chance of a popular revolution will increase even further. Even if popular revolution were never to arise it would still reduce the Iranian government’s current fears of the United States. While it’s unlikely the Iranian government would begin peaceful relations with the United States with any immediacy they would likely reduce their hatred of our country and focus their energies elsewhere.
Then there is the claim of Iran allowing anti-American terrorist training camps to exist within their borders. I have no way of verifying one way or another if that is true but I can say this much: allying with anti-American terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda would make perfect sense if your country is facing the threat of an American invasion. When a large militarily superior force is threatening your country you’ll take all the help you can get. The current foreign policy of the United States encourages countries like Iran to assist and ally themselves with anti-American forces. Remember the United States is not innocent of such alliances either. Our government supported Pol Pot, the ruler of Cambodia who butchered two million of his own people, because he had been overthrown and replaced by a pro-Soviet force. In the eyes of the United States supporting a man who committed genocide was considered acceptable so long as it was done in the name of opposing communism. Moral high ground is not something our government can claim.
An Exaggerated Threat
Now that I’ve explained the benefits of a noninterventionist foreign policy in relation to Iran let’s talk about the actual threat. Every Republican debate seems to involve fear mongering by Paul’s competition, we hear claims that establishing a worldwide Caliphate and brining Jihad against the World are in the Iranian Constitution. That’s an outright lie. In fact if you look at the Iranian Constitution’s statements regarding foreign policy you’ll see it’s quite peaceful (I’ve actually had an immigrant from Iran review the Iranian language of the Constitution to confirm this English translation is accurate):
The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based upon the rejection of all forms of domination, both the exertion of it and submission to it, the preservation of the independence of the country in all respects and its territorial integrity, the defence of the rights of all Muslims, non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers, and the maintenance of mutually peaceful relations with all non-belligerent States.
Any form of agreement resulting in foreign control over the natural resources, economy, army, or culture of the country, as well as other aspects of the national life, is forbidden.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has as its ideal human felicity throughout human society, and considers the attainment of independence, freedom, and rule of justice and truth to be the right of all people of the world. Accordingly, while scrupulously refraining from all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, it supports the just struggles of the mustad’afun against the mustakbirun in every corner of the globe.
The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran may grant political asylum to those who seek it unless they are regarded as traitors and saboteurs according to the laws of Iran.
For reference mustad’afun translates roughly into oppressed people and mustakbirun would be the oppressors. The use of those words as stated in the Quran generally refers to the followers of Mohammad being oppressed by those who are not followers such as the Pharaoh.
While one can’t judge the actions of a government based on the contents of a country’s constitution you can at least verify what is stated by reading the document. Since Paul’s competitors are lying about the contents of the Iranian Constitution it’s fair to say they’re likely lying about others topics involving Iran.
Let’s talk about the fear of a nuclear armed Iran since that appears to be a hot topic. First we should review some history involving the Cold War. During the Cold War the United States people were fed stories about the raw power and might of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately those fears were oftentimes stretched truths or outright fabrications. The following is an excerpt from pages 407 and 408 of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA:
William J. Casey, the most vociferous member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, had been talking with some of his friends and associates in the intelligence community. They were convinced that the CIA was dangerously underestimating Soviet nuclear strength. Casey and his fellow members of the advisory board pressed President Ford to let an outside group write their own Soviet estimate. The team, whose members were deeply disenchanted with détente and handpicked by the Republican right, included General Daniel O. Graham, America’s leading advocate of missile defense, and Paul Wolfowitz, a disillusioned arms-control negotiator and a future deputy secretary of defense. In May 1976, Bush approved “Team B” with a cheery scribble: “Let her fly!! O.K. G.B.”
The debate was highly technical, but it boiled down to a single question: what is Moscow up to? Team B portrayed a Soviet Union in the midst of a tremendous military buildup—when in fact it was cutting military spending. They dramatically overstated the accuracy of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. They doubled the number of Backfire bombers the Soviet Union was building. They repeatedly warned of dangers that never materialized, threats that did not exist, technologies that were never created—and, most terrifying of all, the specter of a secret Soviet strategy to fight and win a nuclear war. Then, in December 1976, they selectively shared their findings with sympathetic reporters and opinion columnists. “The B Team was out of control,” Lehman said, “and they were leaking all over the place.”
While the Soviet Union was cutting military spending reports created by handpicked government cronies claimed Moscow was in the midsts of a tremendous military buildup. Our government knowingly lied to the American public in order to increase fear of the Soviet Union. Lying is not new to our government and it’s far more likely that the government is lying about Iran than their claims being accurate.
Let’s consider what it will take for Iran to become a nuclear threat to the United States. First off the leaders of Iran would have to be entirely retarded to believe a nuclear strike on the United States would result in anything besides the entirety of Iran being turned into glass. Ruling over a big chunk of glass is pretty pointless so the power hungry Iranian leaders would likely not enjoy their country being obliterated.
The next thing to consider is the difficult of a nuclear strike from Iran to the United States. Developing a nuclear weapon isn’t the hardest thing to do and if the Iranians really want one they can likely buy one from a former Soviet republic for a pretty fair price. For argument’s sake let’s assume Iran has a nuclear device and desire to have their country reduced to a big glass hunk. What will they need in addition to the nuclear weapon? A delivery method.
Delivering a nuclear weapon from Iran to the United States isn’t an easy task. In order to do so Iran would need an intercontinental ballistic missile, a nuclear submarine, a cargo ship, or an airplane. A cargo ship and an airplane are easy to spot and the United States government isn’t too keen on letting unknown craft into their territory so those two options can be ruled out by common sense leaving the option of an intercontinental ballistic missile or a nuclear submarine.
Developing either technology is extremely difficult, far more than developing the nuclear weapon itself. In order to be successful either delivery method would have to be stealthy enough to avoid detection by our defenses and capable of defeating our defenses if detected. We’ve been a nuclear armed country since World War II and were in a heated competition with the Soviet Union for better nuclear weapons and countering defensive technologies. Our ability to detect submarines is far in advance of Iran’s nonexistent submarine development program. Getting a missile off the ground and heading towards the United States without our knowing is also going to be very difficult. Then you need to consider the sheer difficulty of developing either technology, it will take decades and it’s unlikely Iran would ever be able to catch up to us considering the massive head start we currently enjoy.
Even if Iran has a nuclear weapon the are going to have a very difficult time getting it here. I’m sure somebody will say a suitcase bomb could be smuggled into the country but that person is an idiot since suitcase sized nuclear weapons only exist in the fruitful minds of fiction writers. In order to cause any notable damage a fair amount of fissionable material is needed and that material is bloody heavy. Along with the fissionable material you’d also need either an implosion device to properly detonation the nuclear material or a method of slamming a slug of nuclear material into a larger chunk of nuclear material. We should also be realistic, a country that hasn’t developed a single nuclear weapon at this point certainly isn’t going to miniaturized one to the point of fitting in a suitcase.
The threat of Iran is highly exaggerated and our current foreign policy towards the country is directly causing the current friction between our two countries. Paul’s foreign policies would greatly reduce the hardships facing the people of Iran, remove the current Iranian government’s boogeyman that helps it maintain power, and would be the most likely method of fostering a positive revolution in the country. On top of that the other candidates are outright lying about the contents of the Iranian Constitution and are likely lying about everything else. In fact the Pentagon has even reported that Iran’s primary concern is repelling attack:
The document goes on to make this key statement, “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”
But what if the unpredictable Ahmadinejad and company in Tehran suddenly changed their strategy and decided to go on the offensive? Fortunately they would not have the capability according to the DoD which states, “At present Iran’s forces are sufficent to deter or defend against conventional threats from Iran’s weaker neighbors such as post-war Iraq, the GCC, Azerbaijan or Afghanistan but lack the air power and logistical ability to power much beyond Iran’s boarders or to confront regional powers such as Turkey or Israel.“
If the Pentagon isn’t concerned with Iran’s nuclear program giving them a first strike capability why should anybody else? After all the Pentagon’s job is to be extremely paranoid.
The bottom line is the entire situation regarding Iran is overblown. It’s an attempt to create another boogeyman to scare the American people into blind obedience. An interventionist foreign policy is what created the current problems in Iran, and will only continue Iran down its current road to militarization and anti-Western attitude.