Thursday, February 15, 2007

On the freedom road

This is an interesting discussion on how the left should approach Iran.

It's a question much debated recently, because the left is again caught in a bind. Whereas we naturally would support those groups in Iran struggling for women's rights, the rights of minorities -- in particular, the Kurds, Arabs and nonShias -- and human rights in general, this puts us on the side of the imperialists, who may (or more likely may not) goals that we support by means we absolutely do not. It's tough even for moderates on the liberal side, and some, such as the sadly Islamophobic Third Camp are making clear that they support one not the other. It doesn't help that one has to distinguish carefully between those who are fighting for rights we would support, and those who are fighting for things we do not want to see. Some of the "exile groups" that the US supports are just as nasty as the theocrats. Do we really want to end up doing what we've done in Iraq, and choosing which bad guys we will back to the hilt once we remove the incumbent bad guy?

Complicating matters is that Iran is not just going to turn into a secular state overnight. It does have elections, and people vote for theocrats. This is something that needs to be understood. You can't just make people all freedom loving and liberal overnight, and you have to question whether it is right to fight to bring in norms that most people in a place do not support (a different matter from supporting the fight to bring in norms that a minority prevents the majority from adopting). The Islamic republic is not horribly unpopular, and it is not the case that a vicious state represses the masses. It is a nation divided, and we must take some care that we are not just picking sides in a war for values that we do not in any case always live up to ourselves. (The situation is very different in Sudan, where a minority that holds state power is murdering the majority population, which both left and right are largely ignoring for whatever reason. This is the shame of our age: that we have destroyed Iraq in the name of "freedom" or whatever bullshit we are currently destroying it in right now, but we will not stop the continuing genocide in Darfur. I'll be blogging more about Africa when I have the energy. Its not being in the news too often means that it's not always salient, but it should be.)

The worst case is that the left is painted as supporting Iran, or actually does support Iran, in this conflict. (By Iran, I mean the regime of course, not the people of Iran.) Not sufficiently distinguishing the parties involved in Iraq has led to the suggestion that we support murderers because we say that the Iraqis have a right to resist the occupation. (In truth, distinguishing good from bad in Iraq is extremely difficult, and the Americans often resemble nothing so much as another militia, rather than anyone who is actually in control.) It's important to be clear that opposing military action is not the same as endorsing the Ahmedinajad government.


Anonymous Looney said...

...which both left and right are largely ignoring for whatever reason.

No vested interest (read: oil)?

Just guessing... Looking forward to seeing your blog on that topic.

February 16, 2007 at 2:10 AM  

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