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The Next Quagmire
Posted on Sep 3, 2007
By Chris Hedges
The most effective diplomats, like the most effective intelligence officers and foreign correspondents, possess empathy. They have the intellectual, cultural and linguistic literacy to get inside the heads of those they must analyze or cover. They know the vast array of historical, religious, economic and cultural antecedents that go into making up decisions and reactions. And because of this—endowed with the ability to communicate and more able to find ways of resolving conflicts through diplomacy—they are less prone to blunders.
To make rational decisions in international relations we must perceive how others see us. We must grasp how they think about us and be sensitive to their fears and insecurities. But this is becoming hard to accomplish. Our embassies are packed with analysts whose main attribute is long service in the armed forces and who frequently report to intelligence agencies rather than the State Department. Our area specialists in the State Department are ignored by the ideologues driving foreign policy. Their complex view of the world is an inconvenience. And foreign correspondents are an endangered species, along with foreign coverage.
We speak to the rest of the globe in the language of violence. The proposed multibillion-dollar arms supply package for the Persian Gulf countries is the newest form of weapons-systems-as-message. U.S. Undersecretary of State
The arrogant call for U.S. hegemony over the rest of the globe is making enemies of a lot of people who might be predisposed to support us, even in the Middle East. And it is terrifying those, such as the Iraqis, Iranians and Syrians, whom we have demonized. Empathy and knowledge, the qualities that make real communication possible, have been discarded. We use tough talk and big weapons deals to communicate. We spread fear, distrust and violence. And we expect missile systems to protect us.
“Imagine an Iranian government that was powerful, radical, and in possession of nuclear weapons; imagine the threat that would pose to Israel and to the American-led balance of power, which has been so important in the Middle East since the close of the Second World War,” Burns said in a speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston last April 11. “That is our first challenge.”
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George W. Bush’s latest salvo, on Aug. 28, was more of the same.
“Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust,” he said. Bush warned that the United States and its allies would confront Iran “before it is too late.”
These kinds of words, pouring out of the administration, send a clear message to any Iranian: You are in trouble. Bend to our will or we destroy you. These were the same words, with a few minor changes, that the Bush administration delivered to Saddam Hussein, who, despite numerous compromises, including letting the U.N. inspectors back into his country, was overthrown and put to death during a U.S. occupation.
And the Iranians know that without the bomb, which no intelligence agency thinks they can produce for a few years, they are now probably going to be attacked.
The Pentagon has reportedly drawn up plans for a series of airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran. The air attacks are designed to cripple the Iranians’ military capability in three days. The Bushehr nuclear power plant, along with targets in Saghand and Yazd, the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, a heavy-water plant and radioisotope facility in Arak, the Ardekan Nuclear Fuel Unit, and the uranium conversion facility and nuclear technology center in Isfahan, will all probably be struck by the United States and perhaps even Israeli warplanes. The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, the Tehran molybdenum, iodine and xenon radioisotope production facility, the Tehran Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories, and the Kalaye Electric Co. in the Tehran suburbs will also most likely come under attack.
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