Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The darker side of democracy

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week or so, you're probably already aware that the U.S. government is considering an attack on Iran. The alleged reason is to prevent it from building a nuclear bomb that it might use against Israel, but since all the experts agree that Iran's alleged nuclear capabilities fall many years short of what it would take to build a bomb, we have to turn to more pedestrian explanations. Far from being part of a simple distaste for Middle Eastern countries that begin with 'I', though, according to blogger and University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole, this rather dangerous posturing is more about currying favour with extremist voters. On both sides.

What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base, which is desperately unhappy with the Iraq situation, by rattling sabres at Iran. Bush's poll numbers are so low, often in the mid-30s, that he must have lost part of his base to produce this result. Iran is a great deus ex machina for Bush. Rally around the flag yet again.
I think most of you know how strongly I feel about democracy. But I have to admit that every now and then, I do occasionally question whether it's wise to use a system that backs our politicians into a corner and practically begs them to do anything at all to keep their jobs. (At least when Paul Martin was in that corner, though, it was just the notwithstanding clause that ended up on the potential chopping block, rather than innocent lives.)

For some additional--and incredibly depressing--U.S. voices on this matter, try Power of Narrative and Billmon.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I am rather shaken by this entire situation. If Iran built a nuclear bomb, I don't think they'd ever use it on Isreal, the US, or anyone else for fear of prompt retaliation by other powerful democratic nations.

Furthermore, what would the US gain by using military force against Iran? First and foremost, they simply cannot afford it. Additionally, I'm not convinced that those Americans who are rallying to have the troops withdraw from Iraq would be in favour of simply shifing borders Q-to-N.

Bush's numbers are in the toilet (a fact that makes me sleep that much better at night). But he's outta there in 2-ish years. Is there a developing assumption that attacking Iran would allow GWB to leave his presidency with, well, a bang? A desparate measure to increase population ratings by a few points? A last ditch effort to show the world that the US is *the greatest* protector of peace and democratic policy?

Huh. Maybe it is.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Well, I don't know nearly enough about Iran to speculate about what's going on there, but in the case of the U.S., you have to keep in mind that this is an election year, and there are those who have predicted the Republican loss of control of one or both Houses of government...

Winston said...

if Iran gets the N-Bomb, they will blackmail the whole civilized world

Pete said...


Just like America black mails everyone they don't like? When it comes to tit for tat the current state system proves that realist politics amounts to little more than sandbox bullying.


Another reason for the sabre rattling may be the rumoured plans for Iran to stop trading Oil using the Dollar, switching instead ot the Euro. Venezuala and others have also been rumoured to be looking at this. As was Iraq prior to the invasion...

Though I don't completely understand the complexities of economics its been suggested from a number of places (professors / classmates / newspapers / scholarly journals) that if enough OPEC states move to the Euro the US is in deep trouble. Their enormous deficits will become unfeasable (if deficits are ever feasable in the first place) and the American Dollar would be devalued to the point that fortunes would be lost overnight... That could just be fear tactics, but is worth looking into..