The West’s Selfish Delusion on Iran

The 5 + 1 nations are reaching an agreement with Iran that serves their interests and abandons the West’s allies in the Middle East for their most armed and organized adversary.  The deal is being pitched as the best possible resolution to the Iranian nuclear threat whose only alternative is a war, instigated by Israel or the US, that will cost the global economy between 700 billion and 1.7 trillion dollars.  The arguments being made for the deal betray a world view that is unimaginative, apologist and short-sighted.  We are being told to believe that the deal is in our best interest when it is clear to us that the West will always choose its strategic and economic interests over any professed guardianship of liberal and egalitarian values.

The West’s delusion extends far beyond its relationship with Iran who is simply the most recent monster to bring it to the fore.  Europe, and the West at large, was so traumatized by the Second World War that it decided that war was no longer legitimate.  The scars of WWII left Europeans with the conclusion that war and violence was in and of itself evil, despite the fact that it was American intervention in the war that led to the destruction of the truly evil Nazis.  These notions were codified in the UN Charter.

The West then proceeded to fight a series of wars of independence in Africa and Asia and various proxy conflicts of the Cold War such as in Korea and Vietnam.  Legitimate war was now the purview of the oppressed fighting for freedom and the Free World standing up to unfree Communism.  Blame and responsibility for the outbreak of violent conflict would now be determined by the principle that the instigation of war itself is the primary offense with almost no discussion of the content of the dispute (unless specifics could be shown to prove a legal principle such as the closing of the Straits of Tiran in ’67’).

The West’s delusion lies primarily in that it expects the world’s other players to hold to that same principle of non-violence despite all evidence to the contrary; further its principle of non-interference is wholly opposed to extending freedoms to the oppressed peoples of the world.  It expects all players to abide first and foremost by that principle even to the detriment of their own security.  Those who ally themselves to the West must trust that the US and whomever it can muster into a coalition will come to their aid – that is until Obama decided to teach the world a lesson about US non-interference.  The West’s refusal to interfere in the Syrian conflict beyond airstrikes on ISIS (coordinated with IRAN) has eroded that trust.

The West’s reaction to the crisis in the Ukraine is a perfect example of the cognitive dissonance between the West’s claim to champion its own way of life in the global arena and its total inaction when that way of life is put in jeopardy.  The Ukraine, which borders the EU, was thrown into its current turmoil as a revolution meant to throw off Russia’s throat-hold on their country with the unequivocal goal of joining Europe received almost no tactical support from the West.  It missed a golden opportunity to lend that support to the homegrown revolution in Iran following the 2009 elections.

Nuclear weapons have gone from the West’s deterrent to war to a scapegoat for total inaction.  The 5 + 1 negotiations, despite intending to keep the bomb from Iran, have treated the Islamic Republic as if they already have it.  All the discussed military alternatives foresee either a unilateral Israeli or American intervention because they lack the imagination or resolve to assemble a much broader coalition of armies of states that propose to uphold Western values.

The selfish aspect of the equation lies in the average Westerner’s unwillingness to compromise his/her prosperity and comfort for others’ survival and freedom.  We are so deeply entrenched in China, a human rights violator of massive proportions in whose bosom we find ourselves because of the economic potential we wished to exploit.  The West stands nearly mum on China because we are unwilling to face the economic consequences of a fall out.  Sorry, Tibet. Sorry, Darfur, China’s in with Khartoum.  Frankly, the West’s history with the entire continent of Africa is such an example.

The West is concerned with global oil supply running through the Straits of Hormuz whose norther half is in Iranian territory. The popular notion being presented by defenders of the deal that military intervention can only end in much higher death tolls across the Middle East is difficult to reconcile with the unfathomable horrors currently taking place across the region as a result of their inaction in Syria.

The selfish delusion that Western states act for the general good is perpetuated by politicians who are dependent on donors complicit in and demanding the continuation of the present system, and on the votes of its constituents who would like to believe that they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Because Israel does not have the kind of physical security of its OECD counterparts, Israeli politicians strike a slightly different note – something that left the West dumbfounded at the results of our most recent elections.

An article in the Economist defending the deal stated that,

“[T]he idea that America is being treacherous does not add up. Blame Mr Obama for standing back when the uprising in Syria was still peaceful, and again when Mr Assad gassed his own people. But the time is long gone when America alone could manage the conflict devouring the Middle East. Today regional mayhem is tugging the United States every which way. In the cross-currents of a sectarian war, America is working against Iranian-backed forces in Yemen and Syria, and with them in the war against Islamic State. That is not treachery, but pragmatism born out regional collapse.”

Yet that statement implies that treachery cannot be pragmatic.

The West has convinced itself there are only two alternatives: this deal or an Israeli/American led war. It has convinced itself of this because it refuses to imagine solutions that might put Western prosperity in jeopardy for the sake of really tackling the Middle East’s (or the world’s) woes.

In Israel we are exceedingly aware of the contrast between reality and idealism, one with which we as a nation struggle greatly.  Stop trying to convince us of your delusion.  This deal may be the best possible thing we can get and we should push to make it as good as possible in the three months to come.  But don’t tell us that this deal is the best thing for us, because what it really is, is the best thing for you.

About the Author
Avi Taranto is a tour guide, chef, translator and photographer based in Tel Aviv. A native of New York City, he has a BA from McGill University in History and an MA from Tel Aviv University in Diplomacy.
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