Saturday, February 10, 2007


Gaurav writes about the US hand in giving rise to fundamentalist Iran. A joint British-American effort restored the Shah of Iran back in power. After the coup that achieved this, it is not without interest to note that America controlled about 40 percent of Iranian oil. I think back with bitter amusement in my mind, about the number of fundamentalist countries and dictators the US directly or indirectly gave rise to. Whenever there was a democratically elected left-wing people's government, the US government and the CIA has tried almost every tactic possible to suppress it and house a government of its choice in its place. I would take this involvement even further back, right from the end of World War 2, beginning with the Truman Doctrine, which supported and almost replaced British interference in Greece. The British had already accepted their role as "junior partner" in the US-British alliance.

Basically every President since Truman has suppressed political and social uprisings abroad that were unfavourable to US interests. In fact, it was even before WW2 that Secretary of State Henry Stimson spoke about America as a great equalizing and humanizing force in the world. Even that has many precedents in British rule. I will always remember the incident about a famous essay that John Stuart Mill penned in 1858, expounding the value of British style freedom, humanist ideals and democracy. Consider; this was 1858, one year after the British brutally suppressed a revolt for freedom in their most coveted colony.

To be honest, this is hardly surprising. Every country tries to use many means to ensure its influence in the world's geopolitical landscape, especially a superpower like the US. By this token, almost every powerful contry's leaders are to blame. But what's always been amusing, and probably not amusing anymore, is how the US has always tried to justify all these actions under the garb of 'spreading democracy and freedom'. There is no doubt that some of the countries like Iran which the US is carping against constitute troubling governments, but the US never exactly had the authority to take an exclusive high ground against them.

For an excellent model of how the media always tries to spin these government actions around and put them in a context that is favourable to the administration, Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent still rings very much true.

Frankly speaking, I still would consider the Americans and British among the most gentlemanly and fair rulers and superpowers in history, compared to others. Even now, I respect the relatively free dialogue and freedom of the press that is encouraged in both these nations. But there is always another side to every issue, and the problem is that both these nations, and especially the US, still try to act as if they are morally perfect and completely free of blame, and that they are the ones who have the greatest claim to teaching the world, and indeed imposing upon it, moral rectitude. That's what bugs people.

Just because America interefered in the past affairs of the countries it is despising does not mean it 'deserves' retribution from them, and any one who thinks this way is a bonafide kook. But in my opinion, this is really a question of attitude. If someone makes a totally unprovoked attack on you, someone with whom you had absolutely nothing to do in the past, then your attitude is rightly one of extreme moral indignation and aggression. However, if you know that directly or indirectly, in some way you contributed to this state of his, you might naturally empathize a little more with him and adopt a more conciliatory stance. As has been made clear by conflicts such as the Vietnman war, one of the most important reasons for the US disaster in South Vietnam was a lack of empathy, a lack of understanding Vietnamese culture and their ambitions (unlike what the US thought, the Vietnamese were not fighting as pawns of the Russians or Chinese, but were fighting for their independence). In any case, as the above example shows, if Americans know something about US interests and past actions in Iran, it is much more likely that they will empathize with their enemy. The mindset of a man who thinks Iran sprang from nowehere and is committing aggression against the US, is much different from a man who knows something about US-Iran historical relations. He would be far more empathetic towards the situation, and empathy is neessary for solving such problems.

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Blogger Gaurav said...

Your last 2 paras are absolutely spot on.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

:) You may be interested in watching Robert McNamara's "The Fog of War" which quite poignantly examines some of these issues.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Sumedha said...

Have you seen Syriana?
It implies that large corporations can influence government foreign policy to a significant extent; horrifying to watch.

P.S. The movie is too long, but interesting. George Clooney won the Best Supporting Oscar just for putting on weight and looking different!

1:32 PM  
Blogger Gaurav said...

I LOVED Syriana. Absolutely loved it. It was so engrossing, didn't seem too long. And one more thing the movie portrayed accurately - the suicide bomber being from Pakistan. ;)

5:46 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Syriana- One great movie which I missed :(
It's on top of my list now. And I completely believe the fact about Clooney, who I think simply charmed his way through the Oscars.

He is a talented guy though; have you seen Good Night and Good Luck?

5:35 AM  
Blogger Sumedha said...

Yeah, Clooney did a decent job in Good Night and Good Luck. I just felt that in Syriana, his performance was too flat.

7:51 PM  

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