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imperialism & war

The case against aimless anarchy

If the Bush administration wants to create a mess in Afghanistan and move on and let the international community clean up after it, one wonders about the purpose behind that exercise, other than creating anarchy and chaos.
By Ehsan Ahrari

America's neo-conservatives are being derided in Europe and different circles in the United States as the neo-McCarthyites of the 21st century. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they might be articulating America's continuing frustrations with global terrorism. Where the rest of us in the United States part company from the neo-cons is the fact that they want to use the September 11 attacks as an excuse for colonizing the world of Islam under the euphemism "regime change". The rest of us, on the contrary, worry about the long-term implications of regime change in different Muslim countries for America's presence in the region. The purpose of regime change may not be the creation of Pax Americana or a new imperium that even I, at times, have suggested as a reason. But in the final analysis, America is not about colonizing anyone. To the extent that all systems created by human beings reflect the frailties, limitations and imperfections of our knowledge at any given time, the American political system may be described as the best in the world. However, such a description still leaves one with the question, what is the purpose of creating aimless anarchy in Muslim countries?

If the Bush administration wants to create a mess in Afghanistan and move on and let the international community clean up after it, one wonders about the purpose behind that exercise, other than creating anarchy and chaos. That is also not part of the American character. To the contrary, during the Cold War years, the US has helped create highly organized and industrialized societies in Japan and Germany and in the rest of the Western Europe. This is in contrast to the communist behemoth, the former Soviet Union, which created nothing but pockets of poverty, human misery and deprivation in Eastern Europe in the name of communist egalitarianism.

Today's Afghanistan is still a place where the authority of the government of President Hamid Karzai does not reach much farther than the outskirts of the capital Kabul. Lawlessness is the order of the day in Iraq, with little indication that the American occupiers will have any luck in controlling the situation in the near future. That's one of the reasons why the Muslim masses are confused. What is driving the America of the 21st century? Middle Easterners have a powerful sense of history. As ancient peoples, they have seen many hegemons come and go. They will also live through the US's seemingly purposeless hegemony, for that's what it appears to be.

If the US is not interested in enslaving the world of Islam - and I, for one, believe that it isn't - then why create a mess in Afghanistan, and move on to create another one in Iraq? Why didn't the US stabilize Afghanistan before dismantling another regime in Iraq? The pattern seems to have been not just established, but it also continues. Now, while the chaos emanating from the US invasion of Iraq is worsening, the Bush administration is egging on the Iranian youth to overthrow the reign of the ayatollahs in Iran. What's the purpose? Is it because it does not want to see a nuclear Iran, or does it want to get even with the Islamic rulers for rubbing its face in the dirt by taking its diplomats hostages in 1979 for 444 days? The answer is not clear.

However, there are avenues to apply pressure on Iran. The international community is already speaking about it with a clear voice, through the pronouncements of the International Atomic Energy Agency - the nuclear watchdog agency of the United Nations - and through the unequivocal demands from the European Union that Iran had better come clear about its nuclear programs. If the purpose of encouraging instability in Iran is to bring back the monarchy - the newest claim seems to be installation of a constitutional monarchy - it is only an attempt at recreating the conditions for history to repeat itself, a la the 1953 Central Intelligence Agency-managed coup that brought to power Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah. What happened to Iran for several decades after that? No one in the Bush administration seems to remember. No one seems to care. It is purposeless hegemony, once again.

Watching the aging "Iran watchers" of the Washington area pontificate on numerous talk shows on Iran, I wonder why the US media are speaking to them, and not to the younger generation of Iranians who know what they want from their religious establishment back home. Almost all of the aging "specialists" are the "has beens" of Reza Pahlevi's corrupt and brutal rule. They have been hibernating in the suburbs of Washington, waiting for just such a moment when Iran edges closer to chaos, so that they can consult with the Washington neo-conservatives to propose a "legitimate" alternative to the ayatollahs. No one seems to remember what happened to their Iraqi counterparts - the Iraqi National Congress and its fellow travelers - after the US invasion of Iraq. If the Iraqi expatriate community was so in tune with the Iraqi people, why, at least, aren't some of them in power or speaking today for their countrymen, who daily demonstrate their anger toward the US by killing some unfortunate American GI who happens to be pounding the ground in the streets of Iraq?

One of the saddest realities of today's Middle East is that all the corrupt anachronistic monarchs and dictators are eagerly seeking the approval of the Bush administration, which seems to be driven by the hubris of purposeless victory in Afghanistan and Iraq, and getting focused on the next potential target of regime change. Those autocrats know how malignant their ruling style has become for the standards of living of their unhappy people. They seem to have run out of all the tricks in the book. Now they seek the favor of the US, if nothing else, only to prolong their rule by a few more years, possibly a decade. They figure that if they can hang on long enough, they may be able to ride out this storm created through the exercise of purposeless hegemony.

As bad as the government of the ayatollahs is portrayed to be - and, indeed, it has some serious problems - Iran has been more of a fledgling democracy under their rule than it had been under the reign of Reza Pahlavi. If only the ayatollahs can get smart and put their economic house in order, contain the power and influence of the hardliners, certainly do away with their henchmen - the religious vigilantes - and further pluralize their polity, their country might be saved from the miseries and human suffering stemming from another potential cataclysmic political change.

Iran is also creating problems for itself by seeking to become a nuclear power. All explanations about the supposed peaceful intent underlying its nuclear program sound hollow when one examines the ambitious nature of its nuclear plan, and, more to the point, its desire to develop long-range missiles. At least for now, like Pogo's famous cartoon strip, Iran appears to be saying, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an Alexandria, Virginia, US-based independent strategic analyst.

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