My previous article (“One Final Goodie from Bush & Co.") elicited quite a lively discussion at ZealForTruth.org. In what follows, I reproduce the highlights of this dialogue. (My interlocutors’ writings are in bold, mine in regular type. I have slightly edited some of my responses.)
“So your best refutation is that we aren’t sure the government is involved?”
Maybe the Iranian government is involved, maybe they’re not. But we have no grounds for believing they’re involved until we have some kind of evidence! And right now, as far as I know, we don’t!
“Obviously we shouldn’t declare war on a government based solely on acts of its citizens, but if the government is unwilling to stop such actions or allow us to do so, what choice to we have?”
What choice do we have? I think we should heed the will of the Iraqi people and go home. As poll after poll reveals, the Iraqi people want us to leave, and, as a May 2007 vote in the Iraqi parliament revealed, a majority of Iraqi lawmakers want us to go home. If we really believe in democracy, we need to honor the will of the Iraqi people.
Even if the Iranian government is helping the insurgents, I don’t think we should attack Iran. Again, we need to get our troops out of Iraq. If the Iranians attack us on our own soil, then we should respond. Otherwise, we need to leave them alone.
Besides, we’ve done enough damage to the Iranian people. In the 1950s, we overthrow their democratically-elected prime minister and installed the shah in his place, a ruthless man who murdered thousands of his own people. In the 1980s, after Saddam Hussein started the Iran-Iraq War, we suddenly became friends with Saddam and gave him aid and intelligence that helped his army murder more Iranians.
So, yeah, I think we’ve murdered enough innocent Iranians over the years. Another war–in other words, more murder–isn’t the answer.
“Actually, Iran has stated that their goal is to blow Israel off the map.”
No, they haven’t. In fact, Iran officially supports a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
That’s not to defend Ahmadinejad’s October 2005 comments. But if you read Ahmadinejad’s entire speech (which I’ve done), you'll realize that, when he uttered those famous words—“the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time”–he was actually quoting a speech by Ayatollah Khomeini made in the 1980s. And Khomeini, let’s remember, also made it known that Iran would be going against Islam if they merely possessed nuclear weapons.
Now I’m not justifying Ahmadinejad’s remark. I’m just pointing out that one cannot conclude from that remark that “Iran has stated that their goal is to blow Israel off the map.” One can desire X without making it a goal to achieve X. For example, I can desire to win “American Idol” without ever making the slightest effort to do so, without even entering the competition. So, yes, Ahmadinejad desires for there to be regime change in Jerusalem, just as both Jerusalem and Washington desire for there to be regime change in Tehran. But, as far as I know, he’s never threatened to bring this about. I myself want there to be regime change in Washington, but this doesn’t make me a likely assassin.
“And you claim that Iran is rational… where do you get that idea? Has much of what Iran’s president has said made any sense to a RATIONAL person? For every rational thing he says, he makes three irrational, hate-filled statements.”
I’m defining rational in the sense that social scientists use the term. So by calling Iran’s leaders rational, I simply mean that they always strive to maximize their own good. One can be both evil and rational, which is how I would characterize many world leaders, both here and abroad. And if Iran’s leaders are rational, then it follows that they would not use nuclear weapons on either the U.S. or Israel—because they must realize that doing so would result in their own annihilation.