Differences In Government And Compromises

20 Jul

Like most people watching the negotiations between America and Iran (and a host of other parties) I am struck dumb by the sheer scale of the concessions Obama and his team are prepared to make to Iran in the interests of getting Iran to sign the deal. The geopolitical naivety this shows is staggering, on a scale that makes Chamberlain look like a wise old statesman. (To be fair to Chamberlain, he thought he was buying time to build up the military; Obama doesn’t even have that excuse.) It is very hard to believe that anyone expects Iran to honour whatever agreement it signs, unless it’s an agreement that Iran can basically do whatever it likes. One cannot compromise with evil and Iran’s government is unquestionably evil. It’s willingness to brutalise its own people is proof enough.

But Obama and his team don’t seem to understand this.

Chamberlain may well, of course, have had the same problem. Almost everything Hitler did up until early 1939 fitted in to the European political tradition. Germany could reasonably want to reclaim its pre-1919 borders – and there was a certain amount of justice in it. Hitler was playing to that perception. Chamberlain et al simply didn’t grasp the true nature of their opponent, or just how far he intended to go. There’s no such excuse for anyone dealing with modern Iran.

(source)

So why are our politicians so blind to the danger?

There are several separate possibilities, but one of them lies in cultural differences.

The levers of power, in the West, are generally spaced quite far apart. Our politicians have to struggle to get elected and then they have to get those levers to work together if they want to get anything done. This tends to lead to compromises between politicians; the party in power will get one thing, the opposition will get something in exchange. There are relatively few politicians who cling to their principles because successful politicians are the ones who regard everything as subject to compromise.

This is never more true than during elections. In the US, each party must struggle to find the candidate who can command the broadest base of support. This isn’t easy. If Hilary Clinton draws support from younger voters who think it’s time for a woman to be President, she alienates others who look at her endless series of scandals and think she’s a national disgrace. Jeb Bush might appeal to some republicans, but others might see him as a trimmer or remember his father and brother in the White House. Thus we are served with bland politics as each party attempts to capture as large a constituency as possible.

In Britain, matters are a little more complicated. If a party controls half the seats in Parliament, it generally gets to rule the country to suit itself … assuming the PM keeps the backbenchers (non-cabinet MPs) in line. The PM cannot swing too far from the party line without alienating his backbenchers, which leads to revolts in the ranks and forces him to compromise with his own MPs.

Again, even when one party seems to hold a decisive advantage, there remains a great deal of compromise.

This isn’t true of states that aren’t democracies.

A successful dictator rules by concentrating the levers of power in his hands. Saddam, Stalin (and Hitler, to some extent) were strong because they permitted no strong subordinates. A rival centre of power is a potential threat. Given time, the dictator becomes deluded because he believes – at some level – that he’s always right (as people who aren’t yes-men tend not to prosper under his rule.) A dictatorship may be efficient, at some level, but the death of the dictator can lead to absolute chaos because there’s no one lined up to take the reins.

A successful one-party state rules by demanding political orthodoxy. (Despite its claims to being an Islamic Democracy, Iran is pretty much a one-party state.) Those who rise into power are almost always members of the party – they have to be, if they want to be elected – and know better than to break away from the party. The party is quite good at ensuring that newcomers toe the line.

This tends to ensure that the party’s rule isn’t threatened, despite glitches in the membership. Whatever else can be said about the CCCP, it did manage to retain power and prevent civil war in Russia after Stalin’s death (and prevent another Stalin from rising to concentrate all the levers of power in his hands.) However, the CCCP also illustrates the weakness of the system; not unlike the dictator, the party’s rule tends to ossify, corruption sets in and it eventually decays. This is true of any one-party system, including the ANC in South Africa and Iran’s government. There just isn’t any new blood coming in that isn’t already part of the system, nor is there any real responsiveness to the feelings of the general population.

What does this mean?

As far as negotiations with Iran are concerned, the consequences are two-fold. First, the Iranians simply do not see the value of compromise. Why should they? It isn’t part of their system. Second, the Iranians generally believe in their system, even though it seems like nonsense to us. They simply don’t – they can’t – compromise their beliefs. At the very least, the Iranians are unlikely to openly contradict their own system.

It is possible, I suppose, that Obama and his team believe the US needs Iran to fight ISIS and they are therefore reluctant to do anything to oppose Iran. This, again, is foolishness. ISIS is a lethal threat to Iran. There’s no reason Iran can afford to ignore ISIS whatever the US does.

Or, rather more likely, Obama merely wants to say he was the first President to make an approach to Iran, whatever the cost. He is, at base, an incredible narcissist. His actions since winning the White House suggest an approach to the world that is frankly delusional – I am reminded of the downright foolish collaboration between Charles II and Louis XIV. Such personalities believe that they – and only they – can make changes, that their mere involvement will be enough to sway the balance and convince previously unfriendly people to change sides. Putin was not impressed; nor are the Iranians. Why should they be?

But they are pleased. Obama’s willingness to seek compromise with the enemies of America has alienated America from its allies. Right now, the Poles and the Baltic States doubt America’s commitment to their freedom, the Israelis consider striking Iran alone, the Saudis start their own quest for nuclear weapons (which is asking for disaster as Saudi is the birthplace of Al Qaeda) and the world has become a great deal more dangerous.

And the cost – to the Middle East, to Iranians who hope for freedom, to the entire world – may well be very high.

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15 Responses to “Differences In Government And Compromises”

  1. Anarchymedes July 20, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    I believe I mentioned before that I am an Australian citizen; what I didn’t mention was that I was born in what is now Ukraine, and back then was CCCP. Needless to say, I totally agree about the unacceptable levels of compromise from the West, and not just with Iran. Recently, I read some Russian-language forums about the war in Ukraine, and (no kidding!) there was some absolutely serious talk about dropping a couple of nukes on Europe. Just hit London and Berlin, they were saying; NATO and EU will huff and puff, and then just chicken out and obey, because they’re not suicidal to start WW3.
    This is the image the West, as it is now, projects to the not-always-friendly world. The governments squabble among themselves, keep pulling the blanket, and the people care about nothing beyond their backyard. I think it’s about time to ditch pacifism and rediscover not only ‘good old’ warrior virtues, but also something in our lives that may be worth fighting for.
    After all, even the highest technology doesn’t win wars; people do. People with balls (pardon my Ukrainian, or Australian!) to use it. If you don’t have anything in your life that you are ready to die for, then you don’t have anything to live for, either. And no, no one dies for fun and pleasure – no one sane and sober, at least. Our enemies, be it ISIS or today’s Russia, are willing to die just to strike a blow at us. What are we willing to do to win?
    This, I’m afraid, is the biggest problem of democracy: it’s only as good as an average chap. Just like tyranny is only as good (or as evil) as the tyrant. And our average chap is not known for his courageous and decisive ways. That’s why there is no democracy in the military. But, as we certainly don’t want to resurrect Sparta and live in the global barraks, I suggest we find ways to give that average chap some …pardon my Ukrainian or Australian again… some means to avoid unacceptable compromises.

    • Gregg Miller August 16, 2015 at 4:57 am #

      Sir,

      While I will continue to buy your books because I find them a good read… I think you should stick to writing books instead of forming half-baked opinions such as the one you have made with President Obama and the treaty with Iran.

      Maybe instead of watching Sky news or Fox news, maybe you should read the treaty. Iran had to give up a lot in exchange for this. Also, you made NO mention of the terrorist state that has over hundreds of nuclear bombs and have launched sneak attacks and undeclared wars in the past .. The state of Israel. You seem more than content to have THAT state which has launched a war of genocide against the Palestinians in the West Bank (territory they captured in the Six Day War but never returned) have weapons of mass destruction.

      No sir, I see you as one of the war mongers that we have here in the states calling for war with Iran almost every day … in fact you sound like one of the so called ‘tea party’ people that currently controls this country.

      With ALL due respect sir, if this treat with Iran is NOT ratified, then the only alternative with Iran is a full out bombing campaign followed by ‘boots on the ground’ to make sure Iran’s nuclear capabilities have been destroyed. But it seems to this eye, while you are more than happy to write about war, you sure as heck are not willing to stand to post and defend your country. While I have not served in combat, I HAVE sir served in my nation’s military.

      Do you really want another Middle East war on your hands? Do you really want to have the blood of more British troops to be spilled for something that could have been prevented? You sure do seem to want that, but you’re not willing to pay for that price.

      In the future, keep your nose out of what America has to do to keep the rest of the world safe .. and just stick to writing books. It’s what your best at.

      • chrishanger August 16, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

        Thank you for reading and commenting – I value feedback even when I don’t agree with it. (Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve watched much Fox or CNN in my life.)

        You state that the alternative is either the treaty or war. Personally, I don’t agree – we, and by we I mean the West, have several other options. IMHO, our short-term policy should be one of containment until Iran gets a better government. (Which may happen if the Iranian economy continues to degrade or one of the fault lines in their society explodes.) We can help the Iranians indirectly by supporting information technology that will be tricky for the government to censor; I suspect that planning a coup from the outside will lead to failures as bad as the ones against Saddam Hussein. A home-grown pro-democracy movement in Iran will likely do a better job of reforming the country than anything installed by an invasion. Until then, we should contain the government – thus denying it any propaganda victory – and make it clear that we do not regard the mullahs as a legitimate government.

        Our long-term policy should be a project to develop western oil reserves (through fracking, for example), throw resources into developing fusion power and space development. This would, eventually, allow us to wash our hands of the Middle East altogether.

        Frankly, given the past history of Iran, there’s no reason to trust Iran with nukes – or to expect them to stick to the terms of any deal. I have no faith whatsoever in the Iranian Government’s rationality – they may suddenly become sane if they build a working bomb … or they may decide to launch it at the nearest Western target. Yes, we could destroy Iran a million times over – but would it not be better to ensure we never have to make that decision?

        (In the event of an invasion actually becoming necessary at some later date, it would be a very good idea to make sure the Iranians can’t launch nukes at us either.)

        Chris

        My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
        My Blog: https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
        My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

  2. Steven July 20, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    “the Iranians generally believe in their system, even though it seems like nonsense to us. ” what the hell makes the British system so much better? A recent post of yours had the example of SNP parliamentarians debating English fox hunting. They have also had elected leaders from more parties than just Tories or Labour.

    Iran does not have a history of dishonesty with agreements, as far as your comment of “Iran’s government is unquestionably evil” their dealings with other nations have been much cleaner in the recent past than Britain’s dealings with the region.

    • chrishanger July 20, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

      When the SNP wanted a referendum, they got one. We just had a reasonably peaceful election. But When the Iranian people wanted a new government, they were gunned down in the streets.

      I won’t say the UK is perfect. But I’d sooner live there than in Iran.

      Chris

      My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
      My Blog: https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
      My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

      • Steven July 21, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

        The paras were gunning down UK citizens in the streets not much earlier than Iran. How amazing that a relatively wealthy westerner would prefer to live in a wealthy western nation instead of the middle east. Says a lot.

      • utabintarbo July 21, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

        Steven – it says he isn’t stupid. What does your comment say about you?

      • Steven July 23, 2015 at 5:41 am #

        utabintarbo – it says that I have mroe to add to the conversation than school grade insults.

  3. Tarjei Jensen July 20, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    I suppose different part of the Iranian power structure have different opinions.

    It is a bit difficult for the pro-nuclear bunch that the head of the religious part supposedly are of the opinion that nuclear weapons are the work of the devil and are not prepared to allow them.

  4. mirepoix4two July 20, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    And on that note:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2015/07/08/iraq/

    • R Godfrey July 20, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

      Considering the Old Testament, the terms Glass houses and stones jump to mind. My personnel favourite is the law in Deuteronomy, that the entire city has to die if one person is found to be an unbeliever.

      • Duncan Cairncross July 23, 2015 at 6:23 am #

        I don’t know, I thought when god sent the bears to tear the children to pieces for calling the prophet “baldy” was pretty good,
        Or when Lot offers his virgin daughter to appease the mob

  5. Dennis the Menace July 20, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    This is because the ObamaCrats are the most incompetent morons ever to be granted power. Just about everything they’ve touched turned to shit and/or turned a whole lot of other things to shit. And that is saying a lot given how badly the Bushies ran the show before hand.

  6. Duncan Cairncross July 23, 2015 at 4:48 am #

    Now let me see what is happening here

    On side (A) we have a country which is trying to use the ability to enrich uranium granted to that country by the treaties it has signed (nuclear proliferation treaty)

    History
    Country (B) paid for the overthrow and assassination of country (A)’s democratically elected leader
    Country (B) supported by money information and armed force a bloody dictator who killed thousands of citizens of country (A)

    When country (A) got shot of the dictator country (B) supported another dictator in attacking country (A) – to the extent of supplying him with WMD (poison gas) which he used on country (A)
    100,000 + civilians killed in country (A)

    Country (B) then shot down a civilian airliner in international airspace belonging to country (A)
    This was called an “accident” but country (B) commended and promoted the captain responsible

    That is just background – but everybody knows that background

    Country (B) has managed to get the rest of the world together to apply sanctions to country (A) for doing something which is;
    Totally permitted

    Country (A) has agreed to;
    Dispose of most of it’s enriched uranium (enriched enough for power plants not bombs)
    Dispose of most of it’s centrifuges
    Change the core of its reactor
    Allow inspection at any facility on short notice

    This is the BEST POSSIBLE treaty from the POV of country (B) –
    If it backs away the rest of the countries will simply dump the sanctions

    • Steven July 23, 2015 at 5:41 am #

      Well put.

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