Friday, February 19, 2010

Who Would Barack Bomb?

Glenn Greenwald wrote a useful post at Salon on Wednesday, mocking Secretary of State Clinton's warning that Iran may be in the process of becoming a military dictatorship.
Reuters, February 15, 2010: "The United States believes Iran's Revolutionary Guards are driving the country toward military dictatorship and should be targeted in any new U.N. sanctions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday. . . . 'We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship,' she said."
As Greenwald pointed out, this is laughable. It even got some laughs from her audience, according to one commentator he cites.

Half a century of American foreign policy flatly contradicts this sentiment (which is why Clinton heard soft chuckles and a few muffled guffaws as she spoke). The US has adored military dictatorships in the Arab world, and has long supported states dominated by the shadowy world of intelligence services. This became even more obvious after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when Washington intensified cooperation with Arab intelligence services in the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.

Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East are military and police states where men with guns rule, and where citizens are confined to shopping, buying cellular telephones, and watching soap operas on satellite television. Countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, as well as the entire Gulf region and other states are devoted first and foremost to maintaining domestic order and regime incumbency through efficient, multiple security agencies, for which they earn American friendship and cooperation. When citizens in these and other countries agitate for more democratic and human rights, the US is peculiarly inactive and quiet.

If Iran is indeed becoming a military dictatorship, this probably qualifies it for American hugs and aid rather than sanctions and threats. Clinton badly needs some more credible talking points than opposing military dictatorships. (Extra credit question for hard-core foreign policy analysts: Why is it that when Turkey slipped out of military rule into civilian democratic governance, it became more critical of the US and Israel?)

Of course the US adoration of military dictatorships is not limited to the Arab world. Honduras provided a recent reminder of that, to which the Obama administration responded with resounding waffling, but the whole Western hemisphere south of the Rio Grande has a pretty consistent history of military dictatorships we could do business with, and elected governments we couldn't. South Korea was ruled by military dictatorships for a quarter century, and the US has never been very comfortable since that happy state of affairs came to an end. So many "Free World" leaders when I was growing up just happened to be, if not Generals, then military men: Chiang Kai-shek, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Anastasio Somoza, Manuel Noriega, and numerous rulers of Argentina, among so many others. Typically, when Somoza's dictatorship was overthrown by the Sandinistas, the US evacuated as many of his military thugs as possible for use against the new government.

For that matter, the Iranian revolution was barely over when the US began selling arms to Iran with Israel as the middle man, in hopes of bankrolling a military coup against the new regime that would return Iran to the bloody days of the Shah. Clinton's remarks seem more an expression of US wishes than a warning.

Clinton's current remarks also seem to represent a change from past US government propaganda on Iran. I mean, I thought that the Islamofascist Ayatollah Khameini and President Ahmadinejad were the bad guys who were trampling on Iranian democracy and threatening gallant little Israel with nuclear weapons, but according to the Reuters story,
Clinton later told reporters in Riyadh that she hoped "this is not a permanent change but that instead the religious and political leaders of Iran act to take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people."
If you're not used to government lying and obfuscation, you might think that Clinton here was endorsing the authority of Khameini and Ahmadinejad. Consistency and honesty are not part of the toolbox of Secretaries of State, nor of the Presidents they serve.