Many historians are of the opinion that the 21st century began in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although the rapid chain of events that ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union may have taken many political scientists and policy makers by surprise, numerous intellectuals actively campaigning for democracy in the region had, nevertheless, predicted the eventual collapse of the dictatorial regime, which was called the “Evil Empire” by President Reagan. Some of those who were right about the Soviet Union’s fall can be equally right by predicting the fall of the theocracy that rules Iran.
This conventional wisdom by pro democracy intellectuals was based on the time tested theory that corrupt and suppressive regimes that have lost the trust of their own people will not last for long regardless of the size and strength of their security apparatus. And, that the necessary condition for any government to continue to rule is the consent of the governed. The eagerness displayed by Secretary Rice and the State Department to negotiate with the failed Islamic regime in Iran points to the fact that with regards to Middle East in general and Iran in particular this basic principle has not been given its proper place in the American policy-making equations, going all the way back to the Carter Administration.
The Islamic Green Belt theory, promulgated by Carter’s National Security Council under Zbigniew Brzezinski to halt Soviet expansion in the region was a huge blunder and miscalculation. It ignored the dictatorial nature of the Soviet Union. Carter’s Soviet policy was based on the misinterpretation of the internal dynamism of the Soviet Union and as such, was blind to many indicators that pointed to the fact that communism, as a sociopolitical model, has failed. Instead of supporting the democratic forces inside the iron curtain, and instead of supporting the natural growth of a democratic civil society, Carter chose to fight the Soviets by supporting the medieval forces of Islamic totalitarianism as a weapon against communist totalitarianism.
None of those policy makers could ever imagine, in their worst nightmares, that supporting a religious ideology to fight communism could one day lead to attacks on Washington, DC and New York City causing more consequential damages than communism ever had . The principle of support for freedom and democracy everywhere, which has its roots in American ideology, could have contributed to formation of a more sustainable foreign policy to create a stable, prosperous and peaceful Asian heartland. Instead, a tortured policy of support for Islamic fundamentalism was adopted.
The counterproductive meeting of Mr. Brezizinski with the representatives of the then newly established theocratic regime in Iran that was using terror as an instrument of domestic policy gave the regime the recognition it did not deserve. That meeting ultimately led to the taking of American diplomats hostage for 444 days but Carter missed the chance to identify a terrorist regime in the making and instead, his administration fruitlessly tried to find moderate factions within a terrorist regime. That is the theoretical origin of the dialogue with the terrorists hoping to reform them.. Today, we are faced with an ideological crisis that has practically paralyzed policy making at all levels with regards to Islamic states in general and Iran in particular. The Islamic regime in Iran has understood this well and continues to foment an ideology of crisis to sustain a crisis of ideology in the west. Every academician and policy maker is in one way or another paralyzed as what to say or what to do. Those who are not in a state of denial do not hesitate and are not embarrassed to admit their paralysis. We are now at a point that nobody has a clear idea about what to do with Iran or how to deal with nuclear terrorism. And without a clear ideology as a guiding principle, all efforts to curb terrorism in the Asian heartland and bring peace, stability and progress will not only fail, but it will only exacerbate the current paralysis. The failure of the recent talks between Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart should have been easily predicted.
It is now high time to abandon supporting or recognizing any particular religion or sect as a guiding principle of foreign policy and get back to the basics of democracy and human rights: those American ideals that speak to every woman and man all over the world. It would be a mistake to remain stuck in the present state of ideological crisis. Equally, it would be another mistake to promote Sunnis against Shiites and vise versa. Such policies have turned the Asian heartland and the Middle East into a bastion of fundamentalism, terrorism and violence, which threatens peace and stability from Tibet to the Mediterranean Sea.
It is bad policy to recognize terrorist regimes, as it is perceived to be submitting to their blackmail. The Islamic regime in Iran is the major player in fomenting violence, terrorism and fundamentalism. Legitimizing the Iranian regime through diplomatic recognition is to legitimize its policies.
Democracy for the greater Middle East is the necessary and major condition to end this crisis. It is achievable too. What we need is a practical policy to promote an idea that has deep cultural, if not political, roots in many countries such as Iran.
We need to create proper mechanisms to get the international human rights and labor organizations more involved to help further develop democratic conditions.
Rather than endorsing or validating dictatorial regimes that have no future, and rather than having the United Nations issue meaningless resolutions against collapsed regimes, we can utilize the power of international treaties and deal directly with the people.
The principles of the right of the working people to organize and bargain collectively could be pursued with the direct involvements of the workers. The World Bank and international labor organizations could use their power to energize the workers by creating unemployment funds and other means of support for striking workers who have not been paid in months. Democratization and support for human rights is the only alternative to politically bankrupt regimes that inflame the region and perpetuate the state of crisis. This is not the time to destroy the hopes of the people in the Middle East by negotiating with a regime that holds its own people captive and as such will not be capable of delivering any of its promises.