A Philosopher's Blog

Iran’s Rulers Playing the “Foreign Card.”

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 24, 2009
Tehran
Image via Wikipedia

Faced with a massive popular uprising, Iran‘s rulers are playing the “Foreign Card.” This is done by placing the blame for the dissent on foreigners. So far, the Iranian rulers have blamed the Western media, the United States and their previous Satan, Great Britain.

The latest attempt to blame foreigners involves the claim that British passports have allegedly been found in the possession of some folks involved in the protests. This is, of course, a rather lame attempt at blame. First, if Britain were to send agents to provoke protests in Iran, they would surely not be carrying around British passports. Second, there are Iranians who live outside of Iran and have citizenship in other countries. As such, these passports might belong to Iranians who live in Britain. If this is the case, the hardly counts as a case of foreign intervention. Third, even if the passports belong no non-Iranian Brits, it hardly follows that they are acting at the behest of the British government. Fourth, the evidence seems to be clear that the protests are homegrown. Foreigners might be glad to contribute what they can to the protests, but there seems to be no evidence that Britain and the United States have had any significant role in what is happening in Iran.

While it is not irrational for the Iranian leaders to suspect US or British involvement (after all, we have done it in the past), they seem to be either largely making up their claims of foreign involvement or simply seeing the protests as being foreign controlled because they are seeing things through the distorting lens of their ideology.

The Iranian rulers do, I think, want the US and UK to get involved in the protests. Naturally, they do not want the United States or Britain to take action that could actually overthrow the regime. But, clear evidence of British or American involvement in the protests would give them a propaganda tool and an  excuse to crack down even more. After all, they would claim that they were fighting a foreign foe, the Great Satan. This would also garner them sympathy from states that are less than friendly with America and Britain.

Unable to find hard evidence of such involvement, the rulers are currently trotting out the old claims that America and Britain are involved. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before they start fabricating evidence of involvement. They might even luck out and find a few individuals from the US or UK that they can pass off as government agents sent to destroy Iran.

The rulers do, of course, point to the BBC and American media as being instigators in the protests. This does have some merit-after all, people do get ideas when they are exposed to relatively free outside sources of information. But to claim that the media influences are causing the protests is implausible. While people do attribute a great deal of power to the media, these folks are hardly prime movers in the Iranian situation. If the Iranian leaders want to find the root cause of the peoples’ dissatisfaction, they need only look in the mirror.

This situation does, of course, keep the US and the UK in a bit of a dilemma. On the one horn, if we stay out of the situation, the rulers of Iran can act with impunity against their own people. At least until the protests become too large to contain or substantial portions of the police and military go over to the protesters. On the other horn, if the US and UK get involved, then the Iranian rulers can use that as effective propaganda and also use it to justify escalating the violence against their own people.

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Another Wild Governor Story

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 24, 2009

The Governor Sanford story has been quite an event. At first, it seemed like he had just vanished-perhaps into the woods. Perhaps into some sort of alien spacecraft. Then it was claimed that he had gone on a hike on the Appalachian trail, perhaps to do some writing away from his family. Then it was revealed that he had gone to Argentina to visit a woman. Apparently Sanford had been having an affair with her.

This is, of course, yet another odd politician story. It is odd, in part, because a successful politician has, once again, thrown away a promising career. Sanford was considered as a possibility for the 2012 Presidential race. However, his recent actions have most likely Spitzered his political career. His wife, whom he claims has known about the affair for months, has taken the standard approach of the political wife and has not (as of this writing) condemned her husband’s actions. Such situations must be horrible for the wife and family. Not only does the wife learn that her husband is cheating on her, she also has to face the fact that his affair is a matter of national news. That has to hurt.

Such revelations naturally lead people to wonder why a politician would throw away a career for an affair. Naturally, psychologists will speculate about this and toss out various theories about men in power and so on. On the face of it, choosing to have an affair seems to be fundamentally irrational. After all, politicians seem to be caught fairly regularly and this, except for Bill Clinton, often turns out to be a career ending move. Sanford seems to be especially irrational-after all, he created a mystery that attracted nationwide attention and resulted in his affair being revealed. This action seems to be somewhat on par with Gary Hart’s challenge to the press to follow him. They did and got the now famous “monkey business” photo of Hart and Donna Rice. In contrast, Bill Clinton has largely gotten away with his affairs, remaining very popular with Democrats and foreign leaders.

It would certainly be interesting to sort out how some politicians get away with affairs while others doom their careers. Part of it no doubt depends on the personality of the politician. Bill Clinton is able to charm people and is regarded as having been successful. People are, no doubt, more inclined to forgive such people. Clinton also seems to have managed the aftermath of his affairs much better and he also did not have a holier than thou attitude or a self-righteous image (quite the contrary-he was quite clearly a slick Willy).  Spitzer, in contrast, had such an attitude and hence his involvement with a prostitute destroyed his reputation.

I’ve noticed this pattern all through my life. Charming folks who are known womanizers tend to be judged less harshly than less charismatic folks who are supposed to be of “a better sort.” Sanford is not charming like Bill Clinton and he is supposed to have conservative values, so I expect he will take quite a beating.

Getting back to the question of why, the easy answer is to point out the obvious: when a person has a career risking affair, they either think they can get away with it or they value what they are getting from the affair more than what they are risking. Or perhaps they are merely being stupid.

From a political standpoint, this is a fairly serious blow for Republicans. The odds are that Sanford will be replaced by a Democrat and, as noted above, Sanford was being considered as a presidential candidate. While the Democrats have lost a governor or two recently, the can better afford such losses.

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