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Monday, September 28, 2009

Why shouldn't Iran have Nuclear Weapons?

I hate to seem like a 'party-pooper' or the barer of reality, but can someone please actually think about what we are all saying about Iran and nuclear weapons? We are saying: I can do something, but you can't. It is not more complicated, or in-depth than that, it is a simple case of one entity (or entities) claiming that they are allowed do one thing while while another can not.

I understand that there are legally and internationally recognized treaties that have been signed, but these treaties are based on 'belonging' to an international regime that is in no way freely joined or adhered to, but necessitated. In order to be a respected part of the international community it is important, even mandated, to be a part of these treaties. Yet, still, how does one navigate this community when it is so grossly skewed in the favor of one set of power brokers or ideological distinction? Iran is sitting on the outside looking in at a world who's global 'laws' are controlled by the five permanent members of the UN security council. Iran holds no real international sway and are at the mercy of others both economically and militarily (as are virtually all nations).

Iran is caught in a region of the world who's ideological predispositions are already marginalized and who's power is waning. In countries throughout Europe there is a drift to the far right as people try to maintain their 'cultural heritage' and ethnic homogeneity. This is of course in a place that is in a dominant position in the global race of ideology and power and only marginally affected. In the Middle East, there is a great diverge between older customs and the westernization that has been overtaking the region for hundreds of years now. Of course there is blow back here.

Iran, in looking to defend its own interests has fought regional wars and has always been deeply caught up in the Middle East's religious struggles. Israel has nuclear weapons and their main benefactor, the United States, is the world's dominant power player – nuclear or otherwise. Iran falls on the other side of any strategic discussion with these two countries and is viewed as an enemy in both places. Given this situation, why in the world wouldn't Iran want to obtain nuclear capabilities? Especially after the world saw what this meant for North Korea upon gaining nuclear capabilities.

Unfortunately, the world we live in is still based on the uncivilizing tenets of self/national-interest, and the use of force to gain advantage for one's interests. Iran has every right to pursue nuclear weapons given these principles (that the West pushes) and the only reason the international powers (specifically the West) feels like it can 'legally' tell Iran what to do on this subject matter is that, for all intents and purposes, the these 'powers' wrote the rules on nuclear arsenals and don't want to see the 'balance of power' change (i.e. they don't want their unbalanced power relationship with another country to actually become more balanced.)

I find this logic absurd when looking at the world as a whole and not from the viewpoint of one actor. Yes, I understand that the world is a 'dangerous' place, but this is of its own historical making and can be lessened by its own making. The world today is predominantly 'run' (politically that is) by the five victors of World War II. I mean just think about this. How is it ever possible to think that the world's governance can be set up to include all and function, when only one side is represented? Granted the system has functioned very well at times as those victors fell out of favor and into two distinct camps that had their own cold war. But seriously, this is no way to govern a world, especially now that those two camps are not so far apart as they once were – and are economically coming closer and closer to the point where they are wholly dependent upon each other.

Iran is a part of the international community and has tried to maintain a relationship within it. But this community is not set up for a country like Iran to succeed – at least not along its own lines, only those set out in Western principles and goals. Iran wants to protect itself and its own interests (this is also the fundamental ideological tenet of the Western countries and their peoples, and very much a Western concept as per its institutions). Iran – given its adversarial position with other major players in the region and world – should be pursuing an alteration in the balance of power currently held, and should be seeking for a more assertive voice. This focus on the self is a profoundly Western concept – Liberalism, Civil liberties, Democracy, Human Rights, Private property, Free-markets, etc. – are all admirable concepts pushing for individual liberty, yet seemingly only when these 'liberties' fall into line with Western principles. A state or foreign culture looking to its own independently originated interests and maintenance of power (what the West is trying to teach it to do) is not allowed. Iran can profoundly do this by gaining nuclear capabilities. This gain will give it voice and power far sooner than 'economic development' ever could. Currently, the US, Israel, and others in the region are in a position to bully Iran. The US in general is in a position of bully throughout the world. I for one, would like to see this power held further in check. Given the norms found in today's world, I'd like to see Iran and other non-western oriented states gain nuclear capabilities, strictly so the US and other uncivilized actors in the world can not bully those that do not share their cultural, economic, and political views.

I do not believe that nuclear weapons are something that will actually ever be used by states again. Iran – and specifically its leaders – will know full well that if they used these weapons that it would be suicide for themselves. And yes, some entities throughout the world do not see this martyrdom as a problem. But I fail to see how a state actor could possibly use the weapon as anything but leverage and an attempt to readjust the balance of power it has with the world. Even if used, a lesson learned we would have. To take others seriously, treat them with respect, and not think that they could or should be bullied. People like Osama bin Laden are reactionaries. They are defending their cultural and ideological views (just as Americans and others do). Terrorism is a term used by those in power to demean the point and means of their adversaries. Yet these people, are no different than America's revolutionary war heroes. They are fighting for their freedom and independence. Would you want a Saudi Arabian military base in Maryland? Americans don't even want maximum security prisons that house 'terrorists' in relative vicinity to themselves, never mind a foreign military base from an ideologically different country with ulterior motives close by. We must show respect to the world and its ideals in order to function amicably within it. And by this I do not mean in verbiage, but in fundamental goals and systemic desires. The current capitalist regime's focus on growth and expansion does not allow for this respect. The goal is to gain scarce resources for our own (or companies, or nations) immediate reward, not to live respectfully and cooperatively with others or for another's development.

Actually, if you really want to know my true ideological view on it all, we should all just get rid of nuclear weapons entirely, US, Russia, everyone. But unfortunately that is not realistic. So I figure that perhaps a true balance of power is more apt to help the world. If more states have nuclear weapons, the world will be playing on a more equal playing field, and it will be less likely that someone will use them for fear of their own demise. Perhaps it is far fetched given the more of some thing there is the more likely it could be used – as is seen with guns. But this is on a different scale, a riffle and a nuclear warhead are of different levels. And while it would be nice to take away all of these means of easy death, some are more influential on a mass population and political level than others. Given the world's political, economic, cultural, and military power situations, right now all I see is the bully trying to tell the bullied that the bullied can not do what the bully does out of fear that the bully will no longer be able to bully. This is a simple power trip saying “I can do this, but you can't, and because I said so.”  The worst thing to me about it all, is that the general populaces of these 'democracies' do not recognize the absurd logic in this line of thought, and simply condone this bullying behavior because that is the message presented to and ingrained within them. Despite that being bullied is not OK on the playground that one's child plays on (where a bruised eye/ego and lost lunch money are about as tough as it gets), but it is ok on the world's geo-political landscape where economic dearth, political isolation, and war tend to be ready outcomes of bullying behavior. Billions of people in the world, and we're only concerned about and/or allow ourselves to identify with the few that live near us or share cultural similarities. Think people, don't listen, think.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Development as a concept is interesting. The general implication in its usage today is usually either in terms of something happening – 'a development' – or in a more positive sense of something growing, expanding, or 'becoming better'. The usage of the word as generally seen in economic, social, and political terms in regards to the 'developing' world is generally the later: that they are 'developing', i.e. growing, expanding, or 'getting better'. This concept rests on some pretty large assumptions, and not much more profound than: that the area to be developed is in 'need' of, or desires to become, something else – something deemed 'bigger', 'better', or the like.
This is in fact tricky though, as in order to be something 'else', whether more developed or not, the 'thing' must first be either envisioned or influenced by another entity and then evolve to another stage or position. As 'the status quo' is followed, there is generally little but standard, small scale intermittent change that slowly and sporadically builds upon itself. However, upon a distinct external actor with different information influencing the original object, change then becomes a visible option and thus can be envisioned as an end game. The general developmental evolution of small scale change is generally on a step by step basis that is slowly evolving and envisioned by local actors throughout each step. In the situation where a new external actor enters the fray, there is no longer a simple step by step scenario, but rather an vision of an end result further ahead, but no real distinct path from A to B.
In the sense of colonial development, entity A is a local African social institution, object B becomes the life style and material goods of the European. The African's can not easily see what it took to make B, they can not see the step by step directions as they happened, they can only speculate through their own eyes as to what happened or to take the word or direction from the Europeans that introduced the concept of 'B' to their own preexisting world. Both of these situations have substantial shortcomings. In using their own indigenous speculation ideas like Cargo Cults come to the fore. Local populations then end up trying to 'reinvent the wheel.' However, it is not a simple reinvention, as they are doing it without the stone or wood used prior. In listening to the European path of development, they are subject to the selective memory of the Europeans' developmental existence and subconscious interpretation of the current self-interest of both man and country. The history of 'development' in Africa is a direct by-product of this 'missing link' developmental pathway.
It has still been asserted though in some academic circles that a period of colonial rule is a 'necessary precondition' for the emergence of modern and technologically advancing states from precolonial Africa and Asia.1 This line of thought was pronounced as justification for the implementation of a well thought out and adhered to practice that started as colonialism and then transformed into what we now call 'development'. The problem with this line of practice is that it is technically flawed, not only along the lines directly discussed above, but it also fundamentally begs the question as to where did the European colonizers come from? If they managed to develop without the need of an overlord's expertise, what makes their developmental pathway so culturally different from those on other continents? If they developed naturally, why couldn't other areas? This brings us directly back to the concept on another external entity forcing change, and skewing the pathway to the final outcome. Agneta Pallinder-Law brings attention to several cases where it has been argued that the adoption of some elements of western technology were present before colonization – independent of European rule – and that ‘modernization was in many cases frustrated rather than accelerated by the European conquest.' (Pallinder-Law, P. 65).
If this line of thought is in fact the case, is the generic model of 'modernizing' that the West has been applying – first as colonialism and in current day as development – in the 'less developed' areas of the world more an imperialist agenda than anything else? A fictitious road map to 'modernity' that administrators may not even realize is fallacy? Even the best of intentions – if that is in fact what they are – can go wrong. In fact, the system that has created the West, and the system that the West now lives in and seems to believe is the harbinger of 'development' and 'success' in life, has produced a people and system that is based on self-interest – whether personal, regional, national or otherwise. This system, as it consumes its own resources, sees the 'development' of other areas of the world as paramount to its own self-interests and success. The fact that the West has things that to the touch (in the productive aspects of life) and in a military sense seem more useful and powerful than another cultures 'stuff', produces a self-arrogance and belief in ones own system that 'justifies' the expansion of this system over others in the eyes of the originator and expander. They see themselves as 'civilizing' the others, but in fact they are merely changing them into something more similar and comforting, something more like there own 'civilization'.
It is in fact this self-interested motivation that creates a system that is based upon competition rather cooperation. Competition can not exist without a hierarchical structure based on status and power that does not seem to be able to willfully be changed from the top down. The developed countries will not wholly welcome the equality of the ‘lower’ raising to the level of the ‘higher’. Some countries – mostly democracies lead by a small swell of ‘concerned voters’ that bring the plight of the less advantaged to light – will attempt to put forth development programs that speak of helping the less developed world. But in reality, whether a few individuals want to or not, the country's policies don't end up really looking to raise these countries to the highest levels given political and democratic compromise. Whether they say they do or not, intrinsically – conscious or not – they are motivated by self-interest. The countries end up more importantly looking to accumulate the means of production in ownership terms and then to create a group of countries with a strong set of middle managers that can help with the extraction and route to market of the rich amount of resources in said countries. It is not about equality, it is about accumulation by dispossession, whether they consciously believe it or not.
Some of the ramifications of this line of thought are succinctly discussed by Arturo Escobar in Encountering Development as he expands upon the competitive aspects of the system in stating that “The system that generates conflict and instability and the system that generates underdevelopment are intricately bound.” (Escobar, P. 34) Escobar believes that “massive poverty in the modern sense appeared only when the spread of the market economy broke down community ties and deprived millions of people from access to land, water, and other resources. With the consolidation of capitalism, systemic pauperization became inevitable.” (Escobar, P. 22)
Capitalism does not allow anything else on a motivational and systemic level. There are of course always outliers that will try to generally do alternative things (i.e. best intentioned developmental concepts), but on the whole, the system rewards and thus produces self-interested actors (individual, state, or otherwise) that will put their own situations ahead of others even if it appears otherwise as they do what looks to be good-natured developmental work. Profit maximization – ‘I’ll save lives if I can profit from it’.