Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We the People ....

Talking to Americans about Iran often leads to the basic claim "But we are the good guys! We are on the side of Justice!" etc. etc. It is often very difficult to break through this mind set so that Americans, a mere 3% of the global population, see themselves in a global context and can get beyond this fear bolstered, messianic mindset.

By this logic, any group of 3%, in any polity could take whatever action they like to achieve whatever aims they think are "right". That is in fact a partial definition of terrorism itself. A small minority that has a beef with the rest of (or a particular) segment of society, that cannot make a convincing case, will often resort to violence.

Claiming "we are right" does nothing to advance the discussion. The problem remains. Billions of others, and even millions within the US, do not agree that the small risk posed by a minority of Muslims in Iran justifies the risk of a pre-emptive attack, which will kill hundreds and has the potential to kill millions.

Because the US government presses on regardless, shouting at the top it's voice "WE ARE RIGHT, you don't get it, we will SAVE YOU!" does not make it right. It makes them the muttering guy at the bus stop with the hand painted sign claiming the end of the world.

At it's most basic, actual people are being killed to prevent potential deaths, but many, certainly a majority, of the rest of us think that calculation is horribly flawed. What if no one was at risk? Actual innocent people would be killed for nothing.

For example, what if the leadership of China decided something was "right"? Reintegration of Taiwan for example? Most Mainland Chinese think this is an excellent idea, and many support force to achieve it. On balance, it seems more justifiable to use force to reintegrate Taiwan, historically part of China for thousands of years, and detached for only a few decades, than for the US to use force in Vietnam, Iran or Iraq.

Of course to condone, accept or encourage that would be lunacy, and I'm guessing most Americans would agree with me on that. However it exposes the root issue of legitimacy, and hopefully puts it in a context where Americans suddenly find themselves on my side of the fence.

The issues of legitimacy, are addressed in the UN Security Council. At the end of WWII, global society came up with the Security Council on the UN to prevent war, and that is at least a partial "success" in that we have avoided a major war on the scale of WWI or WWII since it's creation.
However, the Security Council is a flawed instrument because it allows the 5 victors of WWII vetoes to strike down any decision made by the council, and it also only includes a very narrow group in decision-making.

It's what we have, for the moment, but it is demonstrably a deeply undemocratic institution.

War is the most serious and deadly undertaking that humans engage in. In fact, any given war now has the potential to spiral out of control to the point where the destruction of the entire planet is a possibility. I would therefore be as adamant in insisting that the Chinese listen to the rest of the world as I am in insisting that the Americans do.

Decisions like this should not be left in the hands of an institution with 15 people at the table, and structural paralysis practically guaranteed. War, if it is to undertaken at all, needs to be sanctioned by a global majority in a much broader and vastly more democratic forum. No vetoes, no "but we are the good guys!!", no "but they might be planning something!".

Just we the people, insisting that our voice be heard.

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