The situation with Iran gives reason to be concerned.
The government of Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. As CNN report, It claims that it is seeking only nuclear power, but few people believe this. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the Holocaust did not exist – that the story is a myth constructed by the United States and Europe as a pretext for creating the state of Israel. He has called for Israel to be destroyed and, in a speech before the United Nations, spoke longingly for the Muslim version of Armageddon.
I would not be too surprised to see bullets flying, or even a mushroom cloud or two, come out of this exchange – in part because the principle agents involved are religious zealots, and religious zealots are notoriously immune to reason and are too quick to kill or be killed in the name of God.
Who is responsible for this situation?
(1) The Government of Iran
I am going to get to George Bush’s culpability in a moment, but I do not want it to be taken as claiming that Ahmadinejad is an innocent victim forced out of necessity to do bad things.
He has almost no regard for the well-being of others. Indeed, he savors the opportunity to inflict suffering more than the opportunity to give aid.
He is intellectually reckless. Earlier, I compared intellectual recklessness to physical recklessness; specifically, to the example of a truck driver who fails to secure his load. When the load shifts and kills somebody on the highway, the driver is morally responsible for that death, even though he did not intend to kill that person.
Comparably, the intellectually reckless person stacks up a set of poorly secured beliefs. These beliefs make those who hold them a danger to others. Except, instead of a several pounds of debris falling on a car, we have weapons flying at civilians.
(2) The People of Iran
Ahmadinejad won a real election. He received less than 20% of the vote in the first round of voting, then 60% in a runoff election. The people put him in power. The people are responsible for their own actions.
Now that he has this power, it is up to the people, ultimately, to check his abuse of that power. Morally decent people would make their displeasure known, if for no other reason, the people of Iraq should do this for their own good.
(3) The President of the United States
In relationship to Iran, President Bush weakened this country beyond belief.
First, he branded Iran as a member of the “axis of evil” and put it on notice of termination. For all practical purposes, he could have just as simply said, “We are now in a race to see if you can develop nuclear weapons before the United States destroys you.” Both Iran and North Korea understood the message.
Second, Bush effective cut about 150,000 troops. These troops still exist. They are just tied down in Iraq right now and are unavailable as deterrence against Iran. If those troops were still sitting in their home bases, Iran would have to worry about what we may do with them.
Third, Bush weakened America economically. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq already, and we are running record deficits. This destroys the reserve that we could have run on in forcing a confrontation in Iran. If we were running a surplus, then we could easily afford expensive options such as military strikes or economic warfar against Iran. As it is, we have far fewer options.
Fourth, Bush squandered our friendship with other countries. In the first months of Bush’s Presidency when he unilaterally withdrew from the Kyoto Treaty, the ABM Treaty, and talks with North Korea, I felt that “Someday, we are going to need friends, and we will discover that we have none left.” Today, we are struggling to secure the help of countries that we scorned a few years ago. A person who stands alone is far weaker than one who stands with friends.
(4) The People of the United States
Just as the people of Iran bear the ultimate moral responsibility for their government, the people of the United States bears the moral responsibility for its government. We gave power to an arrogant, belligerent religious zealot who thinks that his special relationship with God gives him the right run roughshod over the rest of the world. Now, we live with the consequences.
If the situation does not change for the better, the suffering that results will be our fault.