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Unpleasant Truths
The Folly of Faith-Based Foreign Policy
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  • Pete

    1. “Like Donald Trump at an evangelical prayer meeting, they will say whatever magic words will open the door to power and acclaim.”

    Have to take a dig at Trump, huh? A better analogy would be Hillary at a NAACP convention speaking in an accent and the poor grammar of a Negro. Hey wait, that actually happened! Remember, Mead.

    2. As for Iran, that country well deserves all the internal trouble in the world.

    • M Snow

      You beat me to the complaint about the Trump snark, but I love your analogy about Hillary at the NAACP. Thanks.

    • Anthony

      Pete, your mind is corroded with N***** this N***** that. Negro this Negro that; that can be construed as one hell of an American preoccupation.

      • Pete

        My mind is not ‘corroded’ as you speculate. Rather, it seems your mind has been closed either by self-interest or political correctness.

        • Anthony

          Well, Pete, I choose to differ as your short material reveals otherwise; as to either self-serving bias or the simplistic political correctness charge, in this case NA. Finally, this is The American Interest not The American Renaissance (nevertheless, I read your comments with equal measure).

          • Pete

            “I choose to differ as your short material reveals otherwise; as to either self-serving bias or the simplistic political correctness charge.”

            You’re delusional. But if that gives you comfort, take enjoy it …. but don’t expect others to drink your Kool-aid.

          • Anthony

            Pete, you referenced “Kool-aid’ analogy years ago. As I informed you then, I didn’t drink Kool-aid as a child so never acquired a taste. Most importantly, I certainly don’t think you’re delusional as much as mistaken but I take no comfort in recognizing a Blind Spot.

          • Fred

            In one of my exchanges with Anthony (if that’s what you call me pointing out his BS and him getting huffy, petulant, condescending or anything else to avoid the issue), Jim_L alerted me to a corollary of Godwin’s Law: When a liberal accuses you of racism, he has effectively conceded the argument.

      • Hominid

        Ah – the “racist” card – how original!

        • Anthony

          Your interpretation lacks originality. And to preclude further commentary, when one is bereft of context and continuity interjecting erroneously darkens (obfuscate) exchange.

          • Hominid


          • Anthony

            When all else fails, rationalize.

          • Hominid

            That’s YOUR tactic.

          • Anthony

            No, my tactic is to not waste time with the aggrieved internet surfer. But All right, Hominid, I got it! Let’s end this (as WRM has written a wonderful essay awaiting your reply).

          • Fred

            You forgot pseudo-intellectual.

    • dannyjoelamaster

      You do realize that the overthrow of the Iranian democratically elected president in 1953 by the the u.s. and Britain was the action that led to Iran becoming the theocracy they are today. The oil company that was taking Iran’s oil is the same company polluting the gulf of mexico. BP British Petroleum.

      • Steve Goldstein

        I’ve heard that theory and am aware the relationship between the Mossedeigh overthrow and Khomeni’s rise was even suggested in “Argo” But the events were separated by 25 years and I’ve never really understood the connection. Could you explain your view? Thanks

        • dannyjoelamaster

          The resentment the Iranian people had at their puppet leader, the shah. And the U.S. surfaced thru their religion. It did take many years to come about. The shah came to the U.S. and brought a massive amount of Iran’s money with him. The Iranians stormed the compound and took hostages. Where Iran would be today if we had not did what we is anybody’s guess. However, The ayatollahs of Iran used the Iranian people and spurred their anger to get their country back in a sense. Without the overthrow and the installation of a puppet dictator the ayatollahs would not of had a foundation of anger to use to do what they did.

          • Youcanonlybeamused

            Thanks for taking the time to respond thoughtfully. I understand the argument but am not sure I agree for two reasons: first, I have a general suspicion of “alternative history” where we ask ourselves how we could have changed history- it’s totally theoretical; but much more significantly, everyone in that part of the world hates the US (except for Israel, of course) regardless of the role we have played in their history. I’m not sure why Iran would have been different, even taking into consideration they are Persian and not Arab, and Shia not Sunni.

            Thanks again

          • dannyjoelamaster

            Our version of history of our middle east experiences are often not what many people in the middle east remember. We are seen there as cultural imperialists. We always seem to think WE know whats best for them. Israel a state we helped create, weaponize, and financially support is a sore spot in many places.

      • jeburke

        Nonsense. Mossedeq, the Shah, the Communists, the liberal nationalists were all secularists, none more determinedly so than the Shah. You might just as well say that leftists and nationalists who undermined the monarchy were responsible for the rise of the theocrats. This is the trouble with people who don’t understand the power of religion and must ascribe all human actions to materialistic causes.

        • dannyjoelamaster

          The 1979 uprising was a direct result of the U.S. and their puppet the Shah. The American and British Imperialists who undermined the Iranian government because Mossedeq started questioning the British about the way the were basically stealing Oil from the Iranian people. Without the anger the religious used to fire up the people, religion would have not been able to gain power.

  • Observe&Report

    Trump is the only one who recognises “the wretched consequences of two successive national strategies in the Middle East”.

  • jeburke

    On the other hand, Prof. Mead, the history of the world over the past century or so could be described as marked by the gradual spread of liberal democracy — and cosmopolitanism — from a handful of states, most prominently the US, to a great many from East Europe to East Asia. To be sure, some may not get it right all at once but the trend is unmistakable. It would be quite a shame if Americans were to regard their liberalism as just another view, different from, but not superior to, others and give up on proselytising it.

    • johngbarker

      That is a very important point. Many still look to the U.S. as an aspirational model; does our secular culture have a future outside Western Europe and the Anglo-sphere? What role will religion play in our destiny?

  • Ellen

    Thanks for that essay. Always a pleasure to read Prof. Mead at his peak. And it is certainly always a pleasure to read a member of our tenured professoriate discussing the delusionary views of his colleagues and other liberal cosmopolitans who imagine themselves superior to people of faith, while they subjugate themselves to the least rational of all faiths – the belief that liberal cosmopolitanism is the correct path for all peoples and nations to take. An entire civilization encompassed by the present day European Union abandoned thousands of years of its own history to organize itself according to this religion, and are now rueing the consequences, as they slide downhill faster than anyone else except….the Arab Muslims. Societies that endure must believe in something. The two pertinent questions always are: what is that something, and are they really sincere in their belief? The third followup question is can they convince the little people they rule over to share their enthusiasm for a long enough period of time such that they enjoy the benefits of tenured positions as power-mongers?

    Whatever else one can say about Donald Trump and his apparently failing campaign, he has given these scoundrels a run for their money and frightened the dickens out of them. Their grasp of power may not be as long-lived as they think. I hope someone with the courage and flair of Trump, but with more decency and political competence, will appear and pick up the torch before he blows it out, and continue the struggle after November.

    • SolidCitizen

      If he loses the election, I can only hope that someone with Higher Skill comes a long and makes history in 2020. I pray that Donald is the voice in the wilderness, for a coming national salvation. We will be very far gone by then.

    • johngbarker

      Ellen, you write of “. . .thousands of years of its own history. . .” Most of those years were consumed by warfare, religious and ethnic violence, and injustice of many kinds that pushed your ancestors and mine to leave that history behind, to cross the sea to start a new life in America.

      • SolidCitizen

        Geography has played a big part in our successful “cosmopolitan” religion in these parts of north America… Because of Extreme Carelessness, in our immigration policies, welfare system, and education monopoly, It appears we are just “getting Started” over here. Our “Birthright” of heretofore societal Norms of patriotism, achievement, English, and a unashamedly Churched population was so tolerant, so forgiving, so flexible, that we have tolerated, and forgiven, and flexed ourselves into a coming civil war. It may be human nature… but most likely communist/marxist agitation + human nature that will bring about our demise.

  • The existing ideology for Russia, Iran, and the United States is the same: tyranny.

    What most tyrants worship around the world, whatever words they dress their faith in, are the gods of power and wealth. Their faith in those gods is entirely sincere; it is fervent, heartfelt and all-encompassing. If the Great God Power is best approached in their country by mouthing communist pieties and citing the works of Marx, they will devote hours to these rituals—not animated by an assumed belief in communism, but by the true ruling passion of their lives: the lust for power.

    We do need faith-based foreign and domestic policies. But it must be a faith in the true God, not government.

  • Zapedowski

    The reason democracy causes disintegration and civil war in multiethnic states like Iran, Iraqor Yugoslavia is that democracy and self-determination are inseparable. The solution is to tie democratization of multiethnic states to their peaceful partition, on the Czecho-Slovak model. I don’t care if it takes the global elites 20 more years to understand this or 1,000 more years, it is a truth. (And no, the solution is not more dictatorship – because dictatorships never last forever, and when they disintegrate, Pandora’s box opens).

  • SolidCitizen

    I am confused if there are only two “True Religions”. Mammonism (wealth) or Molochism (power). Has anyone seen them both in the same place at the same time? Is it a Clark Kent and Superman thing?

  • ClawhammerJake

    Capitalism is just a name we give for a system designed to make the rich richer.
    Part of the system is a large number of comforting myths told and retold to satisfy the poor and lower Middle Class.

    • SolidCitizen

      Hijacking Churchill, “Capitalism is worst form of economy, except for all the others.”

      If you want to know the truth of the matter consider the case of “North and South Korea”. 63 Years ago they were identically war ravaged populations, with similar populations, resources, and skills. The South embraces CapitalismWelfarism, the North goes all in for Communism. Currently the per capita income of South Korea is .. $33,000 PPP per year and North Korea per capita income is estimated to be $1,800 PPP per year.

      Secondly, honestly which counties are people trying to immigrate into and which countries are people trying to emigrate out of?

    • seattleoutcast

      That is not true. If we actually had capitalism in this country, you’d know that. Unfortunately we have a system run by a cabal of bankers that starts with the Federal Reserve. They, in turn, give credit to the major banks who then lend it out. Where is the idea that capital, that is, savings, is kept by the banks and loaned out to others? When one doesn’t even receive 1 percent on a savings account, then one is not rewarded for saving. When I can receive at least 3 percent on my savings account, I will say that capitalism has returned.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Thank you professor Mead for a very felicitous, balanced and interesting post which I did not find disparaged Trump.

  • Excellent article, as usual, but I must disagree with the assertion that Persians dominate the political and institutional life of Iran. In actuality, Iran is dominated by both Persians and Azeris. Azeris form between 15 and 25 per cent of the population, and up to a third of the population of Tehran and Qom. They are significantly over-represented among the elite. True, there is a movement for an independent “South Azerbaijan,” but it is relatively minor. Significantly, Ali Khamenei himself is of Azeri background on his father’s side. Early modern “Persian” dynasties (Safavid, Qajar, etc), moreover, were of Azeri (or other Turkic) background. In those days, Turks generally supplied the military power, whereas Persians supplied the cultural and social power.

    The Azeris, moreover, are also 12er Shiites, like almost all Persian. Many Kurds, and most Baloch, however, are Sunnis (or in the case of the Gorani-speaking Kurds, highly heterodox Shias who are hardly Muslim at all). And while the Arabs who live in oil-rich Khuzistan are largely Shiite, many of them have strong antipathy against the Persians. This is where Iran’s ethnic problems are situated, not in the Persian/non-Persian dichotomy.

  • ljgude

    Another example of WRM’s deep historical insight into liberalism giving us a term – liberal cosmopolitanism – that includes both Obama/Clinton and the brothers Bush as well as the ruling elite in Europe and elsewhere around the western world. While neo-con and liberal internationalist are useful terms they mask the cosmopolitan core common to both groups. And it is that core that has led to disaster. As someone who initially believed that Bush’s invasion of Iraq could lead to a more democratic result I was forced to conclude that the sectarian and ethnic divisions in the country precluded such a result. So I was shocked when Obama and Hillary embarked on their Libyan adventure without benefit of boots on the ground but was not shocked when it led to chaos with no possibility of a surge to restore order. What I didn’t see until I read this essay was that both administrations are like children arguing over the best way to play with matches long after they have both managed to set the house alight.

  • QET

    What I took away from the report is that Iran’s toxic gun culture encourages bitter clingers. Remember what Our President said: “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

    All Iran needs is reasonable gun control regulations, including universal background checks.

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