While human rights are important, sometimes, we need to put our differences with other nations aside so that we can promote and maintain stability around the world. For instance, we put aside our differences with Stalin so that we could defeat Hitler. Our leaders rightly decided that we could deal with the USSR a lot more easily than we could with the fascists.
The problem with Howard Dean and Rudy Giuliani's piece today in Roll Call is that by that logic, we should never have signed any of the numerous arms deals we signed with the USSR. The present crisis in Ukraine shows the wisdom of our leaders in concluding nuclear arms reduction deals with the USSR despite that country's massive human rights abuses. Without these deals, Europe and the world would have been a lot closer to the brink of a nuclear confrontation over Ukraine.
It is ironic that Howard Dean is taking a hawkish stance on Iran given that he was one of the leading voices against our intervention in Iraq. This puts him to the right of Ronald Reagan, who successfully negotiated a historic treaty with the Soviet Union which actually reduced nuclear missiles instead of merely limiting them, as previous treaties had done. The INF Treaty has extensive verification measures in place. Despite the chill in relations between the US and Soviet Union, none of our differences have focused on intermediate range missiles.
In so doing, Howard Dean is on the wrong side of history. The hangings, public executions, and treatment of women as second-class citizens by Iran are barbaric practices that rightfully trigger outrage in the rest of the civilized world. But that should not keep us from opening a channel of communication with Iran so that we can verify that they are not using their nuclear energy to build weapons. Opening a channel of communication with Iran would have other benefits as well. When the first Bush administration engineered a thaw in relations with Iran, it resulted in the release of the hostages in Lebanon. Creating a thaw in relations with Iran again could allow for us to negotiate a peaceful solution to the civil war in Syria.
Opening the doors of Iran for business and trade would bring down the price of oil, since there would be a new flood of supply on the market. It would also expose the Iranians to our ideas and our values, which would create a lot more long-term pressure on the Iranians to reform their system. Right now, the Iranians can use the threat of American imperialism to justify these barbaric practices.
The danger in relying on exiles for information, as Dean does in his piece, should have been learned from Iraq. The New York Times, the Bush Administration, and the right relied on false information from Iraqi exiles to justify a massive invasion of Iraq that resulted in the loss of a million Iraqi lives, thousands of our soldiers killed, and no weapons of mass destruction. It got to a point where even the Bush administration got tired of the misinformation being fed by the Chalabi gang and shut them out of their circles. Running foreign policy based on misinformation always leads to disaster. We were told, for instance, that the Iraqi people would embrace us with flowers and teddy bears. They did -- until we put millions of them out of work, fueling the insurgency. Mission accomplished.
The lesson is that it is important to show a lot of skepticism whenever we hear claims that a foreign government has been about to totter and that the people would embrace us with open arms. The reality is that since 1953, there has been a lot of resentment against the US since we overthrew a democratically elected leader, culminating in the hostage crisis of 1979 and 1980. The New York Times' coverage of Ukraine is much more skeptical about the Official Story (TM) than it was in Iraq. The question is, why hasn't Howard Dean learned the basic lesson that we need to be skeptical about such claims?
It is ironic that Howard Dean ignores the fact that we are actively aiding Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, even through they rule their countries with great brutality. And it is ironic that we are aiding the rebels in Syria, even though Al-Qaeda is part of that coalition. If Howard Dean is so concerned about human rights, then where is his outrage over those cases?
We should follow the lead of Franklin Roosevelt and pursue a "good neighbor" policy with the entire world; for instance, he recognized the USSR for the first time. That means that we should pursue economic and diplomatic ties with the whole world and accept the fact that not every country wishes to be the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. However, it also means that we have no business whatsoever supporting dictatorial regimes militarily unless there is a clear and present danger to world peace and stability that requires us to put such differences aside like we did with the USSR during World War II.
While Dean may be right that the Iranian regime may be tottering and is desperate to get the sanctions removed, the change has to come from within, not from without. The change has to come from the Iranian people when they are disillusioned to the point where they are willing to throw off the current regime.