America is flirting with a war with Iran that makes no sense, but may be the ultimate price for voters paying almost no attention to foreign affairs.
Saber rattling about Iran didn’t start with President Donald Trump. It began four decades ago when America, and most of the rest of the world, was shocked by the overthrow of the shah by a broad popular uprising.
Images of crowds in the streets chanting “Death to America” and ayatollahs calling our nation the Great Satan galled Americans, especially given that our diplomats were held hostage for more than a year in retaliation for the U.S.’s giving sanctuary to the shah as he was dying of cancer.
Still, the designation of Iran as an existential threat to America makes no sense, especially given that Saudi Arabia remains a favored friend.
Iranians are Persian, not Arab. They are an ancient and proud people unwilling to be bullied by a foreign power. Is their rejection of demands that they turn their backs on their leaders and their form of government just because America says so any different from the way we Americans would react if the tables were turned?
The religious ayatollahs that rule Iran today have consistently refused face-to-face talks with America’s presidents. They operate in their own sphere of influence in the Middle East.
Iran may verbally threaten Israel, but knows well that an actual attack would provoke an immediate American military response. In fact, even before the 1979 crisis, which ended without hostage casualties, Iran had not attacked America.
The same cannot be said for Saudi Arabia. The 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. Muslim fundamentalism that drives al-Qaida and ISIS originated in and is supported by Saudi Wahhabism. Saudi Arabia is among the least democratic nations in the world, yet Prince Mohammed bin Salman is welcomed at the White House and his citizens are not on the list of banned travelers.
At least some of the blame for these irrational foreign policies falls on American voters. While foreign affairs get some attention during campaigns, voters notoriously pick leaders based on their own concerns and pay little attention to other countries.
For the moment, President Trump seems to have turned his attention elsewhere. Unless Americans pay more attention to the nuances of foreign affairs, the drums of war can too easily become cannons aimed in the wrong direction.