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We Can't Be Allies with Iran...Iran Hates Us!

(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)

It stuns me the similarities between the language used by kids fighting on a playground and American politicians describing Iran. As I wrote yesterday, in both cases it boils down to, “But they’re so mean...and they hate us too!”

Yesterday, I tackled the first argument. Today, I want to show how silly it is to assume an entire other country “hates” us.

And I don’t have to go far to find someone. When I told my dad my solution to the Iran crisis, he actually brought up the point that Iranians hate us (Americans). My dad lives in southern California, home to the largest Iranian ex-pat population in America, so maybe he has experience with specific people. He doesn’t. My dad has one Iranian-American friend, who doesn’t hate him. My dad has never travelled to the Middle East, and hasn’t talked to an actual Iranian in Iran about the looming crisis.
   
Should we go to war with Iran because of a belief that Iranians hate Americans? Of course not. More importantly, how do we even know this is true? Does anyone have polling evidence that says, ‘Iranians hate Americans?’ And how many Iranians hate Americans? Is it 100%? Greater than 50%? Is it a very vocal minority? Where is your evidence?

Let’s be specific. Do Iranians hate Americans or do Iranian leaders hate Americans? My dad and most pundits, of course, mean Iran’s leaders. And Iran’s leaders have called America the Great Satan and plenty of other terrible things. Does every single Iranian politician hate America? Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has said before that “all Muslims hate America”, but does he speak for all Muslims? All Muslim politicians? Could his viewpoint change if America changed some of their policies?

More importantly, couldn’t Iranians say the same thing about our leaders? As Stephen Walt has written before, if Martians came to Earth and examined the evidence impartially, the bellicose war-like nation isn’t Iran, it’s America. (Read our earlier coverage to get a sampling.) I mean, one of America’s two presidential candidates keeps hinting that if elected he will take military action against Iran unless it agrees to several untenable negotiating positions.

So Iran and America could go to war because the war hawks of each country--who may not represent the majority--say idiotic and dangerous things?

That doesn’t make sense.

Instead, let’s make this argument reasonable. Since the fall of the Shah in 1979, both America and Iran have harmed each other’s citizens and violated each other’s sovereignty, as I wrote about yesterday. As a result, some citizens of each country “hate” citizens of the other. Let’s admit it, some Americans hate Iran. And definitely some Iranians hate America. When politicians--in each country--talk in extreme war-like terms, they cater to this minority.

This hatred, born out of ignorance and maintained because some people just want enemies to hate, exists in both America and Iran.

Acknowledging this fact has huge ramifications. Once we admit that some Americans hate Iran--a phrase few politicians will ever admit themselves--it empowers us. The best way to describe the situation with Iran isn’t, “because they hate us”, it’s “because we hate them.” And suddenly, by switching the subject and the object, the onus switches from Iran’s nuclear program to our own feelings about Iran. We have the power to change the relationship.

And once we realize that we control our own emotions--whether our country truly “hates” another country, which seems silly when you think about it--we can change our actions. As the schoolyard analogy showed, hatred can turn to friendship very easily. And this process has repeated itself throughout the 20th century as historical animosity turned into cooperation. Just look at Europe: France and Germany; France and England; Italy and Germany; Germany and everyone else; even now, Russia is closer to the E.U. and N.A.T.O. than at any time in its history. One of Mitt Romney’s big gaffes this year was referring to Russia as America’s “number one geo-political foe”. They’re not anymore.

Past hatred doesn’t necessitate future hatred. It doesn’t even rule out future friendship. So let’s get rid of the idea that Iran “hates us”, and start figuring out how to improve the relationship between our two countries.

One comment

usa should go to war with iran, because they people are annoying so much than you think, iran ordinary people’s are grow with they father and they father tech them to hate america,

don’t waste your time, let the war begin