Contradictory Coalitions: Ron Paul, Iran and left-wing activism
Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, a Foreign Ministry spokesman for Iran and left-wing activist and Independent blogger Jody McIntyre probably don’t see eye-to-eye all that often. Yet, surprisingly, all three have made identical arguments in the last week. But politics makes strange bedfellows, foreign policy creation is complicated and sometimes people lose their way.
Jody, who is in the middle of an admirable fight against the Metropolitan Police force, characterized the cohort perfectly in a repetition of the anti-west sentiments I have opposed before. It came, this time, in a blog condemning the complicity of a silent media in Nato’s Libya campaign:
“This [Libyan intervention] is nothing to do with protecting civilians,” he wrote. “[It is] everything to do with re-establishing a waning military and economic domination in the region.”
Ramin Mehmanparast, the aforementioned Foreign Ministry spokesman for Iran, followed suit. In a press conference yesterday morning he agreed whole-heartedly with Jody’s condemnation of the West’s support of pro-democracy revolutionaries in the Middle East:
“Some regimes, especially America and the Zionist regime, with particular aims, are provoking terrorist groups in Syria and in the region to carry out terrorist and sabotage operations,” he lied. “What is happening inside Syria is an internal issue. The government and the people of Syria are politically mature enough to resolve their own issues.”
And then, like an eager chorus singer, it was the turn of Ron Paul, the Representative for Texas’ 14th Congressional District and “intellectual grandfather” of the Tea Party. He had more than a blog or a press gaggle though; thousands of miles away in the political coliseum of New Hampshire, he, and six other primary candidates, gathered to collectively bash Obama’s presidency. Amid vision of economic apocalypse, the long time Baptist took time to share in Jody and Mehmanparast’s vision of a world less connected:
“Nation building in Afghanistan and telling those people how to live and getting involved in running their country … [sic] let them take care of themselves, get the troops out and end that war.”
See? It’s strange, isn’t it? They are unanimous in their opposition to our support of the Arab Spring, yet unanimously opposed to one another. And this isn’t a one-off, like some freak planetary alignment. The fervour with which each hold their belief has driven one to Presidential candidacy, one to terrorist apologist and the other to an anti-war panel tour.
But what, I hear you silently enquire, does this say of the argument? What, other than a desperate need for help in a losing cognitive battle, forces the good, the bad and the ugly to be romanced by the same proposition?
The answer reveals the sprawling contradictions at the heart of small ‘c’ conservative foreign policy. It’s a collective that goes by many names, but whether you call them isolationists, protectionists, independents, liberals (bizarrely), selfish or cowardly, it remains the only ‘ideology’ that can be simultaneously supported by the darkest and lightest fringes of the political spectrum. And it’s important to know why.
Ron Paul represents the cohort of traditional, economic conservatives who contrast the images of blooded streets in Syria with jobless ones in Bethesda and reach the conclusion that charity starts at home. Why, they ask, should we invest in some godless corner of the Middle East when we can’t even put food on Joe the Plumber’s table or diplomas in his children’s pockets?
It’s a compelling argument, and one that has won countless elections in harsh economic climates, but it’s also circumstantial, and one GOP front-runner’s aren’t keen to rely on. Not least because it encourages the answer ‘okay we’ll get baked beans BA’s to Joe, then can we get flat-jackets to Syrians?’ No, for Ron, and the bastardised tea party that supports him, inertia in the Middle East is more successfully warranted with the misuse of words like ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom.’ As though aid or, heaven forbid, a military presence in the region impinges on the fundamental rights of Arabs to die at the hands of their Sovereign.
And it is with that last word that the far right convinces the far left to join ranks. The problem is that the opposition of ‘war guilt’ and ‘neo-colonialism’ sullies the discourse of the left, and for as long as it does the Jody McIntyre brigade will hold sovereignty supreme. For them, any western involvement in the political transition of any group in any country is an unbearable show of capitalist force and repatriation of historically subservient nations. I know this because I was told, angrily, by dozens of ‘anti-empire’ activists at a hostile discussion on Libya’s future earlier this year.
But it’s ludicrously inaccurate. Theirs is a belief born from a bad hangover after a late night drinking game at the height of the Cold War, and died shortly after. America and the Soviet bloc had set about enveloping African and Middle Eastern republics, installing tin pot regimes and developing crude trade mechanisms that would economically colonise the world. That was neo-colonialism and a true affront to international sovereignty; the kind ignored by mainstream politics, warranted by ‘silent’ media outlets and railed against by the then admirable far-left. But that was also a process of capital acquisition that shares nothing but geography with today’s interventions in democratic revolutions.
A conclave of today’s far-left, however, has failed to update their rhetoric. Instead, they continue to argue vehemently against the two straw men of ‘empire’ and ‘gun-barrel democracy’, without proving their’s a real threat from either. And that would be okay, heat generates light and debate for debates sake should be applauded, were it not also handing credence to the far-right libertarians and the further right terrorists they shared a rhetorical stage with yesterday.
And finally, sharing nothing but a conclusion with the other two and entering the troop from a totally different road, there is the Realpolitik rationale of a religious autocracy with everything to lose and countless ways to lose it. Whereas Jody and Ron base their argument on a system of ethics and ideological considerations, Ramin Mehmanparast and the foreign office of Iran base theirs on whatever will get one up on ‘Zionist’ Israel. Spend 5 minutes in the small Italian loafers of President Ahmadinejad and it’s easy to see why his foreign minister said what he did. The ‘government’ faced the question of picking the enemy they know (US-Israel) or the enemy they don’t (a free Syria), and chose, like always, to reject the premise.
Although, for all its callousness, brutality and stupidity the continued support of Syrian leader Bashir Assad fits Iran’s M.O. The country’s elite hate the west and fear their people more, so the logician in me finds it difficult to expect anything else. Especially now, when the old oil autocracies left in the sea of liberal up-starts are facing another unilateral resolution supporting a free Syria.
Somehow though, despite standing in opposite directions to spit into the winds of change, this unlikely triumvirate has formed a contradictory coalition with enough credence to maintain their employment and enhance their popularity. Then again, politics makes strange bedfellows, foreign policy creation is complicated and sometimes people lose their way.
iran, Libya, NATO, Ron Paul, syria
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