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June 10, 2004

Activism And the Issue of Power
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]
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A scene from the anti-war demonstration in front of the U.S. consulate in Vancouver, March 2003. ©MMIII Babak Seradjeh.

I had first called this piece "Punish, Forgive or Thank America?" That title was inspired by Arash Bateni's "Forgive, Ignore, or Punish America?!" Later, however, I drifted toward more general thoughts on activism and hence the new title.

Not more than 15 months ago, I was marching in the streets with many others to oppose a looming war to be waged on Iraq. I was even shown on TV screens in the news, expressing my support "for the cause of peace" and answering with a determined "no!" when asked "is this in support of Saddam?" It was of course not. "As an Iranian, I have suffered Saddam's war myself, and cannot perceive of acting in his support," I said. Over a year later, I'm not so sure any more. This new skepticism was partly addressed in a recent article by Yaser Kerachian. Motivated by the case of Iraq war, I will be concerned here with a more basic plan of action regarding such issues as international policies.

The United States of America bears the title of the only superpower of the world. She has the military might to invade a country (almost) unilaterally, or two for that matter, in about a year and set up new governments in them, although with understandable difficulties. She can exert a significant pressure, economic, diplomatic and otherwise to any country she deems trouble-making, based on her inhibiting power. All in all, she can considerably change the course of events in any part of the world. This magnificent power naturally gives rise to a variety of responses, on the two extremes of which sit "total rejection" and "complete acceptance." In the clash between these two the better part of our lives are shaped—but isn't there a more logical way, a more rational way in which to respond to the issues surrounding this, or any other form of "power?"

"Power" is at the core of most human interactions. Even more generally one could, as Nietzche did, put "power" at the center of a behavioural theory of life: a living being is constantly trying to overpower its surroundings, including its environment and other living beings. This is a grand-scale view of the living world; it treats life as a whole and assigns power to life as an essential factor. I am not after justifying such a power-centric point of view; however, I take it as the background of my discussion here. Taking this view as a starting point, and adopting a moral stance in which life is not evil, one is left with no other choice than accepting that "power" is not in its essence "evil" either. This is, in my view, a very important point. It means whatever approach one takes towards the issue of power, whether in politics or in everyday relationships, one must not dismiss it as morally bad. This is one of guidelines in this note.

On the stage of international politics, the U.S. is not the only player. International politics is a highly entangled web of power, with many minor and major players. On an absolute scale, the U.S. is the most powerful, but she is far from being the one who runs the show. As individuals, ordinary citizens of this power-ridden world each have a lowly role. But as a few instances in the past, from the Vietnam War to the most recent Iraq War, have shown, these voices when together can make themselves clearly heard and even make a visible, and important impact. So, as the role of this direct activism is enhanced it becomes increasingly important to (re)consider our own individual responses to power in such a grand scale. Putting together the fact that activism could play a role on this stage only when it is concerted and massive, and the scale of its impact in such cases, such contemplations gain even more significance.

From a power-based point of view, activism itself is yet another player in the game of power, another source of power. But, it has two essentially distinctive characters compared to other conventional players of the game: first, it has a temporary, highly changing existence and second, its tool in exercising power is merely displaying of its will. Most agents of power are more or less constant, and their sources of power range from, and commonly combine, military might to winning over a large following.

My central thesis is the following:

(a) Activism is by nature an alternative force in the game of politics. As a first and general rule, an activist must not take side with the conventional agents of power, i.e. governments.

But in doing so, an activist is faced with the constant challenge of having a position, as positions are normally for or against one or another player. How can an activist, who is an ordinary yet politics-aware citizen, not a professional politician, have an alternative position of any impact if it is not in support of at least one of the traditional agents of power? I call this the "alignment paradox."

(b) I believe, the alignment paradox could be resolved in only one way consistent with remaining an activist, in the sense outlined in (a): choose a rational basis for your stance.

All other ways of resolving this alignment paradox boil down at the end of the day to stopping being an activist, and becoming either just a passive occasionally voting citizen, or a full-time professional politician. I put an emphasis on rationality of the the activist's basis as opposed to, say, an emotional basis, in light of the on-going debate on the ethics of the Iraq war II. What follows is a sketchy draft of what I mean by this choice of words.

Emotions are valuable, but the era of romanticism is long over. The world is too complicated to be approached by a lump of raw emotions. Many a time, actions based on such emotions, though driven by a high standard of morality, result in taking an uncritical side with one of the agents of power, thus undermining the very spirit of activism.

Take the irresistibly charming punch line of most activists' rhetoric, "give peace a chance." This high ideal of "peace" and a collective better world for all, of course, remains an aspiration for many, including me. However, making "peace" when one's existence is threatened and under attack is nothing but making a sure deal for becoming extinct. The rational mind would see that "peace" is a luxury that comes after survival, and that most of humanity today is still struggling for survival. Taking action to oppose the Iraq war, for instance, based solely on the ideal of peace was/is irrational and the people who opposed/oppose the war this way (including me at some point), the so-called pacifists, acted/act irrationally.

For another example, take the more intellectual stance against "imperialism," "globalisation" and "(new) colonisation." This is a stance historically stemming from the left movement, in itself a product of the romantic era stretched beyond its historic bed. There are many emotions at play here: emotions that reject domination (another radical reappearance of the idea of power); emotions that prefer rural settings, small but diverse communities; and emotions that find foreign presence disturbing. These are all understandable emotions, and in fact, as I wrote above, I regard them as valuable. They could serve as ideals very well. Yet when taken as the basis of a stance, they are irrational. In the case of Iraq war, most people who argued against it along these lines seemed to be merely opposing the U.S. for the sake of opposing the U.S.

In both these examples, the opponents of the U.S.-led war became utterly uncritical of the other side of the fight, that is Saddam's regime. I do not recall a single demonstration organised by the activists, or any other party of people opposing the war, protesting Saddam's brutalities. This effectively reduced the whole activist movement to taking sides with Saddam in the on-going conflict and the looming war. In my opinion, this ultimate irrationality undermined the movement, its impact and its otherwise noble causes. The same seems to hold true in the U.S.-led and internationally better supported war against terrorism.

What I think should happen regularly is a constant critique by the activist movement of all the agents of power on the stage of international politics. If instead of opposing the U.S. so vehemently, there was a little bit of rational critique of especially the stance of the European powers in the U.N., I believe the situation in Iraq would have been far better than what it is now. Activists should stop being driven by (raw) emotions and demanding an immediate restoration of heavenly order on Earth and instead aspire to the valuable ideals set by these emotions: instead of hating the U.S. for being so powerful without a simple understanding of the dynamics of power, better try to use her power to move towards a better world. They should stop trying to prevent fixes of pending problems and instead act as a rational anti-thesis of all conventional agents of power: instead of opposing a war against a brutal and murderous dictator, better criticise the systematic sufferings brought upon the people, be it by Saddam, Islamic Republic or the U.S. Only via this course of action can we hope to get closer to a world less turbulent in the face of terrorism, better connected in the face of dominating global companies, less suffering-ridden in the face of eager egocentric powers, more considerate of all people's well-being in the face of dictators, and more peaceful in the face of wars.

Comments
Mehrad at June 10, 2004 07:10 PM [permalink]:

"...instead of opposing a war against a brutal and murderous dictator, better criticise the systematic sufferings brought upon the people, be it by Saddam, Islamic Republic or the U.S."

I was marching in London at the same time, Babak! But I considered, and still think of, our (you and me alike) action as a form of visible objection to a 'systematic' abuse of power - and not only to a certain incident of the war in Iraq. So, I believe that such a course of action was by no means 'irrational.'

It seems from your argument that excessive use of rationality could make fairly straightforward realities look complex and even upside down.

Dan Schmelzer at June 10, 2004 07:52 PM [permalink]:

Activism is a tool that is used by the US to achieve it's foreign policy goals all of the time. Indeed, much of the successful activism has been almost openly funded or otherwise supported by the US. So I wonder why your point (a) is necessary in most or all cases. See, for example, democratic activism in Georgia last year and this year.

Indeed, I wonder if it's possible to separate the two. In the case of Iraq activism, France declared a desire to create a counterweight to US "hyperpower", so there was an appearance that the war ativists carried France's foreign policy water as well as Saddam's.

In addition, non-state actors can give just as bad of an appearance of a conflict of interest. The Maoists at ANSWER provided part of the infrastructure for the protests, after all.

Senior Grad at June 10, 2004 08:19 PM [permalink]:

I'm impressed by the length of


your post. Maybe you should've posted it in several installments?

James at June 11, 2004 10:56 AM [permalink]:

While I’m sympathetic to the point I believe you’re trying to make here, I’m inclined to think it’s expecting a bit much of people in general. Overall people are not rational, they do not respond out of a sense of rational indignation or purpose, and very visceral in their emotions conclusions and expressiveness. A case in point is the one you raise, which is that there were many protesters engaged in demonstrating against the Iraq war, but barely any that ever demonstrated against Sadaam, or any of the other killers who run around this planet disguised as leaders. Murderous dictators get by because they’re not in our backyard, they’re not getting headlines (they tend to control media out of their country very carefully), and collectively this dulls our senses about what is the right thing to do. War is something close to home, it involves husbands, wives, sons and daughters, it involves tax dollars most feel are better spent elsewhere, and for some it’s just a passionate sense that war is not the answer, in spite of the fact that there are times when it does seem to be the answer; alas, we haven’t a rubric for when it is or isn’t, much less one that all can agree on.

My general sense, though, is that you believe that there should be a mechanism in place that rationally determines where power should be exercised in the world, and this I agree with totally. I don’t think one nation can make a go of unilateral intervention as the U.S., the one nation that many would expect could, is showing it can’t as it asks for help extricating itself from Iraq. A mechanism for collective pressure of a non-military sort would likely be much preferred to war, and having a standard whereby the leading countries of the world agree on a threshold where war would be appropriate would go a long way towards clarifying how nations should be good global citizens. The challenge is what body comes up with this mechanism and how do you convince nations to defer some issues of sovereignty to such a body, especially those nations that tend to convince themselves during moments of blindness that they can go it alone?

eswin at June 11, 2004 12:18 PM [permalink]:

I am dropping a few more lines here because it is related to our previous discussion.

I think you have touched upon an important issue.

Years ago, when the Halabja genocide took place, there was no "millions demonstrating in protest" on the streets of Western capitals. The west was more concerned with the Cold War.

I remember when I asked some anti-war activists that where were you guys when Saddam was massacring the Kurds (?), I got a response that "we were kids then!". I was talking about the anti-war movement and they thought I was talking to them individually. When I clarified, one of them who was more intelligent said: “Well in those days we have priorities, such as anti-nuclear armament activism or anti-apartheid activism.”

Hence, when you look at the incentives of the idealists closely they too were very "realistic" about it in a very political sense, than a philosophical and humanist one. They were concerned about issues that were close to them (James has well elaborated about it in a comment before mine).

However, I beg to differ on one point. Perhaps, you people opposed the war because you do not believe in systematic abuse of power, which is commendable in its own right, but you did so with an immediate issue in your minds: you were concerned about precedent setting impact of the US intervention; you did not want to see that happens to Iran.

Frankly, I am aware many Iranian students had other reasons that were more materialistic; they were afraid what would happen to their scholarships that they receive from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

What I am trying to say is very simple; people are motivated by more immediate, concrete, and "realistic" issues.

To me any type of incentive (scholarship, concern about our relatives back home, and so forth) are very legitimate, but I fail to see how far idealism can be pushed.

As AIS has mentioned in a previous comment about France and Germany, and I myself with respect to Russia, the activists tried to establish a strategic alliance with the governments of these countries.

From a "realist" approach to politics, it was very natural and realistic to do that, but in principle, it was very hypocritical. None of these activist organizations, as you mentioned, cited, and condemned the support of France, Russian, and Germany (their respective private and public sector) for the Iraqi regime that directly contributed to the commission of crimes against humanity! They considered the US solely responsible for the entire monstrosity that Saddam had committed.

Quakers, amongst all pacifist groups, were the only ones who did not do so and this is because they are extremely principle oriented.

I am sorry to say this, however, I tend to think that opposition to the war had more to do with “realistic" "alliances" and hence it was given a "humanist" facade. In the end, in tactic and rhetoric those “for war” and “against the war” on Iraq pursued the same means (realist politics) to pursue "apparently" humanist ends.

Ironically, both of them have so far “failed” in realizing their objectives. Iraq is still far from being peaceful and democratic, and there is no guarantee that the US would never take such action again in near future.

yahya at June 11, 2004 01:30 PM [permalink]:

>Frankly, I am aware many Iranian students had other >reasons that were more materialistic; they were >afraid what would happen to their scholarships that >they receive from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Eswin, just to keep the facts straight: I don't know a single Iranian student (among hundreds whom I know) who has a scholorship from the Iranian government, and I consider most of them fairly independent minded considering the fact that they have seen two sides of the ongoing conflict and not trapped by a single worldview.

James at June 11, 2004 02:54 PM [permalink]:

I do know someone who came to the U.S. on a "stipend" from the government, but she's a post-doc and traveled on a J-1 visa. Of course she married me, insane woman that she is, which surely speaks well for her independence. I'd also second Yahya's comments about the many Iranians I have met here, they are unfailing open-minded and independent in their views, interesting to talk to, and make for great friends. I may well be dealing with a select group given they're all doctoral students, but they've surely fueled my personal interest in Iran and its people.

eswin at June 11, 2004 04:41 PM [permalink]:

Well,

I appreciate the feedback.

I "indeed" "do" know people in Europe (Britain, France, and Germany, who opposed the War and who receive government support. They were not as outspoken as the independent minded people were, but still they contributed to the organization of many campaigns. If this is all hearsay, gossip, and none of it is true and everybody is independent minded, then I will stand corrected and apologize.

One of those places is Durham University, which is apparently very popular amongst this cohort. Perhaps, it was not a good idea to brig that up, because it does not go well with people, especially, when one cannot name names. My source worked until last December at an Iranian Embassy in Western Europe, and according to that person's information those people were very active in Britain, Germany and France. Unfortunately I cannot rest my case as presented in such ambiguous terms, but perhaps some Proud Baseeji may really have been out there.....

Still, "materialistic" reasons in and of themselves are valid. After all, those people will one day go back to Iran and serve the country.

I also attach this to my comment that many people who participated in anti-Shah activities were receiving scholarship from the Shah's regime. However, apparently either SAVAK did not take them seriously, or they were lucky. Amongst them were names such as "Tavakoli Fard" if it rings a bell (and I know it because he wanted to work for the Atomic Energy Agency as he applied to and my aunt was working as an Accountant in the office of the President at the time and she saw his file which indicated he received his funding from the Pahlavi Foundation), and a few other members of the former cabinets of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 12, 2004 05:54 PM [permalink]:
I agree with most of your article and with the approach you are taking. However there are areas of disagreement. I mostly agree with Eswin about what he calles the 'realist' view of the activists behind the cover of 'nice slogans'. But there is a problem here. Governements should be realist and pragmatic in their actions. After all they have to keep things running in a complex world. Activism on the other hand is supposed to be the society's conscience. When that is replaced by other 'realist' motives and when those are far from the morally acceptable and actually extremely hypocritical ones, there is a problem here. I am actually much more pessimistic than you are about the intentions of the majority of today's activists. You mentioned "emotions that reject domination (another radical reappearance of the idea of power); emotions that prefer rural settings, small but diverse communities; and emotions that find foreign presence disturbing." Is this really what is at play? Then why wasn't there worldwide demonstrations in these scales when the Soviet Union (a Super-Power itself) invaded Afghanistan? Or Eastern Europe for that matter? Or When Iraq invaded Iran? What about Syria's domination of parts of Lebanon? Or China's domination of Tibet? They seem to be VERY selective where to let such innocent emotions flow. Another example: "Take the irresistibly charming punch line of most activists' rhetoric, "give peace a chance." This high ideal of "peace" and a collective better world for all, of course, remains an aspiration for many, including me. However, making "peace" when one's existence is threatened and under attack is nothing but making a sure deal for becoming extinct." Again I don't think the activists in general are ignorant of this rational argument. They use it all the time to justify the acts of certain other peoples. Isn't this what they always say about Palestinian 'resistance'? And they go much further because these 'peace loving' people seem to have no problem in justifying acts of deliberate murder of civilians, including children or pregnant women based on such argumet, although such acts can never be helpful in any way to the survival of either side. they don't seem to have much problem with the blood bath and complete ethnic cleansing that's going on in Sudan and other parts of Africa to this very day despite their peace loving nature. They didn't seem to care much about 8 years of war between Iran and Iraq that left a million deaths on both sides and was one of the bloodiest wars of the last 50 years, or the use of chemical weopans by Iraq for that matter...Again the honorable emotions are very selectively exhibited. They seem to be very much concerend with the inhuman poverty stricken condition of people in the Third World, but that usually completely overshadows the special and much more horrible sitaution of Women by the hnads of their own fathers, husbands and males. It is only those aspects of the third world that can be blamed on the Industrial world easily enough that are of any concern to them. There are horrendous tortures going on in Iran right now. There are Nazi-like experiments going on in North Korean concentration camps in this very moment. Common sense concludes and past experiences have shown that any kind of large public protest against such smaller countries have better chance of being effective.(take the case of Faraj Sarkouhi or the chain killings of writers in Iran the public reaction e ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 12, 2004 06:19 PM [permalink]:

Another good example of the hypocracy is the anti-nuke movements. They were very active, presumably because of their concerns about nuclear wars back in the days of the Cold war. But today that is actually much more dangerous in this respect with Pakistan and India becoming nuclera weopans, the mullahs soon aqcuiring one and the nuclera bacl market in the remnants of the Soviet Union the whole thing doesn't seem to interest all those 'honest' activists anymore.
Interesting!

James at June 12, 2004 06:59 PM [permalink]:

Uhmmmmmm ... AIS, they're still active anti-nuke groups, regardless of who has the nukes. Back in the days when they were demonstrating to ban the bomb people in this country were scared, very much so, that the nuclear arsenals built up on both sides of the Atlantic, were poised to fly to their intended targets sometime soon. For some clue of what it was like I do very much encourage you to see "Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb"; the lunacy of the time is well depicted here, and it's easy to see how people were frightened then.

The sense of anxiety, which I will admit to remembering even as a boy, was very palpable and real. Anti-nuke demonstrators in those days, to include Betrand Russell and Linus Pauling, had something very real and viscerally compelling to demonstrate against, and by and large the population in most western countries were at least sympathetic, if not active supporters, of their cause.

That feeling of threat just doesn't exist today, which isn't to say the anti-nuke advocates aren't there. For as much as today any country may be a nuclear threat to their neighbors it's only very dimly that they are directly so to the U.S. --- if they're going to deliver and detonate a nuke here it'll have to be clandestinely and untraceable for if it's connected to the country of origin that country will cease to exist given the extant U.S. nuclear capabilities today.

The present anti-nuke activists (the Federation of American Scientists for one, and the Union of Concerned Scientists being another) are interested and engaged, but their support base, the average Joe on the street, doesn't quite have the same sense of a threat they did when the Soviets were the one presenting the threat. Today oil prices, global warming and where to get a good lattee are more important.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 12, 2004 07:53 PM [permalink]:

James,

I agree mostly with what you say.But you see that was my point as well. I'm sure there are real activists who mean what they say fighting painstakingly all the examples I gave before.
(I don't know about these two groups, but are they really concerned about what is going Iran and older soviet blocks and black market or is it still about American/Russian arsenals?)

the question is why don't all those loud groups who organized such mass anti-demonstrations, those like that Michael Moore clown who make cheap propaganda crap or others who use everything in their power to diminish the present administration (with all its various faults no doubt) instead take those other real causes seriously and come in the help of rare and obscure real activists?

Babak S at June 13, 2004 04:38 AM [permalink]:

Mehrad:

I do not think of U.S. actions as a "systematic abuse of power," at least not in the case of Iraq. You see, "abuse" of power by a state could only be, in my opinion, against an individual citizen or the collective will of citizens, for instance as expressed in the form of a democratically elected government. That was not the case for the war in Iraq.

AIS, Eswin and others:

I understand AIS's point as to the intentions of the mainstream activists not being so much out of their emotional good will, but as Eswin says rather based on a more realistic point of view. I was trying to analyse the situation in a best-case scenario, without taking into account the politics of intentions. Moreover, I'm hesitant to call these real activists. The way I think of it, activism is supposed to provide a constant critical point of view regarding a diversity of social and political issues, to voice "the society's conscience," as AIS wrote.

By the way, what is the source for that poll in Germany, AIS?

Mehrad at June 13, 2004 09:07 AM [permalink]:

Babak, you say:

"abuse" of power by a state could only be, in my opinion, against an individual citizen or the collective will of citizens...

Your definition of 'abuse' covers only the attitude of one state towards its, let say, 'subjects.' However, the same 'abuse' can happen in an international level, and I do believe that the invasion of Iraq was a sheer example of such attitude. I don't want to talk about the outcome. For me it's as simple as this: when 'one' overlooks, bypasses or rejects the rule of law knowing that nobody is able to punish its violation, then, that 'one' is abusing its power -it can be a boy in a playground, a despot in his ruling territory, or a superpower in the international arena.

Babak S at June 13, 2004 02:12 PM [permalink]:

Mehrad:

The ellipsis in your quote removed a vital example in my definition: "…for instance as expressed in the form of a democratically elected government." This covers such examples as the U.S.-backed coups in Chile and Iran, which are not "the attitude of one state towards its, let say, 'subjects.'"

Your definition based on the rule of law is rather conventional and I dare say too simple for the international politics. What if the law is stupid or not so much the expression of the will of the affected people or the proper implementation of the laws is prevented by the other powerful players on the stage. I think all this applies to the case of Iraq war: the alternative was to wait for the inspectors to find a needle in the haystack, which is stupid, continue with the sanctions, which wasn't so much the will of the most affected people, i.e. the people of Iraq, and the proper procedures in the U.N. were blocked by the European powers, e.g. France.

Finally, I do care about the outcomes, since they are what give the proper, and practically more important meaning to any action. With such idealistic stance as yours, you have to answer why you did not demonstrate against the Taliban brutalities, the on-going terrorist attacks on civilians, the genocide in Rwanda and now in Sudan, etc.—or did you?

James at June 13, 2004 04:06 PM [permalink]:

Removing a muderous despot from power is not an abuse of power. Doing so without an international consensus and approval is, especially when you go hat in hand to the same international audience after you removed the despot and ask for their help. Bush lost his standing to be right on this issue when he dissed the U.N. and went in on his own, not to mention providing a context for killing/invading that is nowhere to be found (WMD).

That said, all despots who wantonly kill and invite genocide should be removed in some fashion or another. The problem is that there's no mechanism that allows for this, and there's many questions regarding how such a mechanism would be applied fairly.

On the whole, had Bush deigned to work a bit longer through diplomatic channels, gotten the approval of nations besides Pogo Pogo and Outer Somoa, and sold this as murderous dictator cleaning when all efforts at diplomatic actions and pressures failed, this intervention would be moral, legal and fundamentally the right thing to have done, though why it took this long would beg an answer.

James at June 13, 2004 08:40 PM [permalink]:
AIS, I encourage you to visit the Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists sites. I think you'll find that both organizations provide ample coverage of WMD, terrorism and a wide range of other issues. If one provides an email address to the UCS they'll provide email activism similar to Move.org on a wide range of issues, of late missile defense and global warming. If one responds to these emails they send an email letter to your congressman, senator or government agency representative regarding the issue of concern. Moore isn’t all propaganda and I think you overlook some things that he has done that are worth thinking about. In "Bowling For Columbine" the question that most made an impression on me was why Americans are so fearful as a people relative to other countries, in particular Canada? Also, what in our culture leads to something like Columbine? I think those are good questions worth pondering. Anyway, you have Michael Moore on the left, but that hardly balances out druggie Rush Limbaugh (ok, cheap shot), Homity and Colmes (or something like that), Bill O'Reilly, and Anne Coulter --- political hyperbole and histrionics are far better represented on the right than the left if you ask me. Why doesn't the issue of present day nuclear proliferation have traction? Ok, this is my take on it for what it's worth. When this was an issue people were scared, and there was what I'd called a supersaturated zeitgeist amongst the population as a whole that was a part of that fear. In the 50's we were saturated with movies like Bombers B-52 (1957), Strategic Air Command (1955) , and A Gathering of Eagles (1963) , all trying to sell the American people that they were safe in spite of the bomb, that the brave men and women in uniform responsible for launching these weapons were taking care of us, and we shouldn’t worry our heads over these things. During this time we detonate a hydrogen bomb “device” (the bomb came later) and the Russians not long thereafter do the same thing (though with something not quite a full hydrogen bomb or device.) The government was also trying to do its thing to convince people that they were safe, coming up with "civil defense" (CD) plans for the event of nuke war. CD was very evident to anyone growing up in NYC during this time as "Fallout Shelters" were designated throughout the city with signs that looked like what you see here Fallout Shelter Signs; you can likely still find these leading into the basements of older buildings in the city. In these shelters were rations to hold over occupants during a nuclear war. In addition the government ran nuclear war drills, where evacuation plans were put into effect and people practiced what they'd do in the event of nuclear war (which is where the famous and overly silly "Duck and cover" song came --- "What do you do Johnny in the event of nuclear Armageddon? That's right, Duck and Cover!"). But then something happened that no one quite expected, and it helped move a supersaturated situation into a precipitate of action, leading to what became the anti-nuke movement; that “something” was a mother. When evacuation drills were carried out wardens went around ensuring that everyone made their way to the fallout shelters. This meant heading down into the basement of a building which, even in the best of buildings, tended not to be a pleasant foray. This was a problem for mothers with children inasmuch as there was nothing for the kids to do ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 13, 2004 09:28 PM [permalink]:

Babak,

I don't believe either that 'true' activism is the same as what today constitutes the majority of activist efforts.
I thought you were trying to explain that 'majority' by attributing it to 'emotional' responses, and I disagree with this.

Here is a source for the poll from Der Spiegel, September 2003:
Panoply of the Absurd

James,

I'm sure you are more informed about the cultrural traits in the US back then and thanks for sharing them. But my point is that since the activists are supposed to and sure boast about leading the public opinion from its narrow everyday life to hings that 'matter' this disregard from the nuckear threat today from those loud, influencing 'activists' today.
I amof the opinion that after the Cuban Missile Crisis where the Soviet Union backed away from final confrontation the threat was never as serious as today when such lunatics with no attachement to reality and no reservation for human life are so desperately seeking nuclear weopons.
I don't want to repeat myself, but surely you acknowledge that France ,Germany and Russia hade made it very clear that they were NOT going to agree with a military campaign and regime removal categorically. (And it is not difficult to see why!)

Mehrad,

what 'law' are you talking about? There is no international 'law'! It would be great if there were, but in reality the international arena is goverend by power only. It is interesting to study the factors that helped form 'national soveregin states' and try to see what can lead to an intrnational counterpart, but one thing is clear: beaurocratic contracts a la EU or UN leads to nowhere!

Eswin at June 13, 2004 10:24 PM [permalink]:

Unfortunately, I have to agree with AIS's point concerning the power base of the implementation of international law.

Your reference to power as the only instrument of enforcing international law was first articulated in Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace.

In 1992, at the end of the Cold War, I was amongst those "navie" people who hoped that the end of the Cold War would mark a new era in institutionalism (I did not take Bush Senior's new world order seriously, btw). I was wrong.

Years ago, when I was doing research on the failure of the League of Nations, I ran into a very interesting piece of history that relates to Persia.

The Persian delegation at the League of Nations made a motion that the League sends a military delegation for investiagation, in the advent of the Italian invasion of the Abyssinia (the Ethiopia).

The Canadian delegation that represented the British Common Wealth at the League's Council "vetoed" the Persian motion based upon the sheer fact that Canada and Common Wealth did not have any viable interest in that region! Still, Persia managed to have a motion passed in condemnation of Italy, declaring it the aggressor (October 1935)and of course Ethiopia was meanwhile occupied by Italians.

James at June 13, 2004 10:52 PM [permalink]:

AIS, My point is that no matter how obstreperous or active an activist may be, if the population at large has no general sense, a zeitgeist as it were, of a problem then it doesn’t matter what that activist does. Withour that overall sense of a problem he/she won’t have much of a forum, won’t get much backing, and they’ll have zero traction politically or anywhere else that counts. In this case this specific issue has no public traction so neither do the activists concerned with it.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is the closest the world has ever come to Armageddon. I’m sorry, but today the best a terrorist can do is blow up a city, not start a chain reaction that ends in a nuclear annihilation that would seem to undermine whatever cause they’re fighting for. Today may in some respects provide more chances for a nuclear bombing, but not total destruction of the planet. Is the threat real? Yes, probabilistically it is. Is it as real as what occurred in 1962? No, no where near.

No, I do not agree with the position on the European countries. They were not forced by the U.S. to show they were opting to support a tyrant, either out of a moral reluctance to engage war or because of profit motives, over doing something about what he was doing; the U.S. simply decided not to consider “old” Europe worth the trouble to convince or diplomatically box in. I’m sorry; we’re not in agreement here.

Add the following to the list of Armageddon movies: On the Beach (1959) (one of the first, if not THE first), and The Bedford Incident (1965).

Arash Jalali at June 14, 2004 01:59 AM [permalink]:

Babak, I would like to ask you a few questions, if I may:


Rule (a) in your post mandates that an activist should by no means, and under no circumstances, align him/herself with other sources of power, e.g. governments. Why is that? Is that because you see no point in activism unless other powers overlook, ignore or act against the principles of morality, ethics, and/or humanitarianism? Powers do sometimes coalesce. Why should activism be any different?
In your view, what's the difference between an activist and an intellectual? Aside from the obvious difference in their form of function, of course. Is it not possible that you are mixing these two roles with one another by mistake? Is what rule (a) says not more befitting of an intellectual rather than an activist?
Since you categorized activism as a form of power, would you agree that the actions and/or inactions of powers in general might sometimes be due to ignorance of some sort, and that past mistakes should not be the sole base for criticizing the present actions of a power? If so, then don't you think asking why Mehrad did (does) not participate in any demonstrations against the killings in Rwanda (Sudan), is just like asking why America did not do anything about the mass killings in Halabja in the 80's?

My understanding is that neither side of the argument is willing to pass the other side the courtesy of being right sometimes however fallible they might be in general. If it is unrealistic to reject America's decision to invade Iraq solely based on its mistakes ( such as supporting and turning a blind eye on Saddam's attrocities ) in the past, then it should be equally unrealistic to question the cause of activists protesting against the Iraq war merely because pacifist movements have by-and-large failed to show due reaction with regards to the attrocities committed in Sudan or Rwanda.

I will have more to say about activism and popular movements, but I will defer them to another comment.

James at June 14, 2004 09:43 AM [permalink]:

First, a good article in this weekend’s NY Times on nuclear proliferation, which includes a diddy on Iran. I haven’t read it all yet but I’m expecting it to be very digestible: The Netherworld of Nonproliferation

Second, for those REALLY interested in this discussion of exercising power, go to Kerry Faces the World in the Atlantic Monthly. Here are some interesting tidbits, apropos some of the conversation in this section, from the article:

“Though the former Yugoslavia has continued to experience strife, the settlement in the Balkans remains the most successful one in recent memory, and offers the model on which a Kerry Administration would probably build. As Holbrooke told me, the Bush Administration's actions in Iraq have shown that the Administration understands only the military
component of this model: "Most of them don't have a real understanding of what it takes to do nation-building, which is an important part of the overall democratic process."

”A key assumption shared by almost all Democratic foreign-policy hands is that by themselves the violent overthrow of a government and the initiation of radical change from above almost never foster democracy, an expanded civil society, or greater openness. "If you have too much change too quickly," Winer says, "you have violence and repression. We don't want to see violence and repression in [the Middle East]. We want to see a greater zone for civilization—a greater zone for personal and private-sector activity and for governmental activity that is not an enactment of violence." Bush and his advisers have spoken eloquently about democratization. But in the view of their Democratic counterparts, their means of pursuing it are plainly counterproductive. It is here, Holbrooke says, that the Administration's alleged belief in the stabilizing role of liberal democracy and open society collides with its belief in the need to rule by force and, if necessary, violence: "The neoconservatives and the conservatives—and they both exist in uneasy tension within this Administration—shift unpredictably between advocacy of democratization and advocacy of neo-imperialism without any coherent intellectual position, except the importance of the use of force." [Highlights added by me].

The limitations of the current administration and how it’s going about things is pretty nicely summed up the article. If the U.S. is going to use force it can’t go it alone, it needs to do so in conjunction with other nations and smartly, as it has in the Balkans.

Eswin at June 14, 2004 05:26 PM [permalink]:

I honestly do not know if Babak's work is the first one that so self-reflectively looks at the process and outcomes of the 2003 anti-war campaign.

Also, it is not fair to accuse people with good intentions, however materialistic they might be, of hypocrisy. However, I still find it imperative to note that activists are often as self-righteous as the P5, or the Bush Republicans.

First, as AIS pointed governments are not perfect. Hence, no entity is perfect.

Second, it is not correct to judge any movement in aggregate terms. The Peace movement has changed a great deal since the time of the Cold War. However, by virtue of principle, if one rejects systematic abuse of power, the observers expect some level of consistency on aggregate "in principle" and at least with respect to the "specific occasion" because of which there is "a worldwide co-ordinated protest". Hence, I have more problems with the one-sidedness and naiveté that governed a highly organized movement.

I would go to the point that I would withdraw my other statements concerning the failure of the peace/anti war movement to react to the Halabja massacre when it happened. I would, very realistically, expect that all quarters of the movement to equally condemn the atrocities of Saddam against the Shiite and the Kurds at the same time that they demonstrate against the US' unilateralism.

One may find it hard to accept the justification/excuse that the movement was huge and so forth. This movement was successful in co-ordinating a worldwide demonstration on a Saturday in the winter of 2003 that brought eighteen million people across the Western world to the streets.

It is hard to believe that they could not co-ordinate an "unequivocal" condemnation of Saddam and calling for his trial at the International Criminal Court. After all, it was because of the grassroots lobbying that the International Criminal Court, much to dismay of the United States, was created.

It is difficult to understand that such a movement that showed such high ability of organization in sending "Peace Ambassadors" to Iraq could not realize that the Iraqi regime was using it for its own purposes.

The so-call solidarity movement that was created in the months leading to the US assault on Saddam, sent peace ambassadors that were greeted by the most ridiculous minister of information and Tariq Aziz and were eventually offered to act as Human Shields!

Of course, not until the Iraqi regime tried to use them as human shield for refineries and other strategic places, they concretely realized how "Saddam was using them" to sustain his survival!

These blunders were more than some wrong-headed faux pas. They were irresponsible actions on the part of those who had to be “consistent” in their condemnation of “systematic abuse of power” under any circumstances and especially with respect to “all sides” of the conflict. At best, I would say the movement was hijacked by a feeling of anger and inferiority complex towards the US.

I unfortunately fail to see how one can establish a best case scenario without paying due attention to "intentions" and "incentives".

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 15, 2004 07:17 AM [permalink]:

James,

are you joking again?!
The Balkans? The only reason all those other nations were willingh to coopertae in a joint effort was because The Blakans is in Europe and at their doorsteps, so they had interests of ending it, not any "Kerry/Clinton/Democrat" miracle!!
Hey how about Clinton handling of Mugadishu? Or hos terror fighting tactics? throwing ONE rocket somewhere in Afghanistan cave land in the HOPE that it MIGHT kill Osama, or another one to hit a drugstor in Africa? How about their anti-terror intelligence legacy? After all it only lead to 9/11, so BIG DEAL, right?
My dear dear James, Nothing is like that when it comes to the ME. Only the opposite is true.As for belovede 'unilateralism' (have you ANYTHING else to use but this?) Again I am putting it to you that it was the Europeans and the Russian who categorically rejected coopertaion and undermined joint efforts , not this US administration.

Anyway after such pearls as these:

"Mr. Hanson clearly is vying for a position within the administration."

"If you’re not a neo-con, but you like to do what the neo-cons say, I guess that makes you a neo-con wannabe or better, a neo-con suck up."

"The Vietnam War surely didn't liberate anyone but defoliated and decimated a people and a nation whose ONLY wrong was to have a civil war that we wanted to influence directly."

"...American wars, neo-con logic and intentions, and America’s pre-eminent place as the world’s TYRANT cop who spills milk that it gets to ask others to clean up."

[emphasis mine]

Comes this new free Kerry election ad from our very own James, the multilateralist. According to your own standard we must conclude that your 'intentions' are to win over votes for the democrats here :))
Hey, the crisis in the ME is of the islamist variety, remember?
Surely the BEST people to handle this brand are the democrats and the Kerry team in particular. After all he wants to refer everything to one of the most corrupt and useless instituites of the world today and also apologizes before hand to, among others, the Mullah regime in Iran.
Or what about Clinton who waited as long as he could to shake hand with the buffoon president of one of the bloodiest theocracies of history, for his self-image?
How about the laudable tradition of the crisis handling techniques of the Carter administration? Surely no on ecan deny their SUCCESS!

Yes, when it comes to Islamists and the Middle East, the democrats are the ones nto do the job! Who DARES to doubt that?

[quick James, where can I get my share now?]

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 15, 2004 07:28 AM [permalink]:

Oh yes, and don't forget that in the Balkan episode, america didn't even referr the case to the UN to pass resolutions or get a vote. So far for international legitimacy..whatever.
(But of course they were not neo-cons, so they are allowed to do these things, isn't that obvious?)

James at June 15, 2004 09:56 AM [permalink]:

Dear Dear AIS, You are strident, clearly; tone it down a bit, you’ll think clearer.

We intervened in the Balkans because our interest was that it was on the doorstep to Europe --- we didn't want to leave it to the Europeans to do because we're paternalistic or something like that? Uh huh ... and we intervened, by ourselves, in Iraq because ... hmmmmmmmm.

I never said there was a miracle in the Balkans, no one has to my knowledge, rather that it was a mark of some success given that it was a reasonably successful multilateral effort and that things are in fact moving in the right direction there now. If our reasons for traveling over 6,000 miles in greater numbers and cost to occupy a country were stronger than what we rationalized for traveling 2,200 miles to assist in the Balkans, then it does seem to me that we should have been able to make the case for why it was equally important to the Europeans to at least accede to our endeavor. But that wasn’t important to this administration, or it wasn’t in their tool set in a manner of speaking, and the one quote you neglected to regurgitate which is so dear to me, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission”, comes into play as we now do our utmost to get the other countries to play in the sandbox we dug ourselves into. If we thought this was fit for unilateral action it begs to wonder why in the world we are so keen on getting help with it now --- hmmm, maybe Republican political, i.e. electoral, concerns have something to do with it.

Dear me, an Ad for Kerry? Hardly, I was merely pointing out the difference in thinking. Providing information from a national magazine is called “sharing ideas”, not vote getting; bit of a difference there.

The crisis in the ME is Islamic --- uh huh. And the crisis in the Balkans had nothing to do with Islamists --- we’re on shaky ground there big guy. That said, I’m not sure where you’re getting your ideas regarding what Kerry plans to do, but I’d love to see the references. Of course mine was The Atlantic Monthly, and since I’m sure you read the article and culled the pearls therein, I’m stymied at how you’d come to the conclusions you did. Well, different minds think differently I suppose.

Let’s see, just as a game what can we come up in retort to your Democratic “issues”, hmmmmm --- Nixon bombing Cambodia; Nixon/Kissinger helping to topple the government of Chile; Reagan and Nicaragua, giving us the Contras, leading us to the Iran-Contra affair; Reagan and his funding of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (the U.S. Govt may have had a problem with Iran, but this was overstepping it a bit given who started the mess); Reagan and his handling of the bombing of the Marines in Beirut (i.e. we never did find who did it, nor did we attack those responsible, i.e. the terrorists); Bush “I” and the Iraq Kurds and Shias after Gulf War I. That’s just off the top of my head --- some of this is just as gratuitous and unfair as what you listed, i.e. pre-9/11 no one had much success with getting terrorists, in caves or otherwise. That said I’m not sure I see political affiliation as a beacon for moral or international certitude.

Why in the world do you end your paragraphs with things like “… surely no one can deny that!”? Dear me, of course someone can, I do all the time, and you should by now know better than to think it’s merely because I’m stupid. As I said earlier, less stridency, more thinking, calm down, and you’ll have more cogent arguments and less rant.

James at June 15, 2004 10:01 AM [permalink]:

You're right, the U.S. in the Balkans didn't go through the U.N., it went through NATO, which given the geography seemed pretty clever to me (the UN presented a problem largely due to Russian resistance --- they didn't care one way or another about massacres it seemed, but were rather affectionate for their Serbian buddies.) The idea was not what body approved the endeavor, but rather that the endeavor had some measure of international backing from nations of some weight, and that the U.S. wasn't going into this on its own. All of these conditions were met, clearly, in the Balkans.

Yours at June 15, 2004 02:29 PM [permalink]:

I wonder why the benevolent US does not go some 60 miles, instead of 6000 miles, down to the south and liberate the people of Cuba from the tyrany of Fidel.

James at June 15, 2004 02:45 PM [permalink]:

That's an excellent question Yours --- I guess that's right up there with "Who made the U.S. the arbiter of what dictator should stay in power?"

Benevolent? A more appropriate choice of words is: trying to do some good in the course of looking out for its own self-interest, as are most nations.

Babak S at June 16, 2004 07:22 PM [permalink]:

Arash,

I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you on your questions. I think I should confess that although this posting of mine had been takiong shape for quite a long time, it did not come out as clear and coherent as I wished. The ideas connecting its different pieces are somewhat vague, perhaps at least partly due to the complex nature of the subject. I had to spell them out and in doing so, I rushed through things.

Now, to your questions:

1. Rule (a) is there because I think activism is the means by which the genral populace of the society, at different scales, could express itself, educate itself, and get involved, especially when other mechanisms of doing so are either absent or too rigid to serve the purpose within a given time-frame or for a given situation. Activism can't coalesce with the state power or particular political parties, since that defeats its purpose and undermines its existence per se. These all have more or less fixed agendas, activism in general doesn't. Of course there are different forms and areas of activism, and they may have definite purposes at a given time, but as a mechanism, activism doesn;t have such political agendas.

2. I don't understand why you think I'm mixing activists and intellectuals.

3. Well, yes, I agree that actions/inactions of a power might be due to ignorance. But I don't think asking Mehrad, or myself for that matter, why we did not protest against the killings in Rwanda is the same as asking why the U.S. did not react to the killings in Halabja. The reason is we act on a finer scale, while the U.S. and other states act on the more coarse scale of international politics, and are generally bound by too many constraints. I'm not saying they should be exempt from criticism, but that their functioning principles are very different from those of an individual. I can act on the prinsiple of "killing is bad" in my life, and protest instances of "killing" around the world, understandably with a reasonable normalised weight. A state power on the other hand cannot act on such a principle, since killing, not only is a tool exercised by other players on the stage to achieve their goals, cannot constitute the ultimate red line in a state's foreign relationships, since that's unrealistic and could even lead to the destruction of that power. The dynamics of power on such scales is very much more like the dynamics of power in a jungle.

I would like to write more, but I really need to make a stop here. More on this later then.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 17, 2004 02:18 AM [permalink]:

James,
"The idea was not what body approved the endeavor, but rather that the endeavor had some measure of international backing from nations of some weight, and that the U.S. wasn't going into this on its own."

I see. So the only condition for legitimacy (or whatever keeps you satisfied) is whether France and Germany agree with it or not, because beside these two, in Iraq US went with a full coalition including UK, Australia, Spain, The Netherlands and East European countries, Japan....
None of them have any weight (or are non existent according to "...the U.S. wasn't going into this ON ITS OWN."

veeeery veeeeeery interesting.
James buddy, give it a rest.

James at June 17, 2004 06:17 AM [permalink]:

AIS, Do you make an effort to be borderline disrespectful, or is it just a natural consequence of the way you are? If the latter you really need to work at fixing that if you expect to go out into the world and have intelligent, productive discourse with those around you. "Buddy, give it a rest" is the sort of concluding statement I expect to encounter at a biker's rally.

Henceforth, and in all honesty this is a conclusion I likely should have reached a long time ago, as regards your posts I shall indeed give it a rest.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 18, 2004 12:30 AM [permalink]:

OK. if that is your way of saving face while you are not going to give answers the points I raise, using such side issues as excuses, that's fine with me. Honesty is not something I have often encountered in people of your camp.

James at June 18, 2004 08:18 AM [permalink]:

AIS, In my camp? Jeezzz ...

Listen AIS, you don't even properly follow a discussion, to wit: The original point I was making was that the U.S. should not have gone into Iraq unilaterally. Then I point out that such a unilateral effort was made, i.e. the Balkans. Then you hit me with, but that's not the UN. Uh huh ... the same UN that's run by a security council comprised of the what countrys? Right, most of the countrys in NATO, who acted in concert with the U.S. to intervene in the Balkans (where according to you there was no Islamic issue --- you accuse me of skirting my claims?). My point all along was that the U.S. has acted in concert with other countries, the very same countries its been trying to get support from today. You want to be dismissive about this, and fret over the fact that Bora Bora, Figi and Tibet didn't have a say in the Balkans? Fine, I personally don't think it matters.

I don't care if you disagree with me, points of perspective will always differ. The issue is being reverent and desirous of discussion, to be here to learn something even if it's that someone has well-thought out points of view that contrast one's own. The dismissive endings to your posts irritate me. Get a better handle on the tenor of your posts and I'll be happy to have a discourse with you, even when I know you're wrong; otherwise I don't need the irritation. If we can be collegial and avoid telling each other to give it a break, or whatever, then I'm all for a discussion, even if that's not to be expected from someone of my camp.

James at June 18, 2004 12:29 PM [permalink]:

Correction: "Then I point out that such a unilateral effort was made, i.e. the Balkans." Should read: "Then I point out that a multilateral effort was made, i.e. the Balkans."

Sorry for any confusion.

PROUD BASEEJI at June 18, 2004 09:10 PM [permalink]:

Dear James,

A WORD OF ADVISE

Don't waste your energies with AIS, he really has a Hitler-like mentality, totally irrational and surreal. I gather you are new here but if you stick around for a while you'll see what I mean. Check out his comments on his posts here:
"By the way, congratulations! That imbecile pile of defecate, Saruman himself, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin is so gloriously turned into a pile of blood and junk, his very elements!
It really made my day, haven't been this happy for a long time. May the same fate meet our Mullahs, baseejis and othert islamist brothers as soon as possible.
A great Nowruz beginning!"

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 19, 2004 03:58 AM [permalink]:

You see James, it is difficult to continue discussion with someone who so openly ignor FACTS all the time.
"The original point I was making was that the U.S. should not have gone into Iraq unilaterally."

Well as I said before, if unilateral is not meant to be despite UN, then the US did NOT go to Iraq alone. There were many other 'weighty' countrioes with US, like UK, Australia, SPain, Italy, Japan, Eastern European countries... The main difference between the GROUP that went to Iraq than the one which intervened in Balkans were France and Germany. So ARE you going to address this issue or not? :)

As for Islamism in the Blakans, again the wart was an ETHNIC one between Serbs, Croatians and moslems (NOT islamists). The Islamists which went to participate in that war were but a side factor. Besides the US fought the serbs not the moslems in that war.

I'm still waiting for a response to the points we have reached in this discussion and not about me or what a good boy should be like....

" The issue is being reverent and desirous of discussion, to be here to learn something even if it's that someone has well-thought out points of view that contrast one's own."

Indeed! But I was not the one who ended one discussion suddenly with
"Sir, I bow to your logic and concede to you the mantle of better interpreter of American wars, neo-con logic and intentions, and America’s pre-eminent place as the world’s tyrant cop who spills milk that it gets to ask others to clean up."

or use language like neo-con suck up etc.

SO back to the main issues. The FACT is that US did NOT go to Iraq alone, but with a coalition of important countries. As long as a direct approval by UN council is not the definition of 'multilateralism' , you can not accuse US of unilateral war mongering. (and even as far as UN is concerned Iraq wa sin contnious breach of a dozen UN resolutions, so it was not the US which undermined the UN but others.)

James at June 19, 2004 07:38 AM [permalink]:

AIS, My ignoring facts, which is hardly the case, is not the issue. Being nasty, disrespectful, and just plain not nice is. You're in the category of being distinctly unpleasant to deal with, and any other "points" you may be waiting to have addressed by me are effectively in abeyance as far as I'm concerned until you can agree to act, as you so aptly put it, as a "good" boy.

I won't put up with nastiness here, the main reason I am "here" is that the rules to participate are so clear regarding being respectful and to use the forum as a learning vehicle. You're clearly not stretching the invitation far enough to be booted by the moderator, and I respect that, but in my case you are and c'est la vie.

Anyway, that's my point of contention with you and our discussion. You don't like how I bowed off to you, fine --- we've both reasons not to talk to each other and we should keep it at that.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 28, 2004 10:37 PM [permalink]:

I just want here to simply point out that any causal reading of your series of comments here would show a continous stream of name calling and personal attacks all supposedly as a reaction to something as simple as a 'buddy' or the like that I am accused of having used here.

The only solace in all this is that you seem to have finally decided to give it a rest after all, which is a very fine thing.

James at June 29, 2004 05:42 AM [permalink]:

AIS, Hmmmmmmm, no, actually your disregard for polite discourse and dismissiveness comes through in many ways aside from the off hand use of "Buddy", and apparently I'm not the only one to think so. Not that you can't be polite and engaging when you're not being personally biting, you just don't seem to believe consistency in that regard is important.

As for causal readings of my comments --- sorry, I never learned to do causal readings, never seemed to have the time. "Normal" readings of what I have written would, I believe, support an attempt at dialog and understanding, though a lack of patience with anyone not able to hold up the standards of polite exchange. Any
"continuous stream of name calling" on my part would have had to have been on some strange Freudian level, and while I may be guilty of that I doubt it, and I don't do Freud any more than I do causal readings.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 30, 2004 03:28 AM [permalink]:

Whatever James, Whatever.