Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Regimes have their own logic 3

This extends a comment I made here.

A defector from the Iranian regime has claimed that Westerners persistently fail to understand the regime because they do not get that it means what it says.

One of the things that helped Hitler a great deal is lots of people did not believe he really meant all that "nonsense" about lebensraum and argued he was just a "normal" German leader manoeuvring in normal ways for diplomatic advantage. The people who got it right were the ones who worked out that he did mean what he said and that his actions matched his words.

The actions of the Iranian regime match its words. As with Hitler, there is lots of stuff that looks like "normal" diplomatic manoeuvring and then there are the extra bits.

When you look at the regime’s rhetoric, it is not staking negotiable claims, it is not connecting to general political sentiments, it is communicating justifying all-trumping purpose to supporters. That is the sort of rhetoric to be worried about.


  1. Right, what many don't want to own up to is that Shia leaders as devout Muslims are driven not only by religious zeal but because of that by a commandment to be truthful. So when they threaten they mean it. (Western) diplomats and politicians who are used to veiled language and their own spin doctor's ruses will one day die from lack of imagination on this front.

  2. by a commandment to be truthful
    I am not sure what commandment that would be. Shia Islam has historically been particularly marked by the practice of taqiyya or deception, endorsed by the Prophet.

    The point would rather be that they are clearly not practising deception when talking to their own people.

  3. The Iranians have convinced me long ago that they mean what they say. I know from my own experience that fear can make people, including myself, pretend to themselves that an adversary doesn't mean what they say. As a tactic it can buy time but in the case of Iran time will only result in a nuclear armed Iran. Given the Jewish experience with Hitler I find it hard to believe that Israel will not choose to fight now rather than wait - Obama notwithstanding.

  4. The current policy of the Obama Administration can be read two ways: to make it very difficult for Israel to react militarily or to make the maximum amount of distance between the Administration and Israel when Israel does attack. I have no idea which, but I do not think the current Israeli government in particular will be passive on the matter indefinitely.