Posted by: bklunk | September 22, 2006

Do Ahmadinejad and Chavez Matter?

Check out what Daniel Drezner has to say about Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In other words, claims that individual leaders or individual political performances make a difference leave me, for the most part, unimpressed.

danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Blog

Drezner addresses in an interesting way the levels of analysis question we have been discussing in class. What do you think of his contribution?

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Responses

  1. I have a different intpretation than this:

    “…I judge whether someone has put in a good political performance based on whether they manage to persuade others of the merits of their worldview. Looking at Gwertzman’s account, I did not see that.”

    While it is certainly true that Ahmadinejad did not persuade anyone in the CFR, he may have already persuaded enough people in China and Russia as to not need Americas blessing. It sounds to me like Ahmadinejad is having fun telling Americans what he thinks of them, always in a respectful manner, of course.

    The article was very informative and the links to source sites were plentiful. I should probably read some of the other comments.

  2. I think Daniel brought up a good point when he said, “Like Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad might be able to stoke his own supporters, but he seems to excel even more at creating and unifying his adversaries.” And I would have to agree with Daniel.

    Clearly Chavez’s speech last week created quite the stir, especially among Americans. And I suppose it can be said that there is good reason behind that, but I too, think that Chavez’s comment could just be disregarded. My Spanish professor, who grew up in Peru and only recently has moved to the U.S., said it best when she said that Chavez’s comments didn’t surprise her; she’s familiar with his name-calling rhetoric as she’s followed South American politics. She, too, said that Chavez’s comments should be disregarded as he was really only seeking attention.

    So do Chavez and Ahmadinejad really matter? I would say yes and no. I think it’s just a matter of knowing what things to focus on and what things to not pay attention to.

  3. In terms of Ahmadinejad being a capable politician such as Andrew Sullivan states, I do believe this to be somewhat true, (maybe one could say a good actor as well). Going back, Ahmadinejad won the presidency out of nowhere, he was a radical that know one expected anything out of. Today his face is known around the world as a definite actor against the US and the UN. He is voicing his countries rights to have a peaceful nuclear program and standing up for his country when it is under attack, a true role of a politician. While he is standing up for his country rather definitely he is also making comments that stir the international community as well (Holocaust, Israel etc.) that compromise how well the world sees him. While these comments might be only for show and attention, I don’t believe subsequently everything he says should be brushed off or unanalyzed. In the US when Ahmadinejad granted interviews to the US media, many Americans thought it wrong to give this man a voice. If we have going to better understand the country of Iran, their situation and their president than we must give him that opportunity so we can better try to understand him even if his comments/ideas are more far reaching and attention causing then we could hope. If anyone watched the interview with him on NBC nightly news I found him nothing but interesting and insightful and it was a good opportunity to understand a very complex man and situation.

  4. Although it may be comforting to think that Ahmadinejad may just go away without much of a fight, however I for one do not believe that this will happen, and in a time when the Middle East is under such radical infrastructural changes, I believe that a strong will such as Ahmadinejad may not just pass through without leaving a mark. What frightens me about the situation with the Iranian leader is that he is more than willing to communicate with anyone who is willing to listen and gives his perspective, as has been stated, with a respect and serinity that can easily irritate the everyday politician/world leader. I think that Ahmadinejad knows exactly how to play his cards in international affairs and is only currently just starting out on his voyage as an influential leader. I think that it would be foolish to say that he will mean nothing in the long-run. Is this what people thought of Osama bin Laden when his name first appeared? Although in this case we aren’t technically dealing with a terrorist, we are dealing with the ruler of a country that is not historically a friend to many, especially the U.S. I think overlooking his potential as a dangerous foe is a grave mistake that may be regretted.

  5. I would agree with everyone here who has stated that Ahmadinejad is a political leader who will more than likely make a difference in this world (for better or worse is the question. He isn’t someone who is going to just pass with the seasons. He is a man with ideas and ambitions. He is someone who is very stubborn, who believes strongly in his ideas. He carries many of the same traits as our own political leader and using us as an example it is apparent that people like that don’t just pass with time. They tend to be the people who know exactly what they want and they make sure to do anything they can to get what they want either for themselves or for their country.
    I feel that the U.S. government or the people for that matter cannot just turn their heads when people like Ahmadinejad and Chavez speak. They both have very important and interesting things to say, which we should be listening too. Obviously the way they choose to express these feelings is sometimes done poorly; however, there are pieces that we should concentrate on. For example, when Chavez accused Bush and our government of being a bully we chose to caste that statement aside and forget about it. I honestly don’t think we should brush that off. There are lots of countries in this world who think we are a bully for choices and decisions we have made which affect those countries. To be honest with you I would agree. We’ve upset a lot of people over the past few years which is causing us to lose the power that we have because countries will no longer work along side us. They are finding ways to ignore us (like Iran and its relations with China and India). I believe that if we want to continue to be a powerful country then we need to start listening to what people like Chavez and Ahmadinejad have to say. We can’t judge our country soley on how we view ourselves or how our allies view us. We must also look at how the countries who are against us view the U.S. because those are the relationships we need to be focusing on if we want to end terrorism and try to bring peace to the world.

    I feel that the U.S. government or the people for that matter cannot just turn their heads when people like Ahmadinejad and Chavez speak. They both have very important and interesting things to say, which we should be listening too. Obviously the way they choose to express these feelings is sometimes done poorly, however, there are pieces that we should concentrate on. For example, when Chavez accused Bush of being a bully. I honestly don’t think we should brush that off. There are lots of countries in this world who think we are a bully for choices and decisions we have made which affect those countries. To be honest with you I would agree. We’ve upset a lot of people over the past few years which is causing us to lose the power that we have because countries will no longer work along side us. They are finding ways to ignore us (like Iran and its realtions with China and India). I believe that if we want to continue to be a powerful country then we need to start listening to what people like Chavez and Ahmadinejad have to say. We can’t judge our country soley on how we view ourselves or how our allies view us. We must also look at how the countries who are against us view the U.S. because those are the realtionships we need to be focusing on if we want to end terrorism and try to bring peace to the world.

  6. Sorry I didn’t mean to post the last paragraph twice.

  7. I wonder, are ending terrorism and bringing peace to the world goals of the United States?

    At first it seems obvious, yes, of course. But US actions over the past 60 years have made it possible for an argument to be made that powerful individuals within our country actually view war as a desirable national interest. Since the end of WWII, the US has adopted doctrines into its foreign policies that have promoted international militarized conflicts.

    Starting at the onset of the Cold War with the Truman Doctrine that stated, “U.S. foreign policy would use intervention to support peoples who allied with the United States against external subjugation” (Kegley and Raymond, p.80). This statement led to the advent of the Korean War. When communists crossed the 38th parallel (the border dividing Korea into USSR occupied North and US occupied South), the US correctly interpreted the action as a threat to peoples who allied themselves with the US. According to the Truman Doctrine, such circumstances mandate US intervention to prevent the external subjugation of our allies. After the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Truman Doctrine was applied to Viet Nam, first by, “supplying French forces with equipment and military advisors in order to combat Ho Chi Min” (wikipedia – Truman Doctrine), and eventually by once again intervening with a large military force.

    Before the end of the Cold War-which did see several periods of US and Russian cooperation (in 1963 when both sides relaxed weapons development and again in 1968 when both sides adopted the détente strategy (Kegley and Raymond p.80))-another US doctrine promoting war was adopted into foreign policy; the Reagan Doctrine.

    This doctrine pledged, “U.S. backing for anticommunist insurgents who sought to overthrow Soviet-supported governments” (Kegley and Raymond, p.81) and led to the contra movement in Nicaragua and material support of rebels in Afghanistan (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/dr/17741.htm). Had the Cold War not ended soon thereafter, the world stage would have remained set for many more armed conflicts. With US foreign policies guided by the Truman and Reagan doctrines, war had become a first response, not a last resort.

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the, “deprivation of an enemy” as Mikhail Gorbachev put it (Kegley and Raymond, p.81), the US had little use for doctrines that required an enemy to ‘threaten’ her before military action could be initiated. Yet armed conflict was still sought after and attained. Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia were all sites of US military action during the 1990’s. The causes for US military involvement in (or bombing of) these countries is debatable, but the fact that military action occurred at all, lends strong support to my thesis that ending terrorism and bringing peace to the world are not goals of the United States.

    After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the US adopted a National Security Strategy that moved beyond Cold War containment and intervention, towards outright aggression, “To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively” (http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/2004_04-06/dolan_bush/dolan_bush.html). This combined with G.W. Bush’s statement that, “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010911-16.html), led our country directly into the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

    So if world peace is a goal of the United States, why has it’s military acted against at least 23 different countries since the end of World War II (large link at end of doc)? If ending terrorism is in the national interest of the US, why does it continue to wage a war that has created, “a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7460-2005Jan13.html)? Realists have a simple answer for these questions: to increase military power.

    As the realist theory of international politics asserts, “the ultimate goal of states is to achieve military supremacy, not merely a balance of power” (Kegley and Raymond p. 26). During the Cold War, US military research and development were necessitated by the arms race against Russia. Huge sums of money were spent to insure US military supremacy. After the Cold War, however, it was not so easy to justify a Department of Defense budget located in the upper-stratosphere. The 1990’s (primarily during president Bill Clinton’s tenure) saw drastic military cutbacks in dollars spent, troops trained, and bases maintained. This was bad news for realists, how could military supremacy be maintained without research and development? Luckily for them, a new, bearded and abroad enemy surfaced on 9/11. No time was wasted in implementing new doctrines that now allow the US to justify Cold War levels of military power increase and spending. Indeed, US Congress passed a $441 billion dollar Defense budget for 2006 (http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/2005/05/us-congress-passes-441b-budget-for-fy-2006/index.php). Though this number does not include an additional $228 billion appropriated for military related programs outside of the DOD’s official budget (http://www.military.com/opinion/0,15202,86831,00.html).

    Maybe it really is that simple; realists within the United States government believe that their sole function is to increase military supremacy. To justify the spending required to accomplish that goal has become of national interest. Wars seem to be the preferred method of justification (no room for world peace there) and terrorists are the new enemy to wage the wars against (no need to ‘deprive’ ourselves an enemy by ending terrorism).

    So in answer to my original question; are ending terrorism and bringing peace to the world goals of the United States? In the end it seems obvious, no, of course.

    Long link as listed:
    http://www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20editorials/2005%20Opinion%20Editorials/October/18%20o/A%20list%20of%20US%20Wars%20and%20Military%20Involvements%20By%20Amir%20Ali.htm

  8. here are all of the links above, active this time, in the same order:

    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/dr/17741.htm

    http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/2004_04-06/dolan_bush/dolan_bush.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7460-2005Jan13.html

    http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/2005/05/us-congress-passes-441b-budget-for-fy-2006/index.php

    http://www.military.com/opinion/0,15202,86831,00.html

    http://www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20editorials/2005%20Opinion%20Editorials/October/18%20o/A%20list%20of%20US%20Wars%20and%20Military%20Involvements%20By%20Amir%20Ali.htm

  9. I would like to take issue with everything Robert has said. Realists do in fact see the world in terms of power but suggesting that they want war or were happy when 9-11 happened is absurd! As the great realist Ronald Reagan once said, “we can achieve peace through strength.” No one ever achieved a lasting peace through peace. Military force, or the threat of it in the case of the Cold War, is often needed to promote peace. The peace dividend that Clinton received, but didn’t earn, came from Reagan’s idea of peace through strength. The military buildup was for the purpose of defeating the Soviet Union. The USSR tried to keep up and their weak economic system collasped. Victory for Reagan and realists. Since the threat was no longer there many realists were happy to get the peace dividend. Realists don’t want military for the sake of it, they want it to protect our country, a noble goal and a responsibility found in the Constitution. Without realists in power in times of crisis, America would never survive.

  10. Sounds logical, however, liberals would argue it is exactly the build up of arms that creates the crisis. This is evidenced by the fact that most of the ‘crisis’ America has faced has been under the leadership of realists (republicans). Many argue that the Viet Nam War would not have occured under JFK’s leadership and was a direct result of realist practices laid out by the Truman Doctrine.

    And the only time I would put the word ‘great’ in front of Ronald Reagan is in a phrase such as, The Great Corporate Puppet, Ronald Reagan. Or the Great Teleprompt Reader, Ronald Reagan. Anyone who views Ronald Reagan as great should take note of a quote from a 1920’s anthripologist, “As democracy perfects itself, societies leaders will more and more represent the heart and soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the White House will be presided by a complete moron”.

  11. “:Many argue that the Viet Nam War would not have occured under JFK’s leadership and was a direct result of realist practices laid out by the Truman Doctrine.”

    Are you kidding? Vietnam STARTED under JFK’s leadership. He’s the one who authorized free-fire zones, napalm, and Agent Orange. Whether it would have lasted quite so long or become such a drain is debateable, but to argue that Vietnam was the result of the Truman Doctrine alone and not of Kennedy’s policies is absurd.


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