Posted by: bklunk | May 21, 2007

Some System Level Analysis

Thomas L. Friedman, or “the moustache of understanding” as he is sometimes known, suggests in a recent column that the United States has little choice but to develop some kind of understanding with Iran.

Playing the Hand We’ve Dealt – New York Times

With Saddam gone, none of the Arab states are strong enough to balance Iran. They are all either too weak or too dysfunctional. This means we have two choices. We can be the regional power balancing Iran, which will require keeping thousands of troops in the area indefinitely. Or we have to engage Tehran in a high-level dialogue, in which we focus on our mutual interests in stabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq. You have to choose, Mr. President: I can’t do my job if you don’t face the fact that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and our energy gluttony — have empowered Iran.

This is classic system level thinking–adjusting one’s behavior–according to the relative power of the actors involved. Because none of Iran’s neighbors is capable of offsetting Iranian power, the US should, Friedman says, find accommodation with Iran. That depends, of course, on a sufficient community of interests between the US and Iran.

By the way, for more on TMOU, Iran, and Iraq see the top two videos on the right sidebar.

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  1. It is funny to think that the US’ schematic reasoning about Iran could change in such a short period of time because of Iran’s economic advantage in the region. It would make sense for the United States to become friendly with Iran in a system level of analysis because the distribution of resources would be in our favor. However, the question then becomes when are we going to get over the fact that Iran has been developing nuclear weapons against the whims of the current administration and the UN?

  2. I am not completely convinced that the solution can be that simple, to just keep troups in Iran until whenever the U.S. does not feel is necessary anymore. I think it goes a lot beyond that. Yes it is possible for the United States to keep troups in other counties, but is it what the people want for their own country? Not just the people of the United States, but for the people or Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. Many news stories explain how people from the Middle East are against what the United States is doing, and that they want everything to be back to normal, but how can it ever be turned back to normal now? The fact that the United States has already involved itself in such a sensitive area convinces me that we can not just pick up and leave when we don’t want to be there anymore, or send over more troups. The people in these other countries may not like what has been going on but their lifestyles will change dramatically when the U.S. leaves. I do not think there is a simple solution for anything that is going on in the Middle East. Whether or not the United States decides to try and resolve problems by having more troups sent over or if we make an agreement with Iran, which could be upheld or not.

  3. I agree with Friedman in his belief that is makes sense for the United States and Iran to be on friendly terms with each other. It would be mutually advantageous, and would go a long way towards easing the escalating hostilies in the Middle East. However, I also think that a number of state-level factors would get in the way of that. The United States and Iran are very different- one a proud democracy, one a proud theocracy; geographically very different; and certainly the religious differences fuel the fire as well. I suppose the question then becomes how important are these differences, and do the U.S. and Iran have enough reasons to overcome these differences and work together? Or are we stuck in a vicious cycle?

  4. Anna’s comments are really interesting here. The realist position is that power is the only thing that matters. The MOU seems to take that position here, but he also argues in other places that the US and Iran have many state-level compatabilities.

  5. The key issues mentioned here are: economic alliances, controversy with nuclear weapons, whether or not to stay in Iraq, and differences in domestic government and culture. One more issue worthy of mentioning is the state or domestic issue of human rights, especially women’s rights in Iran. Examples of discrimination in Iran against women include things such as the inability to seek divorce, being legally valued as half that of men, and needing the written permission of one’s husband to work or travel. Although Iran may be economically and politically growing in power because of the United States’ harsh dealings with surrounding Middle Eastern countries, I think Iran is suffering in terms of human rights and Democracy. If the United States were to forge stronger economic ties with Iran, then Iran would face more pressure to adopt globalized values such as protecting human rights. Because if the majority of the population in Iran were to experience a higher standard of living and prosperity due to free trade and the influx of MNC’s, then they are likely not to complain, but to become fonder of the United States, of democracy, and of international connectivity. It’s all about how the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention, in my arugument, reiterated as the Dell Theory of Democratic Value Conformity.

  6. That last sentence was a fragment – to my embarassment. Let me write a better conclusion:

    If Iran were more economically integrated with the United States, then perhaps it would adopt more of its Democratic values in order to maintain a high level of prosperity.

  7. Welcome back, Alex.

  8. Thanks Professor Klunk. It’s good to be back. I will continue my blog about Japanese politics and making comments on IRregular blogging from now on. I’m interested in International Relations and would like stay current with world events. See you around cyber space!

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