Kind of hard to write something snarky and cute when the breaking news this morning is about the attempted bombing of the Danish embassy in Pakistan. Yes, that’s right: Denmark — home to the much hated and threatened cartoonist a few years back, who depicted Muhammad with a bomb on his head in the shape of a turban. Who knew that such a middle-of-the-road country could stay so relevant? I’m part Danish myself, and we had a Danish exchange student live with our family for awhile when I was a teen. All in all, I consider it one of the most “vanilla” cultures in all the earth. Once you get past Hans Christian Andersen, what have you got left? Germans with a dash of Scandinavian humility and a pinch of fun thrown in, that’s what. Nice people, yeah. But interesting? Bomb-worthy?
But… such is the atmosphere in Pakistan nowadays. If this is what goes on in democracies (and I use the term loosely), in places where supposedly they’re friendly to the EU and America, what can we expect in more lawless, out-of-control places like Iraq and Afghanistan? What kind of diplomatic improvement is possible in middlin’ nations like Egypt and Iran?
Oops, now I’ve gone and done it. I brought up Iran, but not in the context of some discussion about a mythical Axis of Evil. (If there was ever a term that belonged in comic books instead of politics, Axis of Evil is it.) In my opinion, Iran could be occupying the position of co-peacemaker with the U.S. in Iraq, a role that Pakistan has been very bad at pursuing with us in Afghanistan thus far.
Is that a word? Co-peacemaker? Let’s say it is, for sake of argument. Iran, if we can be grownups and talk straight for a change, is in some ways the best ally that Europe and America could have in the region. If we’re willing to play fair and set aside the past, that is. Iran is already quite Westernized and developed, by many standards. The country is chock full of what we would normally call intellectuals and middle class families, if we weren’t so busy listening to our leaders, who (in playing out childish revenge fantasies) would rather we see them as blindly loyal terrorist sympathizers. From my semi-informed perspective, the Iranian government is not made up of religious extremists, either. Or at least they’re not imposing Sharia law to the oppressive extent that the Taliban did in Afghanistan. Non-governmental interests in the country are certainly more extreme. But we have that here, too… or was that just a big family picnic/orgy down at the polygamist ranch in Texas?
Sure, the Iranians have their prejudices, like the classically tribal, knee-jerk, ill-informed, anti-Jew attitudes that exist throughout the Muslim world, and pre-date the twentieth century. But the average Iranian is not anti-American. They just want a seat at the table with the grownups, perhaps in the same way Europe and America have been so willing to overlook the sins of our “friends” in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states (note: Iran is overwhelmingly Shi ‘ite, the Saudis are Sunni… are you getting the picture yet?) . And by now, we need to consider whether the Iranians have earned that seat at the table.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar… ain’t that what the hillbillies ’round here is always sayin’? But it will be hard to offer that honey, as long as the powerful and equally-prejudiced Israel is whispering in many an American politician’s ear.
I’m prepared to be challenged on this, but I maintain that the current impasse is due to the reality that we in the West refuse to acknowledge that our “friend” Israel is not helping one bit. Those anti-Jewish (and by association, anti-Western) flames are fed every time Israel allows Israeli settlers to trump up charges and commit injustices in the Palestinian territories. Muslim suspicions that they’ll be pushed off the worldwide map are confirmed every day that travel restrictions and oppressive, apartheid-like conditions go unchanged throughout Palestine. And when the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier or two leads to the bombing of thousands in Lebanon, twenty years of diplomatic possibilities are erased in one fell swoop, not just in Israel/Palestine, but throughout the Muslim world.
So, rational or not, Islamic jihadists in Pakistan (Sunni), Iran (Shia) and worldwide are not basing their bias on nothing. They see evidence all around them. They know they’re the little brothers, and that their dysfunctional middle brothers and sisters in places like Iraq are getting all the attention, while big brother Israel is Mom and Dad’s favorite. Can you guess who Mom and Dad are?