Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roxana Saberi and Geopolitics

The conviction and sentencing of American (and Iranian) citizen Roxana Saberi after a secret trial is an outrage for which, of course, the Iranian government bears full responsibility. That said, the latest news about Saberi's case raises at least two issues connected to U.S. policy.

First, there was the bizarre news that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had sent a letter to the prosecution urging that Saberi be given a fair trial. It's hard to know whether this is even true, or what it would mean for Ahmadinejad to request a fair trial. It's also possible that the letter was a publicity stunt aimed at Iranian domestic opinion. Ahmadinejad faces a challenge from, among others, "reformer" and former President Mohammad Khatami. ("Reformer" is in quotation marks because it's practically part of Khatami's name.) Or perhaps instead (or in addition), this was a publicity stunt aimed at the U.S. Ahmadinejad may have calculated that his political interests lie in responding positively to the Obama Administration's diplomactic overtures. Holding an American journalist for 7 years on bogus espionage charges will undoubtedly make it more difficult for Ahmadinejad or his successor to do so, as it signals that the mullahs who hold real power in Iran aren't interested in warmer relations with us.

Second, the ability of the U.S. to rally international public opinion against Iran may well be undermined by U.S. detainee policies. The military commissions and combatant status review tribunals for Gitmo detainees almost certainly provided more procedural fairness than the secret trial of Roxana Saberi did. Still, having sacrificed the moral high ground on this issue, we cannot credibly describe the Saberi secret trial to the world as the outrage that it is. To be clear, even had we not undermined our moral authority in this way, it's quite possible that the Iranians would have been equally unmoved by our objections. But at least we could have made them more forcefully.

Posted by Mike Dorf

8 comments:

Sobek said...

"Second, the ability of the U.S. to rally international public opinion against Iran may well be undermined by U.S. detainee policies."Or, far more likely, other nations might use U.S. detainee policies as a pretext to pursue their own self-interest anyway.

Liberals seem to have this idea that if America were "morally pure," other countries would do what we say (never mind that us trying to get other countries to do what we say might be considered "morally impure").

There are three serious problems with that idea. First is the definition of "morally pure." If we want to make Iran like us more, do we do that by treating Hizbollah terrorists nicer? How about my stoning homosexuals to death? Or closing down dance clubs? Or forcibly convert our citizens to Islam? No matter how we answer those questions, we become less morally pure in the eyes of, say, Germany or France. We cannot be lily-white in the eyes of every value group.

Second, America has never been morally pure. Depending again on who you ask, America has always been evil because of slavery, or Indian policy, or nuking Japan, or failing to join the international communist revolution, or being too cozy with the international communist revolution. We have always had poor people; we have always had poor conditions in our jail cells; we have always had sexual discimination. We have never, in all our history, spoken with absolute moral authority. And yet (1) we have not always been the target of suicidal holy warriors, and (2) we have gotten along with our neighbors pretty well, more or less, for over 200 years.

Third, America never will be morally pure. This is both because we cannot undo the sins of the past - no amount of handwringing will feed or clothe those who died on the Trail of Tears - and because American freedom includes freedom to sin. Sayid Qutb did not help found modern Islamic radicalism because SCHIP was inadequately funded -- he did it because he saw immorality. It was not government action, but free (non-Islamic) citizenry, that most inflamed him.

Foreign governments will act in their own perceived best interest. They will do this without regard to how a memo in a desk in Washington interprets the Geneva Convention. If Russia thinks the gain of selling fissile material is better than the loss of Iran developing weapons, Russia will sell the material. And it will not make any difference who sits in the White House, or how often Khalid Shaikh Muhammed got a bathroom break. Russia will do what it wants. China will do what it wants. North Korea will do what it wants.

Think I'm wrong? Ask Islam Karimov why he cut ties with America. Ask Kyrgyzstan why it closed down America's supply chain. If your answer has more to do with Newsweek's false Qu'ran flushing story than with Russian ambitions in Central Asia, you might be a liberal law professor.

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freefun0616 said...

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狗熊克星 said...

絢香 故郷でのラスト唱に水嶋ヒロも
加藤清史郎、紅白史上最年少で初出場
羞恥心とPaboの合体メンバーとして出演した上地雄輔
「藤岡藤巻と大橋のぞみ」
人気声優、水樹奈々(29)も内定
嵐の出場も有力視されている
人気グループ嵐
紅白歌合戦は今年で60周年
KinKi Kidsはデビュー
井上陽水がついにNHK紅白初出場
陽水がついに紅白に出演する
松方弘樹さん、特大マグロ釣る
伊東美咲が入籍、24日ハワイで挙式
女優伊東美咲(32)が18日
タレント植松真美の結婚式
同結婚式で伊東と榎本氏
西川きよしの長男「足震えた
3月に吉本興業入りしたタレントの西川忠志
新喜劇出身の西川きよし(63)ヘレン(63)夫妻
長澤まさみ、本当は超能力を信じていない
本気で超常現象を信じるテレビ番組
『曲がれ!スプーン』
松たか子主演「ヴィヨンの妻」
広末「ゼロの焦点」韓国で邦画史上最大上映
歌手活動を無期限休止する絢香
今年2月に電撃結婚した俳優・水嶋ヒロ
必ず覚せい剤をやめ、介護の仕事を勉強したい
酒井法子被告初登校
酒井は学生時代に戻ったような
仲間由紀恵熱愛報道、所属事務所が否定
NHK、朝の連ドラ「8時スタート」に変更検討
山P&北川景子 手つなぎデート
大安の18日、美咲が人妻になった
神田うの(34)がデザイン
ほしの&SHIHO「ザジ-」新作発表会に出席
美咲の友人でタレントの植松真美
北川景子、着物姿で
小畑由香里が妊娠 柳沢がパパに

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