Iran has sent a letter to the United States for the first time since the 1970s. The early responses indicate that the government has completely misread it, and is blind to the threat it represents.
After the jump, an examination.
Here is a translation of Iran's letter to the United States.
It is astonishing because it is nothing like it was described to be. "Some American officials have said the letter appeared to be aimed at disrupting talks on Iran this week among top envoys of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China," the New York Times tells us, and that's correct: we were told this was intended as a ploy, a bit of gamesmanship by the Iranians. Since the possibility of direct negotiations was open, the Russians and the Chinese could plausibly claim that UN Security Council action was not needed.
If that was indeed the reading of the professional diplomats, we are poorly served by their insights. The letter is not a negotiating ploy. If our best thinkers misread this so badly, we ought to be concerned.
The letter has two clear antecedents in world politics: the American Declaration of Independence, and the Communist Manifesto. This is a document of that type, and if we are not careful, it will be remembered for as long.
Like the Declaration and the Manifesto, the letter spends much of its time with a list of grievances. These grievances serve the same purpose in all three documents: they purport to demonstrate that the existing system is a moral failure, and that it has create affronts which can only be addressed by its overthrow. The American Declaration limited itself to the removal of the King's government from the colonies; it was only later, in Woodrow Wilson's time, that we began to think of American democracy as a universal human value. The Manifesto assumed a worldwide revolution from the start. In its summation, following sixteen pages of grievances, the Iranian letter proposes the same:
Liberalism and Western style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic
We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point – that is the Almighty God. Undoubtedly through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems. My question for you is: “Do you not want to join them?”
Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.
And there we have it. Liberalism and Western style democracy have led to war and invasion; international institutions that do not protect the people; many various abuses of human rights which are detailed; and a departure of mankind from the revealed design of God, as shown to us primarily through Koran, but also reflected in the other Abrahamic religions.
We are invited to join this progress to a world in which the will of God prevails over all things. That is the beginning and the end of the outreach: we may submit. Won't you, Mr. President, accept this invitation?
In addition to being a declaration of open defiance, the letter is a cunning first strike. We have heard much discussion of funding or reaching out to the Iranian opposition groups, in an attempt to exploit cracks in Iranian society that might lead to internal discord and disruption. Much discussion, but we have done nothing.
The Iranians have not only spoken, but acted. This letter could not be clearer in its attempts to exploit the cracks in Western society: between Europe and America, between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, pro-Israeli and anti-Israeli; it calls libertarian and human rights advocates, Christians and even Jews, to join Iran in defiance of the Western failures to perfect the human condition. It references every claim made by any dissident organization against America's policies in the world. It works them together, and almost makes it sound rational to believe that the Iranian way -- and the Taliban's way! -- could point to a better world, with fewer evils, than this nasty abusive democracy.
This is a call to arms not just for those who might think Allah the enemy of America, but for those within the West who think America is the enemy of Europe, of their social program, of their politicis -- even to those, within America, who would oppose Bush. It is a call for an end to Western style democracy and liberalism, and the transition of the world to the service of God. It is at once a declaration and a manifesto, an attack and a defense, a statement of principles for Islamists and a stroke designed to shatter the West along our fault lines.
My respects to a master of the art. We shall see if we have any who are wise enough to reply. Or even, to understand.