Small Wars Journal

"All We are Saying..."

Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:41pm

War mongering against Iran is growing. The media and politicians are socializing us to be tolerant of increasing sanctions and likely strikes.  We appear to be headed toward war.  We need a major rethink if we wish to alter that output and avoid the costly outcome that is war.  In an age of globalization and activism, Iranian and Western youth can stop the escalation - maybe - but need to start a dialogue now to resolve what the "grown ups" can't.  Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help by finding a way to increase Iranian Facebook membership.  Maybe the youth utilizing social media to mobilize can draw us back from the brink.

Iran is slightly smaller than the state of Alaska and has about 75 million people.  More than two thirds of Iranians, 51 million people, are under the age of 30.  In the US 61 million people are under age 30.  In Iran 43% of the population has  access to the internet which is the second highest percentage of population online in the Middle East, after Israel.  Iran reportedly blacklists about 15,000 websites.  Before subscribers can access internet services they have to state they will access only Islamic sites.  A report from January 2011 cites only 0.17% Iranian Facebook membership, or 132,000 members.

Geographically, Iran is pivotal to international energy security and the global economy at a time when the world's energy needs are rising rapidly. Iran and the US were strategic partners until 1979 when the Shah was deposed. What is stopping the US and Iran being partners is not the Iranian people, but the Iranian leadership and certain corners of Washington.

Iran is home to one of the oldest civilizations.  They are a proud people. During the 1979 revolution, somewhere between 6 and 9 million anti-Shah demonstrators - 10% of the people - marched throughout Iran.  Discounting for exaggeration, these figures still represent the largest protest event in history.  Following the 2009 Iranian Presidential election and the disputed victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the so-called Green Movement protests occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world. We posit Iranians are unhappy; they want change, but are suppressed.

The US should understand Iran better.  US attempts at messaging to the 51 million Iranians under 30 years of age and the 33 million who are online, particularly the 132,000 on Facebook, have been woefully inadequate.  Iran literacy is at 83%.  Women in Iran compose more than half of the incoming classes for universities around the country.  These people are not represented by the rhetoric and actions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or that of President Ahmadinejad.

Let us step back from the brink.  Let us look into our history and learn the countless lessons.  We need to exhaust all options and all vehicles before we give up on Iran and go to war.  Think back to Pearl Harbor (recently commemorated), to Vietnam, and also to our recent interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Wars of necessity or choice, the latter two have been long, expensive and at least questionable.  Who has looked at Iran and its terrain? Have we truly thought through the implications this time?  Have we considered the second order effects and unintended regional consequences?  Have we worked out how it will end?  Or are we stacking the deck to rally America against a faceless foe?

What if the youth in America and Iran could mobilize themselves to stop the escalation?  What if the youth in America could communicate with the youth in Iran a message of peace and of commitment to peace.  What if the youth in Iran felt a need to rise up and put a stop to their regime?

John Lennon said that life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.  He also wrote a song with a haunting hook chorus that goes something like, "All we are saying, is give peace a chance."

Categories: Iran

About the Author(s)

Robert Sharp is an associate professor at the National Defense University's Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies.  The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Robert Sharp reminds me of another sharp "Sharp" I knew during the Vietnam War. He also argued against reckless politically motivated use of our forces to kill lots of innocent people based on lies, rather than focusing on the actual failure in brain-ing that would have hit the real enemy where he would really have been hurt in a way strategically advantageous to our goals. The neocons who serve the interest of anyone paying them, including foreign nations, have long been trying to turn America's soldiers into someone's attack dog. I hope everyone realizes that the neocons speak only for the neocons and their paymaster, NOT for any social, ethnic or religious sub-sector of our society. I would hate to see any group of Americans blamed as "Fifth Column" for an attack on Iran when it gets to be more than we can bear. Our troops kill so as not to be killed. Very many Iranians want to live only to avenge the victims of our attack. Against such motivation we will always lose more than what attacking Iran would be worth to us. Iraq should be enough of a lesson to us. I congratulate the JCS for telling Obama: no, you can't use our forces in hope of gaining any block of votes. As a result, he won't look like the street walkers on the other side of the political campaign.