Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Road to Hell, good intentions, and Iran

By Barry Rubin

Thirty years ago precisely--it's hard for me to believe--I wrote a book on U.S.-Iran relations as another revolution raged in that country. It is called Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran. The title, of course, is based on the saying that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions which seems an apt phrase for the current administration's policies as well.

Here's a passage from the beginning of the book. I think it stands up pretty well to the test of time:

"A country’s behavior, as the Iranian crisis so vividly demonstrates, is not merely a product of a rational pursuit of objective national interests. Rather it is the result of the interaction of the collective historical experience of the nation with individual life experiences of its citizens. The former creates a nation’s political course, the latter shapes its political consciousness. Whether or not the interaction contributes to the effective fulfillment of a nations objective interests, though not always the controlling question.

"There is also a rather common occurrence in politics that might be called the vector principle. A boat sets off from the opposite shore of a river, but because of various unconsidered currents, ends up several miles downstream. American policies often seemed in theory, if not in execution, directed towards reasonably obtainable, rational goals but failed nonetheless because they did not fully take into account the currents of Iranian and Middle East politics."

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