Degrees of Freedom

Obviously, an analysis of international affairs requires delving into history in order to draw parallels between the past and the present so that the latter is better understood. One parallel between Washington’s geopolitical dilemma at the present moment and the past can be found in a statement made by an early 20th century British diplomat named Sir George Clerk to his boss and the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, in July 1914:

“If we do not make relatively small sacrifices, and alter our policy, in Persia now, we shall both endanger our friendship with Russia and find in a comparatively near future…a situation where our very existence as an Empire will be at stake.”

As mentioned before, due to the nature of the conflict between the West and Russia which is perpetual in nature, the employment of the “China Card” on the part of the United States is now called for as part of a foreign policy strategy which aims at deterring Russia. But China is part of a broader package in a geopolitical sense, given that China is largely intertwined with Iran as a result of economic and geographical circumstances.

Although change is difficult, change is not necessarily impossible. As the political scientist David A. Welch wrote:

“Heavenly bodies have no choice where they go. The set of things we need to know in order to fix the value of whatever it is we are interested in knowing about them is small. But the behavior of states is relatively unconstrained parametrically. Leaders of states almost always have a variety of options before them from which to choose a course of action, and no matter how well we specify the initial environmental conditions of choice, we cannot confidently predict which choice leaders will make solely on the basis of that information.”

Thus, states are afforded “degrees of freedom” in order to make difficult and important policy changes. Given that a certain degree of freedom is afforded to states in order to make important policy changes, the question becomes one of identifying the causes or the factors which obstruct Washington’s ability to make a change, especially when the stakes are so high at the present moment when it comes to making a change.

Moreover, Iran is not a direct national security threat to the United States. Given that there is no direct threat from Iran to the United States, there are largely social factors which play into Washington’s complacency when it comes to mustering up the will for a policy change. As Medea Benjamin wrote:

“If Iran is no threat to the United States, then why is the U.S. government so hostile towards Iran? The answer is that U.S. policy in the Middle East has been hijacked by a variety of actors who are out for their own interests.”

As suggested before, mutually beneficial outcomes have to somehow be rendered out of what is currently a no-win situation for Washington. That means broadening Washington’s focus beyond narrow and particular interests and in turn taking on a global perspective which perhaps would enable the rendering of mutually beneficial outcomes for everyone over the long run.

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