Thursday, April 9, 2015

Open letter to 47 members of U.S. Senate


To its credit, the Obama administration has consistently rejected calls for military action against Iran and has engaged the country's leadership in an attempt to negotiate a agreement. This marks one of the few instances where the public good is being served by an administration that has otherwise been unwilling to fight back against the right for fear of offending its most important supporters (i.e., not the aforementioned public). The issue is urgent because of the need on the one hand to eliminate trade sanctions against Iran, as such sanctions have a history of hurting civilians more than the regimes they allegedly target, and on the other hand to reach an accord with Iran before warmongers in both the U.S. and Israel have a chance to escalate the confrontation beyond the possibility of an agreement, as it is largely Israeli and Iranian civilians who would bear the brunt of any military conflict.

Anyone who has been paying attention to U.S. politics over the past five years or so is aware of the lengths to which Republicans in Congress have been going to undermine the Obama administration, despite the fact that the bulk of the administration's policies are well to the right of what the public wants. Not surprisingly, some (but not all) of these Republicans--with the help of the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu--have been working diligently, to undermine any agreement the Obama administration may attempt to reach with the Iranian government. At least as far as I've been able to look into the issue, it's not clear whether any of them have stopped to consider the implications of such a course, as it is unlikely that Iran would accept such an attack without retaliating, at which point the operation escalates from a military assault to yet another invasion and occupation. For a number of reasons, it should be obvious that attempting to occupy yet another country in the region is out of the question for the United States, and Israel is hardly in a position to undertake such an initiative without U.S. support, particularly considering how much of its resources are tied up in its occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Escalating the risk of violent confrontation

This insanity reached new heights on 9 March 2015, when 47 Republican senators signed an open letter to the Iranian government essentially claiming that they would nullify any agreement between the U.S. President and the Iranian government as soon as Obama's term expires. Not surprisingly, this letter was not well-received by all parties to the negotiations. While I don't see in the letter any grounds for accusing the senators of treason as some have done, I do see an instance of almost criminal insanity and at least three good reasons why the 47 people who signed the letter do not belong in the U.S. Senate (admittedly, not an institution I held in particularly high regard prior to this incident either).

As far as I'm concerned, this is not about respecting the office of the President or any other aspect of the U.S. government, as I'm looking forward to the day when the workers finally do away with these institutions and replace them with something more akin to genuine democracy. Thus, my concern here is pragmatic: i.e., I want to avoid violent conflict. To that ends, I quickly drafter the following open letter requesting an explanation for the decision to sign the letter to the Iranian government and sent a copy to each of the 47 senators who signed. I framed it as a request for an explanation primarily rather than a diatribe because the former has a slightly better chance of actually getting the point across to the intended audience (i.e., the staff members who read these things) than the latter. Anyone who wishes is welcome to re-use this letter and to modify it in any way she or he sees fit.

The primary purpose of this letter is to request clarification from your office of your decision to sign a 9 March 2015 “Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

As a U.S. citizen living overseas, I am not always able to glean sufficient background information from reports on internal politics in the U.S.A. to form a sufficiently informed perspective of what is happening there. In the case of the letter identified above, it appears that you and 46 other senators, perhaps because you are still unable to come to terms with the idea of a black Democrat in the White House, have become so engrossed in advancing your personal interests by undermining the Obama administration that not even an issue as deadly serious as the risk of the proliferation of nuclear weapons was sufficient to induce you to pause for a moment of reflection and to place the common good over your personal agenda. Although I am not so naïve as to expect any degree of altruism from a career politician in either the Democratic or Republican party, I do expect a U.S. senator to possess sufficient maturity to be capable of weighing immediate gains against substantial risks, something you appear to have failed to do in this case.

Because I do not want you to mistake this letter for a partisan attack, please allow me to clarify that I am aligned with neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties, as I believe neither is particularly interested in the needs or interests of either U.S. workers or their counterparts elsewhere. I have in fact been opposed to many of the Obama administration's decisions over the past five years, albeit for reasons and in favor of alternatives opposite to those championed by you and your colleagues. The one point on which I and the majority of other U.S. voters are in agreement with the administration, however, is the need to negotiate an agreement with Iran rather than resort to military force. Based on the letter that you signed, it appears that you do not share this concern, and would rather risk an armed conflict than even consider a degree of political compromise. That you would risk such conflict for so selfish a gain and have failed to take into account the lessons learned from the U.S. government's previous two military adventures in the region suggests that, in addition to the emotional maturity, you lack sufficient critical capacity to serve as a U.S. senator.

Importantly, the text of the letter also seems to indicate that you lack any comprehension of the world outside Washington, D.C. I can assure you that many nations other than the U.S.A. have things like universities, scientific advisors, and even computers. Indeed, insofar as the assertions made within the letter reflect your own understanding of the constitutional system in the U.S.A., it would appear that that of your Iranian counterparts is far superior. In any case, the disrespectful tone of the letter strongly suggests that you lack both the knowledge of the world and the capacity for diplomacy required to execute your duties as a U.S. senator.

As I mentioned at the start of this letter, I am contacting your office to request clarification primarily because your actions at this point appear to be so base and childish as to be beneath contemplation by any U.S. senator. If, however, my perception of your actions is even partially correct, and especially if you did indeed sign this letter in an effort to undermine the Obama administration's negotiations and/or increase the risk of violent conflict, it would seem that the course of action most likely to salvage the legitimacy of your party and advance the interests of both the people and the government of the United States of America would be to issue a sincere public apology and then resign from office on the grounds that you lack the emotional maturity, critical capacity, and requisite knowledge to adequately fulfill your responsibilities in the U.S. Senate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Added some content---at last!

It's not much, but I have finally gotten around to pulling a couple of the most popular articles from my old site and posting them here. You can access my Informal Fallacy Primer (the most popular item on my old site) and a couple other whitepapers and opinion pieces I've drafted by selecting "White Papers" under "Pages." I also have a relatively current version of my English CV posted, and I'm going to add links (or copies, where originals are unavailable) to some of my (non-academic) published work soon.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I launched this blog because technical difficulties (with my bank, not with my former hosting company) forced me to close my previous site, A Contrario. Unfortunately, I am a bit busy working on a series of papers at the moment, but once they are submitted, I will hopefully have the time to begin working on this blog. My intention is to post information related to my research, including background information such as my CV, research interests, and publications.  If I find the time, I will also post interesting items that I find, research notes, and ideas that I don't have the time to turn into full-fledged publications. For now, I recommend the LinkRoll or the BlogRoll.