Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo:
World, and especially Canada and Canadians, should not go to war against Iran even if all other reasonable alternatives are exhausted
On Sunday, January 22nd 2012, The Iranian-Canadian Congress hosted a panel discussion on the aftershock resulting from increasing Canadian sanctions and international pressure on Iran. Among the five panellists speaking on the issue was University of Toronto professor and philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo. The following is the transcript of his talk at the event: I’m honored to be here at the Iranian Canadian Council. Many of the most talented individuals in this town and in this country have benefited immensely from your outstanding expertise and insights on the role played by the Iranian Diaspora in Canada and I welcome the opportunity to meet with you today.
I have come here today to express my view that the world, and especially Canada and Canadians should not go to war against Iran even if all other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.
But I begin with the strongest possible affirmation that good and decent people on all sides of this debate, who may in the end stand on opposing sides of this decision, should equally be committed to peace and security in our world.
The issues of war and peace are too important to be left only to generals and politicians. And I disagree with those who suggest that this fateful issue cannot or should not be contested vigorously, publicly, and all across world.
When it is innocent people who will risk and lose their lives, then the people should hear and be heard, speak and be listened to.
But there is a difference between honest and transparent critique of war formulated by Iranian dissidents, human rights activists and all those around the world who are struggling for a democratic Iran and dishonest and ideological appeals by the Iranian regime by exploiting nationalist sentiments and fanning anti- western prejudice in Iran.
In this challenging time for Iranians and the world, one should know how to distinguish between true patriotism and prejudiced belief in one’s nation. A nation is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.
Today in Iran, dissent is the highest form of patriotism. No one could and no one should poison the Iranian public sphere by attacking the patriotism of dissent or by assailing all those among the Iranian population who are more interested the merits of peace than in the cause of ideological politics.
Let me say it plainly: I not only think, but I am convinced that the Iranian regime believes genuinely in war and oppression. And let me say with the same plainness: Those who disagree with that course have a moral obligation – to resist any temptation to convert patriotism of dissent into politics of prejudice and fake nationalism.
It is possible to love one’s country while concluding that is not now wise to go to war. The moral standard that should guide us is especially clear when lives are on the line.
We must ask what is right for humanity and not for one belief community.
Such thinking among some Canadians has its counterpart among some Iranians inside and outside Iran, who continue to have a persistent conspiracy theory about policies in the Middle East.
Well the truth is that Iranian children who suffer today from pollution, prejudice and violence in Iran, hate war as much as any Canadian child, and perhaps even more, for more Iranian children suffer.
That is the true spirit of human solidarity, not unthinking unanimity, but a clear-minded unity in our determination to defeat war – to live our moral and political values and the value of life itself.
With all the talk of war, governments in Canada, the US and Europe have not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to Iranians and people around the world the immense costs in human lives, natural resources and world economy of this adventure.
We have to understand that attacking Iran would not destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity and its military installations. It will kill many innocent Iranians, who for most are against Iran’s political ambitions in the Middle East.
Actually bombing Iran will not only weaken the Iranian civil society and the nonviolent struggle of Iranian dissidents, but it will also resurface a long forgotten anti- American sentiments and reunite the Iranians (inside and outside Iran) against a foreign invasion.
Therefore, it would be wrong to assume that the Iranian population will welcome Canadian, American or European troops after having been bombed and heavily sanctioned.
Let us not turn Iran and its strutting leaders into a quasi-metaphysical threat whereas-and this bears repeating- Iranians are a threat to no one at all.
What is fantastic about Iran is its rich culture and history, its complex society and its long-suffering people.
It would be pure ignorance, not to say a crime, to shatter all these dimensions in order to smash a group of thieves and murderers.
It would be monumentally criminal to hijack words like “democracy” and “freedom” in service of a victorious showdown against innocent people who will suffer the consequences of any military strike against Iran.
As Bertrand Russell once said: “Any doctrine, held fanatically, becomes a justification for any atrocities in its defense.”
Canada is not a country of fanatics and resorting to war with Iran in the name of “democracy” and “global security” is not Canada’s only or best course at this juncture.
As a matter of fact, there are realistic alternatives between doing nothing and declaring war against Iran. War should be a last resort, not the first response. If Canadians follow that course, the world will be with Canadians.
I do not accept the idea that trying other alternatives is either futile or unrealistic – that the risks of waiting are greater than the risks of war.
We all know that democracy cannot be attained in Iran by ways of war, because democracy attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat.
Actually, I continue to believe that the more we sweat in nonviolence the less we bleed in violence.
If Canada and Canadians want to maintain their moral credibility as peace-keepers and supporters of human rights they must stop acting as Dr. Strange Loves.
What can be gained here is success for peace – and in the event of its failure, greater credibility for Canada, and the prospect of victory for democracy in Iran with less loss of Canadian and Iranian lives.