Monday, 9 April 2012

The double standards gene

I get quite annoyed with the oblivious bipeds texting or gassing away on their cells in the middle of intersections that I’m trying to pedal through and have even been known to issue wisecracks like ‘Take the hand of an adult!’ as I swerve to avoid them. Two blocks later I’ll find myself running a red light or cutting down a one-way street against traffic, rationalizing to myself that just this once it’s a reasonable bending of the rules. Ergo, I am, alas, a biped.

We seem to have a knack for understanding that rules are a fine thing but that we ourselves are basically special and should not be held to them. So it’s not surprising that nations act the same way and that a nation’s leaders can easily and convincingly apply this double standard when drumming up support for indefensible behavior. The one-sided campaign against Iran’s nuclear capabilities is the most current example; how depressingly rare, nonetheless, to find anyone daring to break with the patriotic straitjacket enveloping the issue and expose its profound illogic.

Iran should not have nuclear weapons, we are told, because it’s dangerous and will stimulate an arms race in the Middle East. But a New York Times Magazine writer recently spent thousands of words parsing the thoughts and philosophies of the Israeli leadership about their desire to blow up Iran’s nuclear installations without once mentioning the rather salient fact that Israel itself possesses nuclear weapons.

Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—to which Iran, but not Israel, is a signatory—the country is permitted to have a nuclear energy industry. This binding law, however, is rarely mentioned, much less honored. (Reminder: the entire debate over illegal immigration of Hispanics to the U.S. is constantly couched in the necessity of sacred respect for The Law.) When Brazil and Turkey tried to broker a deal to permit Iran to maintain its nuclear capacity while steering clear of weapons-grade materials, Obama and Clinton immediately scotched it.

And et cetera. The details aren’t really interesting, but the pattern is clear enough even without the State Department guy’s slip-up in January when he copped to the real diplomatic goal: the end of the mullahs’ rule. None of this is surprising, unusual or even news. What it should remind us, however, is that states often behave badly and that we citizens should consider soberly and dispassionately whether war-making against yet another unthreatening state is in our—as opposed to our rulers’—interests.

No comments: