Since I was a child, Iran has been a regular (and rich) subject of discussion in my household. There's a simple reason for this - on my father's side of the family (the Bernards), the last two generations of Bernards have lived and worked in Iran pretty extensively.
My grandfather was actually "knighted" by the last Shah before the Iranian Revolution for his contribution to oil and gas projects in the region. My father went to high school at the American School in Tehran, then later returned to work there as my grandfather had. My dad and my aunt still speak a little Farsi.
This is kind of cool: I'm named after my paternal grandfather Charles G. Bernard, AKA Chuck Bernard, AKA whatever the hell this sign (which used to be his) says in Farsi:
Due partially to the subject of Iran, I got into a lengthy dust-up in the Facebook discussion group for #OccupySLC, where the ideological demographics can be roughly divided up into one part anarchists/radicals (hello, friends!), progressives and libertarians. The libertarian contributions to the discussion usually revolve around why the Fed is literally at fault for every bad thing in the world, and why Ron Paul is awesome.
The gentleman with whom I had a disagreement is a big-time Ron Paul supporter, and also a committed supporter of the #Occupy movement. This, to me, seemed like major cognitive dissonance - after all, Ron Paul's economic policies to a one are regressive and favor the interests of capital and wealthy capitalists over any and everyone else.
However, over a little bit of discussion, some common ground emerged (unfortunately not between myself and my original debate partner, "Orwellian Bob") regarding Ron Paul, #Occupy, and foreign policy.
For those of us just joining in, a quick and dirty summary. Ron Paul, unlike President Obama, is a hard-core isolationist who would like not only to withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan completely, but also pull our troops out of America's little hidey-holes across the world (including Europe!).
The current President, on the other hand, has adopted a pretty astonishingly aggressive foreign policy for a man who ran as a progressive Democrat. One of the primary reasons I voted for Obama in 2008 was his promise to end the Bush Doctrine years of American adventures abroad* - he would close GITMO, eliminate extraordinary rendition, etc. Unfortunately, Obama has done none of these things.
So here we are. This is the year we pull the lever, and our choice seems to be between a relatively pro-war, pro-Israel, aggressive incumbent president and a veritable buffet of lunatics on the Republican side of the ledger. Under such circumstances, I suppose - and bear with me here - that I can understand some of Ron Paul's appeal.
Civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald recently caught two barrels of hot, juicy internet hate when he wrote a column that didn't exactly endorse Ron Paul, but explained some of his appeal. At the time I found it infuriating - but the more evidence that piles up (and there is a grundle) that we are currently on a "war footing" with Iran, the more foreign policy matters, and there is currently no good choice other than Paul on foreign policy. Does that mean I support Ron Paul? My goodness, no. His economic policies (and positions on issues like the Civil Rights Act of 1964) are more than horrible enough to outweigh his foreign policy.
That said, the choices available to voters this year are awful** - maybe the worst I've ever seen. If that's the situation it took for Ron Paul to "shine," well, good for him, I suppose: the situation is not so good for the rest of us, unfortunately.
*: I bring up Israel regarding the Bush Doctrine because of this extraordinary story from Foreign Policy:
Buried deep in the archives of America's intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush's administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents...the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting US passports, posed as CIA officers and in recruiting Jundallah operatives...Jundallah, according to the US government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.
This is astonishing. Any country in the world that acted so arrogantly in defiance of international diplomacy and rule of law would probably catch hell from the U.S. for such a move - with Israel, we sweep it under the rug, whistle casually and pretend nothing happened. Meanwhile, any discussion in American politics about Israel seems to boil down to a competition to see who loves Israel the most.
**: I am aware that there are choices other than Paul, Romney, or Obama. The first one that comes to mind is former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's candidacy, which I am researching and will write about either this week or next.