The Bush Doctrine of preemptive intervention and regime change has not and will not work in Iraq. The policy has undermined the United Nations and has made a mockery of the international rule of law, principles that American presidents beginning with FDR have worked so hard to promote. The Bush Doctrine has resulted in conflicts with our allies. It has made friendly Muslim regimes reluctant to cooperate with us in Iraq or, for that matter, anywhere. It has turned ordinary Muslims around the world against the United States and has created more anti-Americanism and, yes, even more terrorists than we could have ever dreamed possible.
In Iraq itself, it has led to a nightmare, with groups hostile to the U.S. invasion and occupation making a determined stand, as did the Mojjahadin against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And no matter what the administration says, there is no end in sight. There are thousands of Ba'ath party loyalists and tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims who feel threatened and are willing to fight the U.S. occupation, and what will likely turn out to be a Shiite-dominated government, to the end. Simply put, this policy has failed and is in need of immediate change.
The failure of President Bush's Iraqi adventure has rendered U.S. threats against countries such as Iran laughable. How can the US, which cannot control Iraq after ridding it of a brutal and unpopular dictator, be in a position to invade and control Iran, a country with a more popular government than Saddam's and with three times Iraq's population and size? Moreover, as more and more Americans are killed in Iraq and as we spend enormous amounts of money, the Bush doctrine may no longer be supported by the American people.
The Elements of a New Policy
First and foremost, the United States needs a good dose of humility. We cannot afford to be intoxicated by our own military and economic power. Phrases such as "bring 'em on" and "we can go it alone" are just plain childish and do nothing to further U.S. interests. Yes, we have the power to change governments, but at what cost and with what future political and economic implications? We have created enemies and terrorists with our hubris and our use of these unnecessary feel-good phrases. Humility on the part of the U.S. will go further than anything else to win the hearts and minds of Muslims in Iraq and around the world
To regain the respect of the world, the U.S. should disavow as national policies regime change and interference in the internal affairs of any country. Regime change is up to the citizens of a country and, under exceptional circumstances, it could be adopted by the world community through the United Nations to confront an egregious regime. We must stress that, like the UN, we are committed to protecting the territorial integrity of each and every country. This cannot be an elastic concept, but one that is at the foundation of the UN.
A Test Country
Let us start down this new road with Iran. There are a number of good reasons to do so.
Iran is a large Muslim country that is seen as being hostile to U.S. interests and thus an amicable rapprochement will impress Muslims of U.S. intentions.
Iran is a country that commands a good deal of respect in the Islamic world; in large part because of its past problems with the United States and the stand it has taken. Iran is a country that can help the U.S. in the current situation in Iraq, in the Middle East peace process and in the fight against global terrorism.
There is no better time for us to adopt such a policy and to reestablish relations with Iran. So-called Iran experts who reside in Washington, who have not visited Iran since the Revolution or had any significant exchange with senior Iranian officials, they advise against rapprochement because they believe the regime in Teheran is on its way out. Wishful thinking will do us very little good. Iran can play a positive role in the Muslim world and in the region from India to Algeria. A balanced U.S. policy will encourage Iran to play such a positive role and such a bold step will do more than anything else to diffuse the talk and the march toward the war of civilizations.
How to Deal with Iran?
The United States should unequivocally apologize for its interference in internal Iranian affairs between 1945 and 1979 and especially for its role in the overthrow of the populist Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq. We should apologize for supporting Iraq during the gruesome eight-year war between Iran and Iraq. We should settle the financial (FMS or Foreign Military Sales) claims outstanding at the U.S.-Iran tribunal at The Hague in a fair and expeditious manner. We must make it clear to Iran and to the world that we will not do anything to undermine the regime in Teheran, as this is an internal Iranian matter. We should not be soft on Iran but should make it clear that, to the extent that they play a responsible role in the world and adhere to generally accepted principles of democratic behavior, we will support them in their efforts. We should use the carrot as well as the stick. Above all, we should demonstrate humility and stop the use of pejorative phrases to describe Iran and its people. Iran, in turn, must apologize for the taking of U.S. hostages, disavow any connections to terrorism, and divorce itself from interference in the affairs of other countries.
It is time to swallow our pride and do what is the long-term interest of the United States and its people.
Hossein Askari is the Iran Professor of International Business and Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University.