Friday, February 3, 2012

Harold Rhode: The Iranians think the way they do. Whatever we do, we have to use THEIR context in which to understand it.

Harold Rhode, whose opinions I quoted in my July 27 blog entry, elaborates further in the Jerusalem Post  article by Oren  Kessler Fight against Iran nukes stymied by cultural gaps


According to Rhode, Iran’s current leaders “believe that if they provoke a conflagration, their hidden imam, the mahdi, will return to save them. So Mutually Assured Destruction – MAD – that we used effectively with the Soviets is an incentive and an inducement, not a deterrent.”

The Iranians think the way they do. Whatever we do, we have to use their context in which to understand it – they don’t think like Chinese or like Americans,” he said. “It is dangerous when you apply your mentality to try to understand another culture.”
In the Middle East, he said, “until you win, you show your enemies no mercy. But when you have them at your mercy, you must be magnanimous. There’s unfortunately no such thing as a win-win situation in the Middle East. Confidence-building measures are interpreted as weakness. You talk after you’ve won; if you do so beforehand, it is seen as weakness.”
In Iraq, he said, “we kept trying to appeal to Saddam. But in a culture based on honor and shame, he had no way to back down short of his own death,” Rhode said.
“In the languages of the Middle East, the concept for compromise doesn’t exist – at least not as we understand it.... Instead, one who compromises is said to have brought ’aib, or shame, on himself. That’s why the Middle East is always in a state of tension,” he explained.
“We talk about shalom and salaam and figure they mean the same thing,” he continued. “But in Arabic, ‘salaam’ is generally viewed to mean the joy one gets from submitting to Allah’s will through Islam. That’s not what peace is, to the best of my knowledge.”


Harold Rhode got it right.  While many understand the danger of a renegade country
acquiring nuclear weapons, cultural differences prevents them from comprehending that with Iran in particular the danger is worse by an order of magnitude.  To look forward to a global cataclysm  is too weird a concept for a western mind to seriously contemplate..

The day of the Israeli preemptive strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities seems to be approaching. All of a sudden at the Herzliya Conference there have been a number of speakers on Iran. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen. Benny Gantz, head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen Aviv Kochavi.  Apparently, Israel’s leadership, like Harold Rhode, understand the essence of the problem much better that their counterparts in Europe and the media - the Iranians cannot be deterred. Preemption is the only way.