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The Shah: Is Supporting a Dictatorship Moral?

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Do you remember what the difference in justifications there were in the confiscations of BP's interests in Iran and the US's interests in Aramco?

Netafja

That would depend on what the actual alternatives were, and that's beyond my historical grip. The crucial issue, as I understand it, was whether the Soviet Union would have absorbed Iran as a vassal state (as it tried with Afghanistan). Iran started to take a turn for the bad by stealing western property after the pro-Western PM was murdered by Islamists. That was essentially the end of any movement towards freedom and civilization in Iran, and the beginning of over a half century of "lesser of two evils" thinking. The fundamental question is what right the Iranian government had to confiscate BP's property -- none, of course.
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Here's a question back to you: do you think it is possible for a elected government (i.e. elected by the majority in that country) to persecute it's citizens? If so, by what standard would you call it persecution?

I suppose you mean perfectly moral. Would you like to name some candidates for perfectly moral governments, using your own standards? Or, at least do you have any personal evaluation -- according to your own standards -- that would allow you to name some governments that are relatively immoral compared to others and to name some others that are relatively moral. As in the question above, it's not so much about which governments you'd name; I'm really trying to figure out if you think there is any objective way to evaluate governments on a scale of morality, or if anything goes as long as it is democratically elected. In other words, do you think moral government is whatever the majority want it to be -- minorities be damned?

What is national sovereignity? Does it include the unrestricted power of the majority to deprive the minority of their rights? If that is what you mean by national , then... yes, it should be damned. I damn the violation of individual rights. Do you hold that the majority should be allowed to violate individual rights? More fundamentally, do you hold that individual rights are only what the majority say they are, and that questions of ought are not applicable?

Now you've said a lot about the tyranny of the majority (I think this is the phrase you were looking for). Of course I agree that there are degrees of government immorality. Military intervention in Bosnia and Somalia were justified (and should have been in Rwanda and Sudan) to stop the humanitarian crisis, and economic sanctions are used commonly to take action against a government that exploits its own people.

But the problem with what is being advocated here, toppling authoritarian governments or helping oppress foreign people while propping up a leader who will help us get what we want, is immoral, as adrock3215 said earlier. Even if part of the reason is to secure property rights for American companies on their soil.

Look at what is happening in Venezuela and Russia today. The elections are obviously manipulated by the popular authoritarian governments, yet the results are very popular with most people there. The rights of people are being trampled upon for sure nonetheless.

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The clear heavy-handed manipulation of individual rights by the Iranian "government" in claiming ownership of the land when it was not in fact there for the government to own more than negates any negotiating tactics used by the British.

Does it now? And you would know this because...?

As a historical matter, please note that nothing about Mossadeq's existence as Premier of Iran reflects "the will of the people".

On the contrary, Mossadeq was in fact quite popular amont the people, owing laregly to his stance against foreign influence in Iran. Now that doesn't mean he was democratically elected by any means, but there was large popular support.

There are two completely separate questions. The first, relevant to this thread, is whether US support of the disposal of Mossadeq a half-century ago was proper and the answer is, more or less "yes".

Well do you care to elaborate on why such duplicitous games by the CIA should be warranted? Who put the United States in charge of deciding what was moral and proper for the Iranian people?

If you think that a virtual puppet government has legitimacy to grant long-term land concessions to foreign oil companies, then I can see your point. And if that's the case I think there are some Germans who have a claim on land taken from them in Vichy France. I'll have to flip through my copy of "The Prize" by Daniel Yergin to get more specifics on the background on those land concessions.

I just find it amusing that the Iranian government is considered legitimate enough to justify land concessions, but then illegitimate when it comes to justifying the overthrow of their leader or military invasion to secure said land concessions.

Edited by Rourke
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And you would know this because...?
...it's what I do.
On the contrary, Mossadeq was in fact quite popular amont the people, owing laregly to his stance against foreign influence in Iran.
That suggests to me that you're not a native speaker of English; if you were, you would know that that's not an appropriate use of "on the contrary". Rather, the correct expression is "Tangentially, I might mention that...". The fact remains that he was not democratically elected.
Now that doesn't mean he was democratically elected by any means, but there was large popular support.
And that also indicates that he wasn't democratically elected, so stop trying to change your argument. Hitler was popular.
Well do you care to elaborate on why such duplicitous games by the CIA should be warranted?
I've posted a bit on the topic: see this thread.
Who put the United States in charge of deciding what was moral and proper for the Iranian people?
That's a red herring: the question is whether the Iranian government had the right to steal other people's property. They didn't, and that's really all there is to say about the "who has the right" question. Any free nation has the right to kick the ass of a rights-violating dictatorship. It's not about bringing the blessings of western civilization to Iran.

Are you suggesting that it's ever moral and proper for "the Iranian people" to steal?

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...it's what I do.

I don't know what this means.

That suggests to me that you're not a native speaker of English; if you were, you would know that that's not an appropriate use

BB Code Help Toggle Side Panelof "on the contrary". Rather, the correct expression is "Tangentially, I might mention that...".

Nice cheap shot. I was avoiding ad hominem attacks as I hear it is frowned upon here. However, as you are a moderator this must not apply to you. And in fact, "on the contrary" works better than "tangentially", in that the point I was making was opposed to your point that "nothing about Mossadeq's existence as Premier of Iran reflects "the will of the people".

Condescension works much better when you demonstrate you know what you are talking about.

That's a red herring: the question is whether the Iranian government had the right to steal other people's property.

Pointing out that it was a red herring argument would be more convincing if we were still not bogged down in determining if the property was legitimately given in the first place, or whether US oil companies were even affected, which no one as of yet has demonstrated. I know you don't want to wait for the evidence to get started with the invasion, but...

Any free nation has the right to kick the ass of a rights-violating dictatorship.

Eloquent. So its time to fuel up the Tomahawk missiles and Abram tanks, because we have a lot of ass-kicking to do in the world if this is how low the threshold is for the use of the military. Listen, this discussion is pointless, your rudimentary logic on this subject is not very interesting to me, and I would like to read comments from other posters.

Edited by Rourke
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Any free nation has the right to kick the ass of a rights-violating dictatorship.

Eloquent. So its time to fuel up the Tomahawk missiles and Abram tanks, because we have a lot of ass-kicking to do in the world if this is how low the threshold is for the use of the military.

A free nation has the right to use military force against a rights-violating one, but definitely not the obligation.

Since, to a smaller or greater degree,all governments violate rights one should first answer this question: what amount of rights-violation authorizes the use of military force against another government? What is the threshold?

Further, before using outright force, there is a place for diplomatic measures. Mind you, carrying a big stick does add to the attention paid to your discourse, never mind how soft-spoken it may be.

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A free nation has the right to use military force against a rights-violating one, but definitely not the obligation.
Correct: that obligation would come from an evaluation of the extent to which the rights-violating nation is violating the rights of citizens of the free nation. It's quite analogous to the obligation which the police have to investigate a crime against a person. Even though there is such an obligation, it is not unconditional and open-ended; thus it would be wrong for the police to spend 50% of their annual budget on a single case of credit card fraud costing $500, but it could well be right for them to spend 50% of their annual budget to investigate the killings by Malvo and Muhammad. Edited by DavidOdden
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It is simply a matter of poor foreign policy for a government to intervene on behalf of an entity which had its right to own property violated in a country that does not respect property rights. All that the interceding government is able to do is take back the property and install a regime that is friendly to its own interests. This does not address the true problem, and will result in undesirable consequences for the interceding government because the philosophic undercurrent opposed to property rights will remain in the country, irregardless of who is put in charge.

Any free nation has the right to kick the ass of a rights-violating dictatorship.

Let us suppose for a minute that I agree with this statement. It can still be shown that this does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that a free nation should intervene. What I am submitting to you is that it is not in the best interests for a government to intercede, because it will lead to widespread resentment of the interceding government by the people of the country, who still believe that the concept of property rights is philosophically incorrect. This resentment will end up costing the government of the interceding country more than it gains by interceding. The key fact here is that it is not possible to change widespread popular ideas within an irrational (or rational) culture by force.

From the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page on Monday the 19th of November there was a relevant editorial about the current state of Argentina. Just to quote from it quickly:

The [Argentine] government needs to raise $7 billion in the capital markets next year and an estimated $10 billion in 2009. Meanwhile, the flight to quality since the subprime debacle has pushed up Argentine borrowing costs. In a 10-year dollar-denominated domestic bond offering issued last week, it had to pay 10.5%. By comparision, Brazilian 10-year bonds yield 5.6%. In other words, Argentina's creditors are demanding almost five percentage points over Brazil to cover the risks of the unsustainable economic agenda of a government that thumbs its nose at property rights, contract security and free prices. The $22 billion of bonds held by the private-sector and still in default don't help either.

Peronists [the ruling political party] still insist that market economics are part of a right-wing "neo-liberal" plot. In other words, they have a lot to learn. The international community can help by letting them learn it on their own.

The Argentine government openly stated in 2000 that it will not be paying interest or principal to any bond investors. If one had loaned the Argentine government money by purchasing bonds in the 90's, then one would have received back less than 30 cents on the dollar after waiting years, if one was lucky. A stubborn refusal to pay back borrowed money is a clear violation of the property rights of creditors all over the world. Indeed, under United States law, creditors are the first to be paid (sometimes by claims on property) when a company or district is in bankruptcy. After Argentina defaulted on its bonds, a major financial crisis could have been triggered in many Western countries whose banks and hedge funds held these bonds. Do you hold that governments should have interceded on behalf of these creditors?

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Let us suppose for a minute that I agree with this statement. It can still be shown that this does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that a free nation should intervene. What I am submitting to you is that it is not in the best interests for a government to intercede,

You seem to ignore the fact that we were in a cold war with the Soviets and it most certainly was in our interests to see that such oil resources did not fall.

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You seem to ignore the fact that we were in a cold war with the Soviets and it most certainly was in our interests to see that such oil resources did not fall.

The long-term cost of interceding was far greater to us than the cost of letting such resources fall, as we saw with the Iranian hostage crisis, and as we are now seeing 50+ years later.

Moreover, the Soviets were not a factor in our decision to overthrow the government.

From Volume 5 of Foreign Relations of the United States under Kennedy located here:

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/c4035.htm

[Krushchev]The Soviet Union does not want a revolution there and does not do anything in that country to promote such a development. However, the people of the country are so poor that the country has become a volcano and changes are bound to occur sooner or later. The Shah will certainly be overthrown. By supporting the Shah, the United States generates adverse feelings toward the United States among the people of Iran and, conversely, favorable feelings toward the USSR. This, of course, is to the US's own disadvantage.

[Kennedy]The President said that he agreed with Mr. Khrushchev and expressed the belief that unless the present Prime Minister of Iran improved the lot of his people and ensured better living conditions, there would be important changes in that country.

[Krushchev]Mr. Khrushchev then said that he had noted some inconsistency in US policy. He specified that he did not mean the policy of the President personally, because he had been in the White House only since quite recently, but rather US policy in general. He said that the United States places great emphasis on democracy. However, if one takes Iran as an example, the ruler there is the Shah, who says that his power was given to him by God. Everybody knows how this power was seized by the Shah's father, who had been a Sergeant in the Iranian Army and who had usurped the throne by means of murder, plunder, and violence. Now the United States supports the Shah and the Iranian people transfer, as it were, their anger from the Shah to the United States. The United States is spending vast sums of money in Iran but that money does not go to the people; it is plundered by the Shah's entourage. The United States supports the most reactionary regimes and this is how the people see US policy.

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The long-term cost of interceding was far greater to us than the cost of letting such resources fall, as we saw with the Iranian hostage crisis, and as we are now seeing 50+ years later.

I certainly see the costs to us of interceding. What do you hypothesize the costs of letting those resources fall would have been exactly? And how did that calculus look at the time, given that they didn't have your benefit of hindsight?

Moreover, the Soviets were not a factor in our decision to overthrow the government.

From Volume 5 of Foreign Relations of the United States under Kennedy located here:

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/c4035.htm

Your quote is less than obvious. Mind connecting a few dots to actually support that claim?

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I certainly see the costs to us of interceding. What do you hypothesize the costs of letting those resources fall would have been exactly? And how did that calculus look at the time, given that they didn't have your benefit of hindsight?

I hypothesize that the cost of letting these resources fall to a primitive culture is negligible. Without the application of the intellect and the advancement of technology capable of occuring only in a free society, a primitive culture can sit on resources for thousands of years without discovering how to use them. However, when they are discovered by an outside mind and taken by coercion, one will find them quickly depleted in an inefficient manner, providing little benefit. Destruction under this scenario is unavoidable in a free market. Observe this occuring with Venezuela's state-run oil concern Pdvsa, even as we speak.

I would recommend reading the following NY Times article to observe how the nationalization of oil in Venezuela and the ouster of several key employees from Exxon, Shell and Gulf brought the government less in revenue and contributed to several other destructive problems:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine...nted=1&_r=2

Even so, this is, as you say, a hypothesis. But make no mistake about it, an exact calculation is not needed. One can simply study history and understand that supporting a dictator and/or trying to establish a foreign government one feels is "proper" has, and will, always lead to a long-term cost greater than what one has gained in the short-term.

Your quote is less than obvious. Mind connecting a few dots to actually support that claim??

Krushchev states the Soviets have no interest in Iran. We did not help prevent this nationalization from occuring because of the Soviet Union.

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I hypothesize that the cost of letting these resources fall to a primitive culture is negligible. Without the application of the intellect and the advancement of technology capable of occuring only in a free society, a primitive culture can sit on resources for thousands of years without discovering how to use them. However, when they are discovered by an outside mind and taken by coercion, one will find them quickly depleted in an inefficient manner, providing little benefit.

"Little benefit"? hmmm. there's a new thread around here somewhere that would seem to argue against that very concept. I think your timescale for what constitutes "quickly" is a bit off.

While Soviet Russia was backward, I can hardly say that it was primitive. Running on borrowed time maybe, but the havoc it reeked in the 40+ years where it was dominant seems to argue against your theory.

Your policy, in order to work, requires a complete 100% boycott of the "primitive culture". This would include every single oil company with the technology to exploit those resources, inlcuding hte ones that aren't on US soil. If you can't get that, then letting such resources fall into the wrong hands will almost assure that someone who you can't control is going to give them the ability to exploit it. Still wanna let it happen.

I would recommend reading the following NY Times article to observe how the nationalization of oil in Venezuela and the ouster of several key employees from Exxon, Shell and Gulf brought the government less in revenue and contributed to several other destructive problems:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine...nted=1&_r=2

Even so, this is, as you say, a hypothesis. But make no mistake about it, an exact calculation is not needed. One can simply study history and understand that supporting a dictator and/or trying to establish a foreign government one feels is "proper" has, and will, always lead to a long-term cost greater than what one has gained in the short-term. .

Trust me, I know hte problem...

http://crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/2007...-you-think.html

http://crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/2007...umbian-oil.html

http://crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/2006...me-back-we.html

I admire your principle, but I think you are failing to see the unintended consequences of the policy you advocate.

The senario you give really isn't the case here, right. I mean we let these assets fall into Russian hands and we would have been "failing to support" a petty dictator to the benefit of one of the most powerful totalitarian regimes on the planet at the time. Not quite the same senario...

Krushchev states the Soviets have no interest in Iran. We did not help prevent this nationalization from occuring because of the Soviet Union.

Oh, I see. Krushchev told it to Kennedy. Well, it must be true. Respectfully sir, were you even around during the cold war? Because if you were, you'd realize how idiotic that statement is.

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I've concluded that I can't document the financial interest of US companies in AIOC w.r.t. Iran. It turns out the documented Socony and Jersey connections to AIOC were as partners in separate oil companys, or involved buying contracts, or were after the coup.

In addition, I do not remember any overt financial interests of U.S. companies in AIOC discussed in Michael Oren's Power, Faith and Fantasy or in Ali Ansari's Confronting Iran.

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The long-term cost of interceding was far greater to us than the cost of letting such resources fall, as we saw with the Iranian hostage crisis, and as we are now seeing 50+ years later.

Those costs would have been small had our government not acted as cowards in the face of that crisis.

Which I already explained to you.

You seem to simply refuse to see anything foreign-policy-related in self-assertive terms.

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"Little benefit"? hmmm. there's a new thread around here somewhere that would seem to argue against that very concept. I think your timescale for what constitutes "quickly" is a bit off.

You're right. I should not have used the word quickly. I should have used "ultimately." In addition, "little benefit" was vague as well. I should have said "little benefit to the government that nationalizes said resources."

While Soviet Russia was backward, I can hardly say that it was primitive. Running on borrowed time maybe, but the havoc it reeked in the 40+ years where it was dominant seems to argue against your theory.

Firstly, to answer the question you later posed, no, I was not around during the Cold War when we supported the Shah.

A large part of why the Soviets flourished was indeed because of Western technology and Western interests helping build numerous key things in the USSR, such as infrastructure and weapons. If the Soviets were left to their own devices, their destruction would have been much "quicker," to use the same word from earlier. There are some good books that document Western companies (GE, Kellog to name a few I can remember) and their dealings with the Soviets. Here are two:

Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development

and

Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution

Your policy, in order to work, requires a complete 100% boycott of the "primitive culture". This would include every single oil company with the technology to exploit those resources, inlcuding hte ones that aren't on US soil. If you can't get that, then letting such resources fall into the wrong hands will almost assure that someone who you can't control is going to give them the ability to exploit it. Still wanna let it happen.

The senario you give really isn't the case here, right. I mean we let these assets fall into Russian hands and we would have been "failing to support" a petty dictator to the benefit of one of the most powerful totalitarian regimes on the planet at the time. Not quite the same senario....[/

I have not heard that the Soviets were interested in invading Iran and that this was a factor in our decision to help the British keep control of their oil. Maybe DarkWaters could let us know if this was mentioned in any of the books he has read on the topic.

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A large part of why the Soviets flourished was indeed because of Western technology and Western interests helping build numerous key things in the USSR, such as infrastructure and weapons. If the Soviets were left to their own devices, their destruction would have been much "quicker," to use the same word from earlier. There are some good books that document Western companies (GE, Kellog to name a few I can remember) and their dealings with the Soviets. Here are two:

Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development

and

Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution

I notice you say Western technolgoy, and not US, which brings me back to the more important point in my post which you didn't address.

Your policy, in order to work, requires a complete 100% boycott of the "primitive culture". This would include every single oil company with the technology to exploit those resources, inlcuding hte ones that aren't on US soil. If you can't get that, then letting such resources fall into the wrong hands will almost assure that someone who you can't control is going to give them the ability to exploit it. Still wanna let it happen.

Also, there is a BIG difference between the statements you made originally, and the ones which you modified to.

You're right. I should not have used the word quickly. I should have used "ultimately." In addition, "little benefit" was vague as well. I should have said "little benefit to the government that nationalizes said resources."

Quickly and ultimately are far from the same thing. Also, your last should read "little benefit to the government that nationalizes said resources, and can be reasonably expected to receive help from absolutely no other country."

I have not heard that the Soviets were interested in invading Iran and that this was a factor in our decision to help the British keep control of their oil. Maybe DarkWaters could let us know if this was mentioned in any of the books he has read on the topic.

This question is biased by hindsight. The question should be "Did the US have reasonable suspicion to believe that the USSR might be interested in Iran and could make good on a threat to take over the country?" I think given Russia's history throughout the cold war of co-opting nations on it's borders it would be silly to think they couldn't or might not want to do the same to Iran. This is why I asked the question about you being around. THe Cold War was about deception, obfuscation, covert actions and actions by proxy (Cuba, Vietnam). Nobody was naive enough to take anything anyone said at face value, and figuring out exact intentions was quite a difficult thing to do. Every foreign policy decision during the time was always colored by an analysis of what impact it would have on the Soviets.

I think the principles you've stated are admirable, but you are applying them intrinsically, regardless of context. Not supporting dictators is great. What if it's a petty dictator with signfiicant assets sitting on the border of a much larger more threatening dictatorship with a history of invading neighboring states, who regardless of your boycott of them would probably get the means to exploit those assets one way or another if they got a hold of them. Said larger dictatorship also views you as a mortal enemy and would be very touchy about you invading and overthrowing a neighboring state (i.e. that would be WWIII-starting sorts of actions)

Edited by KendallJ
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The key fact here is that it is not possible to change widespread popular ideas within an irrational (or rational) culture by force.

I dispute this "fact". I would argue that in most cases of rule by force, the only way to change the situation is by force.

In any case no one here has advocated changing irrational ideas by force, only confronting those who act on those ideas with the intent of violating our rights.

One can simply study history and understand that supporting a dictator and/or trying to establish a foreign government one feels is "proper" has, and will, always lead to a long-term cost greater than what one has gained in the short-term.

How about Japan?

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Your policy, in order to work, requires a complete 100% boycott of the "primitive culture". This would include every single oil company with the technology to exploit those resources, inlcuding hte ones that aren't on US soil. If you can't get that, then letting such resources fall into the wrong hands will almost assure that someone who you can't control is going to give them the ability to exploit it. Still wanna let it happen.

You have thoughtful points.

A state-run oil company needs a mind outside of its own culture in order to help it exploit its resources. You agreed with this when you said "Trust me, I know" while we were discussing Venezuela. I trust that you would also agree that it is immoral for a mind to lend itself to helping a dictatorship. Shouldn't the proper policy of a state affected by such a problem be to withdraw the minds who are enabling the exploitation of resources and helping to enrich an enemy of the state?

Such an example coming from a free and prosperous nation can and will encourage other nations to enact similiar policies. If there is a nation that disagrees and decides to lend its best minds to help the dictatorship exploit its resources, then that nation can be isolated from the world as well, left free to pursue policies that will ultimately be self-destructive. Indeed, without our aid, the Soviet empire wouldn't have become as strong as it did and would have collapsed quicker than it did and, in all likelihood, wouldn't have had the capability to invade Iran and capture these oil assets in the first place.

I think the principles you've stated are admirable, but you are applying them intrinsically, regardless of context. Not supporting dictators is great. What if it's a petty dictator with signfiicant assets sitting on the border of a much larger more threatening dictatorship with a history of invading neighboring states, who regardless of your boycott of them would probably get the means to exploit those assets one way or another if they got a hold of them.

Would the Soviets be able to exploit these assets without the aid of Western nations? Would the Soviets be able to exploit these assets without the help of US taxpayers, who were liable to the USSR for the hundreds of millions of dollars the Soviets held in US Treasury notes? How about the $50 million dollar loan given to the Soviets by US and Western banks for exploration in Eastern Siberian gas fields? Why should we defend assets in Iran from falling in a hypothetical Soviet invasion by installing a dictator, yet simultanously help the Soviets gain assets that exist within their own borders?

We should have never helped the Soviets create an empire to threaten us. And I do not accept the statement that because we did, we had to support a dictator in Iran. The solution is for us to pursue a proper foreign policy, not to simply continue compounding our problems on top of former policy mistakes.

Edited by adrock3215
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Indeed, without our aid, the Soviet empire wouldn't have become as strong as it did and would have collapsed quicker than it did and, in all likelihood, wouldn't have had the capability to invade Iran and capture these oil assets in the first place.

Indeed, but if we are discussing what the proper course of action to react to Iran was, then we need to discuss it in the context that we did support the Soviets and therefore they did have the capability to invade Iran.

We should have never helped the Soviets create an empire to threaten us. And I do not accept the statement that because we did, we had to support a dictator in Iran. The solution is for us to pursue a proper foreign policy, not to simply continue compounding our problems on top of former policy mistakes.

You are committing precisely the fallacy that you rail against. The solution is to pursue proper foreign policy and not to compound our problems by declaring ourselves "to blame" and then surrendering to threats and aggression as a result.

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Indeed, but if we are discussing what the proper course of action to react to Iran was, then we need to discuss it in the context that we did support the Soviets and therefore they did have the capability to invade Iran.

Contextually speaking, we need to look at this situation in its entirety, including all the events and policies that led up to it. If we fail to do this, and simply look at this as an isolated event, we will find a short-term solution with long-term consequences, which is what we found.

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Contextually speaking, we need to look at this situation in its entirety, including all the events and policies that led up to it. If we fail to do this, and simply look at this as an isolated event, we will find a short-term solution with long-term consequences, which is what we found.

Straw man. Nobody is suggesting looking at the situation in isolation. You can look at the causes all you want, but only consider them inasmuch as they are in fact relevant to the solution.

As I said, however, you picked a historical context to make your argument in and it is a violation of the discussion to start altering history before the event in question. The fact is that we need to discuss it in the context that we did support the Soviets and therefore they did have the capability to invade Iran.

The way that you are looking at the situation is starkly rationalistic. It's as if you're Britain and the Nazi panzers are storming Poland. You're sitting there saying "well, we never should have appeased Hitler with Austria and Czechoslovakia." How is that going to stop the Wehrmacht?

Yes, it's true that Chamberlain should not have appeased Hitler. But after the fact that he did appease Hitler, it's useless to think that the proper actions change based on who made the mess. As if because Britain had a hand in causing the problem, that it should therefore never turn around and begin self-asserting.

That's precisely the argument that you're making here: because there is some guilt on the part of the US in the past (in this case in creating the Soviet menace), that we therefore must remain paralyzed and/or surrender in the present. (note that this argument is simply repeated for present-day Iran. Because we had a hand in the cause of Iran's threat, we therefore must remain paralyzed and/or surrender in the present)

In fact, this argument could have been lifted whole-cloth from the left and/or libertarians. You seem like a reasonable fellow in other regards, so I suggest that you re-examine that argument and see if you really do agree with it.

In other words, check your premises.

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adrock, inspector has already pointed out they key mistake you're making in applying of principles, and determination of morality, but I wanted to add a few comments.

A state-run oil company needs a mind outside of its own culture in order to help it exploit its resources. You agreed with this when you said "Trust me, I know" while we were discussing Venezuela. I trust that you would also agree that it is immoral for a mind to lend itself to helping a dictatorship. Shouldn't the proper policy of a state affected by such a problem be to withdraw the minds who are enabling the exploitation of resources and helping to enrich an enemy of the state?

Yes, that is one proper policy of a free state. Of course, the other proper policy of the state is to overthrow such a government and replace it with a rights respecting government. It is the free states moral option, not obligation to do so, if it is within it's interests.

Such an example coming from a free and prosperous nation can and will encourage other nations to enact similiar policies. If there is a nation that disagrees and decides to lend its best minds to help the dictatorship exploit its resources, then that nation can be isolated from the world as well, left free to pursue policies that will ultimately be self-destructive. Indeed, without our aid, the Soviet empire wouldn't have become as strong as it did and would have collapsed quicker than it did and, in all likelihood, wouldn't have had the capability to invade Iran and capture these oil assets in the first place.

This is the "let's set a good example and hope everyone follows along". It is really naive. Realize that it doesnt' matter if you can pressure another state once it has already given aid. the damage is done. Your policy won't prevent it, so it must be considered as a possibility. All you say is if someone does help the Russians exploit, we can pressure them too. Well, then it's already too late. We must consider that the policy will yield the probably expectation that the Soviets will exploit the assets if they get ahold of them. All you have to prevent this is "hope". What policy can you give that would actually assure that the Soviets would not get the aid they need?

You certainly can try this; however, once someone does or if it can be reasonably expected that someone will help the Russians, the fact of wether or not they will exploit the resources must be considered as part of the subsequent policy decisions. You used the fact that no one would help the Soviets as a reason to not worry about Iranian oil falling into their hands. If an effective boycott is not a reaosnable expectation then that fact must be considered when deciding subsequent policy. In that case, taking steps that will allow such assets to fall into their hands effectively aids them, and it must be weighed against the costs of not doing so.

Would the Soviets be able to exploit these assets without the aid of Western nations? Would the Soviets be able to exploit these assets without the help of US taxpayers, who were liable to the USSR for the hundreds of millions of dollars the Soviets held in US Treasury notes? How about the $50 million dollar loan given to the Soviets by US and Western banks for exploration in Eastern Siberian gas fields? Why should we defend assets in Iran from falling in a hypothetical Soviet invasion by installing a dictator, yet simultanously help the Soviets gain assets that exist within their own borders?

Well the fact that we're not doing both is a great point, but given the fact that one is happening (and partially out of our control - if you count western and not just the US) then the other becomes the moral path.

We should have never helped the Soviets create an empire to threaten us. And I do not accept the statement that because we did, we had to support a dictator in Iran. The solution is for us to pursue a proper foreign policy, not to simply continue compounding our problems on top of former policy mistakes.

This is a misunderstanding of the application contextually of principles and your analysis is sort of a "tail wagging the dog" analysis. Yes, we should have taken different approaches with the Soviets. However, one cannot point to a principle and say that this principle is the moral course, had we done something different, therefore it is always the moral course. The fact is we didn't do something different, and given the context of reality, the policy of supporting the Shah was then the moral course. The imoral act was in our Soviet foreign policy. You are in effect ttrying to hold onto the morality of principle A, but to do so, you have to create a fantasy world that didn't exist. That is a clear sign of context dropping. In the context of decisions already made, i.e. of actual reality, allowing the Iranian oil assets to fall into Russian hands is immoral and must be considerd when taking the decision about what to do.

It would be an interesting discussion to talk about how the US could have reversed Soviet policy during the cold war, and hence what sorts of minor decisions such as this one would have changed, but that was not the question you originally asked.

I get the same discussion when people talk to me about engagement or boycott of China. Yes the proper course would have been to isolate Red China and starve them out. However, the decision to open relations with them was made when I was 4. China is a different place now, and anyone who says we ought to go back to a boycott is clueless about what is there now. Boycott is far becoming the immoral way to handle this issue because the context is changing.

Edited by KendallJ
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Straw man. Nobody is suggesting looking at the situation in isolation. You can look at the causes all you want, but only consider them inasmuch as they are in fact relevant to the solution.

As I said, however, you picked a historical context to make your argument in and it is a violation of the discussion to start altering history before the event in question. The fact is that we need to discuss it in the context that we did support the Soviets and therefore they did have the capability to invade Iran.

That's precisely the argument that you're making here: because there is some guilt on the part of the US in the past (in this case in creating the Soviet menace), that we therefore must remain paralyzed and/or surrender in the present. (note that this argument is simply repeated for present-day Iran. Because we had a hand in the cause of Iran's threat, we therefore must remain paralyzed and/or surrender in the present)

Thank you for the reply and I understand your point here. I am, however, not recommending any type of surrender. To the original question "Is Supporting a Dictatorship Moral?" my answer was and remains no. Now, the discussion was centered around Iran, so we began on a tangent to talk of the Soviet Union because the situation when we supported a dictator in Iran happened in the context of the Cold War. I suppose we will not reach an agreement on whether or not we should have supported a dictator in Iran, at that particular point in time, during which we were in a conflict with the Soviets.

But does this affect the answer to the question under discussion? If we hadn't supported a dictator in the USSR by helping him build his empire, we wouldn't have ever had to support a dictator in Iran. I am under the impression you would agree with this. Therefore, as a policy (a policy that should have been in effect before the Cold War, during the Cold War, and after), you would agree that supporting a dictatorship is not moral. However, you say that under such irrational circumstances as did exist, supporting a dictatorship was our only option. I certainly understand this, and will give more thought to the subject, but I think we should be able to come to an agreement as to what policy should be, right?

Edited by adrock3215
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