by Daniel Larison American Conservative Nov 26, 2018
Anne Applebaum notices the Trump administration’s policy of regime change in all but name:
The United States now has a policy that promotes regime collapse in all but name; at the very least, it’s clear that this administration wants the Islamic republic to fail. But although we have a lively debate about the merits of sanctions, nobody seems to do much thinking about the future of Iran itself.
As a general rule, advocates of regime change don’t think about what comes after the collapse because a) they don’t care about the effects the collapse will have on the country or the surrounding region and b) they stupidly assume that whatever comes next will inevitably be an improvement over the status quo. Regime changers don’t worry about the future of Iran because their interest in Iran is overwhelmingly negative and destructive. They see the Iranian government as an obstacle to be removed, and they aren’t particularly concerned with how many people are harmed in the process.
At the same time, they tend to have a highly ideological and oversimplified view of Iranian politics in which the end of the regime will change Iranian foreign policy and domestic governance for the better, and the repeated failures of previous regime change policies have not dimmed their enthusiasm for the project. Put another way, they don’t think about the future of Iran because they don’t know and couldn’t care less about Iranians in the present, and that is why they arrogate to themselves the right to try to force political change from the outside.
Rather than treating the Trump administration’s pursuit of regime collapse as something to be taken for granted and planned around, it makes much more sense to challenge and oppose that policy as the reckless and destabilizing folly that it is. Regime collapse in Iran isn’t likely, but the U.S. shouldn’t be seeking it in the first place. Most Iranians don’t want the upheaval and chaos that would come with regime collapse, and attempting to force a change that most of the population rejects is simply a recipe for increased tensions and hostility between our countries.
Here’s a radical notion: perhaps we should recognize that the future of Iran is not ours to plan or prepare, and we should also recognize that every attempt that the U.S. has made to interfere in Iranian politics for the last sixty-five years has been harmful and unwelcome. Most important, we ought to understand that trying to force or hasten political change in someone else’s country is an inherently aggressive and unjustified intrusion into their affairs that should have no place in our foreign policy.