The Danger of Cultural Relativism in our Foreign Policy

Much is being made of the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran, warning them that any agreement reached with President Obama is not guaranteed to last past 2016, when there will be a new president in the White House. Some question the legality of this move, others its wisdom and what precedent it might set for future diplomatic negotiations with the United States. There is even a petition at calling for criminal charges against the 47, accompanied by cries of treason and claims of an “unprecedented breach of protocol.” Now, regardless of how blatantly false, mendacious, and misguided these claims are, they neglect a far more important and politically far less expedient point: what those who support the President in this endeavor to sign an agreement with Iran are missing is the absolute and utter irrationality of such a deal.

Fundamentally – for anyone to advocate a formal agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, one has to have faith that Iran will actually comply with the agreement. Given its history of failing to do so, what makes anyone think this time will be different? What, then, is the point of such an agreement? If you have that confidence in Iran, you’re not only kidding yourself, but you’re also putting millions of lives at risk (unless the goal is to lure them into some false sense of security and then catch them “red-handed”).

Others argue that “Iran has every right to nuclear capability” and ask, “who are we to deny them this right?” At its vey core, such a statement is rooted in a cultural relativist worldview. In other words, one has to wholeheartedly believe that nothing separates Iran from the United States, that our differences are merely “matters of perspective,” and that we, as the United States, “have no right to deny them” nuclear power or nuclear weapons. It is a worldview, a belief system that completely abdicates any notion of right or wrong and chalks up all such characterizations to “difference” and mere matters of opinion.

But if you live in the real world, you will realize that Iran is an unadulterated evil. Its leaders are hateful, cruel, and ruthless madmen who have repeatedly expressed their desire and intentions to exterminate both Israel, the United States, and all the Jews of the world. It is a state riddled with absolute contempt for the West. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to posit that many of its people feel similarly. Iran is dangerous and simply has not proven itself to be a reasonable, responsible, peace-seeking member of the global community. This is why Iran does not have any sort of “right” to nuclear weapons.

What makes us different –  what makes us deserving of having nuclear power? Our civility, our common sense, our compassion,  our preference for peace, harmony, democracy as opposed to fanatical war and destruction, and our institutions and Constitutional foundation. It is impossible to equate these two sets of characteristics and it is because of this that Iran simply does not “deserve” to have nuclear weapons (of course, ideally, there would be no nuclear weapons at all in the world, but that’s utopian).

And finally, if my claim that the United States is deserving while Iran is not offends you and makes you want to cry out that we as a nation are merely “different,” I invite you to go live in one of these countries (Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, etc.) that is merely “different” from ours for a year and to report back to us how “different” those experiences of yours were.

One thought on “The Danger of Cultural Relativism in our Foreign Policy

  1. Alex Montgomery Reply

    I agree with you that allowing Iran to develop nuclear weaponry has pernicious consequences, but I do not fault the Obama Administration fundamentally for seeking a deal with Iranian leaders. The issue to consider is whether or not the deal that is made – if one is made at all – satisfies standards of proper interaction with Iran: We do not really know, yet, what the details of the supposed deal are, so why don’t we give the Administration a chance to work it out? If it sucks, then the next administration can do what is necessary in order to rectify it.

    Regarding the Senate Republicans’ letter, my problem with it is not its supposed illegality, for such a claim is ignorant and preposterous; rather, I don’t think the letter is fair to the Administration’s attempts to negotiate effectively. It is an obviously political stunt meant for sabotage not smart foreign policy – and I think it is important to remember that primary foreign-policy negotiating duties lie with the executive, not with Congress. Of course, Congress will have to approve any treaty made, but we don’t know yet what the deal will entail, nor do we know whether it will actually constitute a formal treaty that must run through Congress.

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