A Foreign Bogeygoat is a Tyrant’s Best Friend

The recent Iran nuclear deal represents a thaw in the American cold war

The recent Iran nuclear deal represents a thaw in the American cold war against that country. It is a welcome sequel to the Obama administration’s partial normalization with Cuba announced late last year.

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Hardliners denounce these policies as “going soft” on theocracy and communism. Yet, it is such critics’ own hardline, hawkish policies that have done the most to ossify and strengthen such regimes.

That is because war, including cold war, is the health of the state. Antagonistic imperial policies — economic warfare, saber-rattling, clandestine interventions, and full-blown attacks — make the citizens of targeted “rogue states” feel under siege.

This activates what Randolph Bourne called their “herd mind,” inducing them to rally around their governments in a militaristic stampede so as to create the national unity of purpose deemed necessary to defend the homeland against the foreign menace. When you lay siege to an entire country, don’t be surprised when it starts to look and act like a barracks.

Rogue state governments eagerly amplify and exploit this siege effect through propaganda, taking on the mantle of foremost defender of the nation against the “Yankee Imperialist” or “Great Satan.” Amid the atmosphere of crisis, public resistance against domestic oppression by the now indispensable “guardian class” goes by the board. “Quit your complaining. Don’t you know there’s a cold war on? Don’t you know we’re under siege?”

Moreover, cold wars make it easy for rogue state governments to shift the blame for domestic troubles away from their own misrule, and onto the foreign bogeyman/scapegoat (“bogeygoat?”) instead. This is especially easy for being to some extent correct, especially with regard to economic blockades and other crippling sanctions.

Imperial governments like to pretend that affairs are quite the reverse, adopting the essentially terrorist rationale that waging war against the civilian

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