Immaturity and Denial About Iran

Immaturity, as the alienists tell us, expresses itself in various psychological strategies to cope with a reality that challenges self-image – e.g. a recalcitrant Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the ingrained belief of American leaders that they can coerce weaker states to bend to their will and thereby fulfill the United States’ self-defined needs.  Such an ego defense mechanism becomes pathological when its persistent use leads to recurrent maladaptive behavior that impairs the ability to act rationally and to pursue realistic goals – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali. These ego defense mechanisms and strategies try to protect the exalted self from the acute anxiety of adjusting basic images of self identity and relation to others.  They construct a refuge for a threatened ego.

What are those strategiesDenial that anything fundamental has changed – in oneself and out there. Denial entails unconscious attempts to find resolution of emotional conflict and reduction of anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant aspects of external reality. So, excuses and rationalizations are avidly seized upon to explain failure to achieve objectives. Reiteration of established behavior such intimidation, coercion, bluster – e.g. repeated futile efforts at “nation-building” in uncongenial settings. Parsimonious changes at the pragmatic margins of one’s outlook and worldview – changing the packaging but not the content of terms for unconditional surrender that we extend to Iran.  Cultivated ignorance – taking liberties to pronounce on matters of which one knows next to nothing.  There is a double advantage here: the facts of actual reality are not speed bumps on the way to a pre-determined conclusion; shifting realities on the ground make no difference when the baseline is ignorance. Ignorance creates space for dogma. As examples, choose any of the above.

When these mechanisms fail, there arises the danger of delusional projection, i.e. grossly frank delusions about external reality. Eventually, there is the even greater risk of regression, i.e. reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses in a more adult way, e.g. Robert Kagan, William Kristol, John Bolton, Mitt Romney, a large slice of Congress, and sundry syndicated columnists – not to mention some high placed officials in the Obama administration like Leon Panetta.

The realities of the Iran situation are these, in a nutshell.

•   Iranian leaders of all stripes will not give up the nuclear weapons option unless there is a credible, comprehensive set of multi-party security agreements for the Persian Gulf.  They must accommodate Iranian security concerns as well as those of antagonistic states.

•   Coercion via economic sanctions will not change that reality.

•   Out mode of address that humiliates them exacerbates matters.

•   Intimidation via spotlighting the prospect of an Israeli attack will not work – for a number of reasons. It is not technically credible; the United States – rightly – will be held accountable by Teheran; the reaction will be severe and endanger both American forces and American interests; it will not eliminate the spectre of a “nuclear” Iran.

•   An all-out American assault could work technically. It is logical were Washington prepared to accept the adverse consequences and could take on the burden of dealing with an aggressively hostile Iran thereafter.

If the United States is not ready for all-out war and its aftermath, then it should make the necessary intellectual, emotional, political and diplomatic adjustments.

Michael Brenner is a Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

More articles by:

Michael Brenner is a Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South