Thursday, May 21, 2015

RED SCARES IN HIGHER EDUCATION: REWRITING THE NARRATIVE OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM



Harry Targ

Purdue University has become the first public institution of higher education to adopt a free speech policy called the ‘Chicago principles,’ condemning the suppression of views no matter how ‘offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed’ they may be. (Tyler Kingkade, “Purdue Takes A Stand For Free Speech, No Matter How Offensive Or Unwise,” Huffington Post, May 15, 2015).

“Colleges and universities often boast of their diversity in terms of race, sex, gender or sexual orientation, but too often they fail to encourage diversity of thought.” (Kathleen Parker, “In Name of Free Speech at Purdue, Beyond,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, Thursday, May 21, 2015, 7A).

To its credit, the Purdue University Board of Trustees recently passed a resolution defending free speech on its college campus. The new policy was strongly endorsed by the Purdue President Mitch Daniels who, quoted by Parker, condemned universities that spawn “a bunch of little authoritarians with an inverted view of our basic freedoms.”

While the policy is correct, the implied narrative of the threat to academic freedom and diversity of thought as coming from the Left, progressives or liberals, constitutes an extraordinary rewriting of the experience of a hundred years of higher education. Any serious revisiting of the history of the modern university shows clearly that the ideas, disciplines, purposes of higher education have been shaped and transformed by money, power, the perceived needs of United States national security, and conservative ideology.

For example, Ellen Schrecker documented the enormous impact that the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s had on higher education in her book, No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities (1988).  She interviewed academic victims of McCarthyite attacks on faculty at prestigious universities.  They were subpoenaed to testify before state legislative or Congressional committees about their former political affiliations and associations.  As was the requirement of the times, those ordered to testify could not just admit to their own political activities but were obliged to give witness against others whom they may have known.

Some victims were former members of the Communist Party, others were signatories to petitions supporting the Spanish loyalists during their civil war, and still others had supported banning atomic weapons.  Perhaps the most troubling element of the Red Scare story was the fact that university administrations refused to defend those of their faculty who were attacked. Furthermore, Schrecker reports that some university officials demanded that their faculty cooperate with these committees.  Her subjects reported that they received little or no support from administrators because officials wished to protect their universities from funding reductions.

Since the end of the Cold War, some scholars have begun to examine other aspects of the anti-communist hysteria as it related to the academy. Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, in Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism: 1945-60, addressed the multiplicity of ways in which funding priorities, rightwing assaults, official pronouncements from government officials, lobbying efforts by big business groups, and shifting electoral political currents affected and shaped the content of academic programs since World War II

For example, disciplines then, and now, have been shaped by dominant "paradigms," or approaches which have included assumptions about the subject, aspects of the subject that deserved study, theories that were most appropriate for understanding the subject of the field, and the methods that should be used to study subjects in the field.  Most important, all the social sciences and humanities adopted views of their disciplines that did not challenge ongoing U.S. Cold War assumptions about the world. In each case, dominant paradigms of the 1950s and beyond constituted a rejection of 1930s and 1940s thinking, which were shaped by the labor and other struggles of the Depression era.

In the words of scholar Henry Giroux, the military-industrial-academic complex influenced personnel recruitment and retention and the substance of research and teaching.  Disciplines with more ready access to research dollars -- from engineering to psychology -- defined their research agendas to comport with the interests of the government and corporations.

However, students in the 1960s began to demand new scholarship and education.  Opposition to the Vietnam War particularly stimulated demands on professors to rethink the historical character and motivation of United States foreign policy.  William Appleman Williams and his students, the historical revisionists, articulated a view that the United States practiced imperialism ever since it became an industrial power.  Classrooms where international relations and foreign policy were taught became "contested terrain" for argumentation and debate between the older and more benign view of the U.S. role in the world and the view of the U.S. as an imperial power. 

The contestation spread.  Students demanded more diverse and complicated analyses of race and racism in America, patriarchy and sexism in gender relations, and working-class history.  Every discipline and every dominant paradigm was subjected to challenge.  The challenges were also reflected in radical caucuses in professional associations and even in some of the more upright (and "uptight") signature professional journals.  As a result there was a diminution of Red Scares in higher education, for a time.

The spirit of ideological struggle in the academy diminished after the Vietnam War and especially after Ronald Reagan became president.  Reagan brought back militant Cold War policies, radically increased military expenditures, declared Vietnam a "noble cause," and developed a sustained campaign to crush dissent and reduce the strength of the labor movement.  The climate on campus to some degree returned to the 1950s.

However a whole generation of 1960s-trained academics was now tenured faculty at universities around the country.  They had institutionalized programs in African American Studies, Women's Studies, Peace Studies, and Middle East Studies.  Critical theorists populated education schools, American Studies programs, and other pockets of the university. Faculty continued the debate with keepers of dominant paradigms, created interdisciplinary programs, and developed programs shaped by key social issues such as racism, class exploitation, gender discrimination, and war.

But by the 1990s, a new version of the Red Scare was surfacing.  Some conservative academics and their constituencies talked about declining standards they said were caused by the new programs.  Others criticized what they regarded as an insufficiently rosy view of United States history.  They claimed that the United States was being unfairly condemned for the killing of millions of Native Americans or because slavery and racism were presented as central to the history of the country.  They formed academic associations and interest groups to defend against critical scholarship.

Then David Horowitz came along.  Overseeing a multi-million-dollar foundation funded by rightwing groups, Horowitz launched a campaign to purify academia of those who had records of teaching, research, and publication that he saw as unduly critical of the United States, ruling political or economic elites, or the global political economy.  He opposed those scholar-activists who participated in political movements or in any way connected their professional and political lives.  And he opposed those academics who participated in academic programs that are interdisciplinary, problem-focused, and not tied to traditional fields of study.  

Horowitz published a book in 2006, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, in which he presented distorted profiles of illustrative faculty whom he believed violated academic standards.  Most of those identified either engaged in political activity and/or participated in interdisciplinary scholarly programs that he found offensive: Middle East Studies, Women's Studies, African-American Studies, American Studies, and Peace Studies.

In conjunction with the book and similar assaults on those he disagreed with on his electronic news magazine, Horowitz encouraged right-wing students to challenge the legitimacy of these professors on college campuses and encouraged  conservative student groups to pressure state legislatures to endorse so-called "student bill-of-rights legislation."  Such legislation would have established oversight by state legislatures of colleges and universities, especially their hiring practices.

In conjunction with campaigns led by Lynn Cheney, the former vice-president's wife, and former Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, an organization called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni was created.  As Giroux summarized it, ". . . ACTA actively supports policing classroom knowledge, monitoring curricula, and limiting the autonomy of teachers and students as part of its larger assault on academic freedom" (Giroux, The University in Chains, Paradigm, 2007, 162).

Horowitz, ACTA, and others conservatives who attacked the university targeted visible academics for scrutiny and persecution.  Ward Churchill, a provocative professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, was fired after a university committee was created to review his scholarship because of controversial remarks he made off campus.  Norman Finkelstein, a DePaul University political scientist who had written several books critical of interpreters of Israeli history and foreign policy, was denied tenure after a coordinated attack from outside his university led by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz.  Distinguished political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt became the subject of vitriol and false charges of anti-Semitism because they published a long essay and book analyzing the "Israeli lobby." More recently, the University of Illinois reversed its contractual relationship with Professor Steven Salaita who posted electronic messages strongly critical of the state of Israel.

In addition, the new Red Scare has reinforced and legitimized the dominant paradigms in various academic disciples and created an environment of intellectual caution in the academy.  While the impacts are not easily measurable, untenured faculty cannot help but be intimidated by the public attacks on their senior colleagues.  The system of tenure and promotion in most institutions is vulnerable to public pressures, individual reviewer bias, and honest disagreements among faculty about whether published work and teaching is worthy of promotion and tenure.  Therefore, just as the administrators and faculty of the 1950s felt vulnerable to outside assault on their institutions, those passing judgment on today's faculty might see the necessity of caution in hiring and retaining faculty whose perspectives are new, different, radical, and engaged.

In short, the real threats to academic freedom and free speech on college campuses have almost always come from those who wish to defend the status quo in scholarship, teaching, advocacy, foreign and national security policy, and the way the economy is organized. 

One would hope that the new defenders of free speech and academic freedom, such as Kathleen Parker and the Purdue University Board of Trustees, will defend faculty who are critics of various public policies and the prevailing distributions of wealth, income, power, and unequal privileges based on class, race, gender, and sexual orientation. This would be an historic change from the practice of silencing progressive voices in higher education.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

MAY DAY BRINGS THOUGHTS OF SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVES



(This essay first appeared on  May,1, 2009)

Harry Targ

Sketching Today’s Global Political Economy

During the latest phase of monopoly and finance capital (1945- to the present) enormous changes occurred in the global political economy. First, the United States emerged as a superpower and in an effort to crush the threat of socialism around the world committed itself to constructing a “permanent war economy.” This permanent war economy would create the military capacity to destroy alternatives to global capitalism, stimulate and maintain a high growth manufacturing economy, justify an anti-communist crusade to crush the left in the United States, and co-opt and/or repress working class demands for change. In addition, the permanent war economy would occasion the perpetuation of racism and patriarchy in public and private life.

As the years passed corporate rates of profit began to decline as a result of rising competition among capitalist states, over-production and under-consumption, an increasing fiscal crisis of the capitalist state, and rising prices of core natural resources (particularly oil). With a growing crisis, global corporate and finance capital shifted from investments in production of goods and services to financial speculation. Thus capitalist investment steadily shifted to financialization, or the investment in paper-stocks, bonds, private equity and hedge funds and other forms of speculative investment. Financial speculation was encouraged by state tax policies, “free trade” agreements, an expanded international system of indebtedness, and increased reliance on consumer debt.

Multinational corporations which continued to produce goods and services sought to overcome declining profit rates. This, they concluded, could only be achieved by reducing the costs of labor. To overcome the demand for higher real wages, health and other benefits, and worker rights, manufacturing facilities were moved from core capitalist states to poor countries where lower wages were paid. Thus, in wealthier countries millions of relatively high paying jobs were lost while production of goods increasingly moved to sweatshops in poor countries. Wealthy capitalist states experienced deindustrialization.

Finally, assisted by technological advances, from computers to new forms of shipping, financial speculation and deindustrialization fueled the full flowering of globalization, or the radically increased patterns of cross border interactions-economic, political, and cultural. Globalization began to transform the world into one integrated global political economy.

In short, we may speak of a four-fold set of parallel political and economic developments that have occurred since the end of World War II, in which the United States has played a leading role: creating a permanent war economy, financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization.

Should We Be Thinking About Socialism Today?

A rich and vital set of images of a socialist future comes down to us from the utopians, anarchists, and Marxists, the martyrs of the first May Day, and the variety of experiments with socialism attempted in Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Extracting from the multiple reasons why individuals and movements chose socialism one reason stands out; that is, that capitalism historically is and has been a cruel and inhumane system, a system borne and fueled by slavery, genocide, super exploitation of workers, tactics of division based on race and gender, and an almost total disregard for the natural environment that sustains life. Building a permanent war economy, financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization are merely extensions of the cruel and heartless pursuit of profit which has been the fundamental driving force of the capitalist mode of production.

Drawing on the history and the images of a better future coupled with the brutality of the capitalist era, we might conceive of a 21st century socialist future that has four main dimensions.

First, we need to create institutions that are created and staffed by the working classes and serve the interests of the working classes. While scholars and activists may disagree about what “class” means in today’s complicated world, it is clear that the vast majority of humankind do not own or control the means of production, nor do they usually have an instrumental place in political institutions. Therefore, socialism involves, in the Marxist sense, the creation of a workers’ state and since most of us are workers (more than 90 percent of the US population for example), a state must be established that represents and serves the interests of the many, not the few.

Second, our vision of socialism is a society in which the working classes fully participate in the institutions that shape their lives and in the creation of the policies that these institutions develop to serve the needs of all the people.

Third, socialism also implies the creation of public policies that sustain life. Socialism in this sense is about good jobs, incomes that provide for human needs, access to health care for all, adequate housing and transportation, a livable environment, and an end to discrimination and war.

Fourth, socialism is also about the creation of institutions and policies that maximize human potential. A socialist society provides the intellectual tools to stimulate creativity, celebrate diversity, and facilitate writing poetry, singing and dancing, basking in nature’s glow, and living, working, and loving with others in humanly sustainable communities.

Today we remain terribly far from any of these dimensions of socialism. But paradoxically, humankind at this point in time has the technological tools to build a mass movement to create a socialist future. We can communicate instantaneously with peoples all over the world. We can access information about the world that challenges the narrow ruling class media frames about the human condition. We have in the face of brutal war, environmental devastation, enduring racism, super exploitation of workers everywhere mass movements of workers, women, people of color, indigenous people, and youth who are demanding changes. Increasingly public discourse is based upon the realization that our future will bring either extinction or survival. Socialism, although it is not labeled as such, represents human survival.

Where do we who believe that socialism offers the best hope for survival stand at this critical juncture? We are weak. Many of us are older. Some of us have remained mired in old formulas about change. Nevertheless we can make a contribution to building a socialist future. In fact we have a critical role to play.

We must articulate systematic understandings of the global political economy and where it came from: permanent war, financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization. We need to articulate what impacts these processes have had on class, race, gender, and the environment. In other words, we need to convince activists that almost all things wrong with the world are connected and are intimately tied to the development of capitalism as the dominant mode of production.

We need to take our place in political struggles that demand an expanded role for workers in political institutions. We need to insist that the working classes participate in all political decisions.

We need to work on campaigns that could sustain life: jobs, living wages, single payer health care, climate change etc. Our contribution can include making connections between the variety of single issues, insisting that participants in mass movements take cognizance of and work on the other single issues that constitute the mosaic of problems that require transformation. We must remember that in the end the basic policies that sustain life require building socialism. Most struggles, such as those to achieve living wages or a single payer health care system for example, plant the seeds for building a broader socialist society. We can incorporate our socialist vision in our debates about single issues: if we demand a living wage, why not talk about equality for example?

We need to rearticulate our belief that human beings have a vast potential for good, for creativity, and given a just society, we all could move away from classism, racism, and sexism. We could pursue our talents and interests in the context of a sharing and cooperative society.

By working for institutional incorporation (empowerment) and life-sustaining and enhancing policies we will be planting the seeds for a socialist society.

“In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.
For the union makes us strong”

From “Solidarity Forever,” Ralph Chaplin lyrics, 1915.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

CHUTZPAH ABOUT CUBA



Harry Targ

Cuban society has been an experimental laboratory... If one set of policies became problematic, the Cubans moved in different directions. Usually change came after heated debate at all levels of society. (Harry Targ, Cuba and the USA: A New World Order? International Publishers, 1992, 6)

The predominant image projected about Cuba from U.S. official government sources and the media has not changed much over the last two hundred and fifty years. Ever since the founding of the United States, Cuba has been seen as a victimized land populated by masses eager to break away from Spanish colonial control preferably to affiliate with the United States. Early American political figures such as Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams proclaimed that the United States was willing and able to appropriate the island nation when the Spanish were ready to leave the Caribbean. In the antebellum period, Southern politicians urged that Cuba be incorporated into the slave South.

In the period before the Spanish/Cuban/American War of 1898, the images of the U.S. obligation to the Cuban people presented in newspapers and theaters likened the former to a masculine hero compelled to rescue Cuba, characterized as a damsel in distress. The brutal Spanish were figuratively raping the Cuban women. At the same time Afro-Cuban men, the narrative suggested, were unable to liberate their people. Consequently, the United States, it was broadly proclaimed, must act on behalf of the Cuban people.

After the Spanish/American/Cuban War the U.S. generals and diplomats wrote the Cuban constitution in negotiations with the departing Spanish and hand-picked Cuban leaders. Over the next sixty years the floodgates were opened for ever larger investments in U.S. owned sugar plantations. After World War II, the U.S. domination of the Cuban economy expanded to include tourism, casinos, and gangsters. In every epoch, a popular story about the U.S./Cuban relationship depicted a stern but wise parent necessarily overseeing an energetic and passionate, but immature, child.

But then the long revolutionary struggle of the 1950s achieved victory and the narrative changed. The ungrateful Cubans followed the treacherous new leaders: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and a grassroots movement of peasants, workers, students, women, Afro-Cubans, and solidarity workers from across the globe. As the U.S. government and the dominant media saw it the revolution meant nothing but trouble: communism; crazy ideas about free health care and education; great debates about moral versus material incentives that even found their way into work sites; the export of medical expertise; and sometimes the provision of soldiers to help anti-colonial struggles. It was all bad news for almost sixty years.

Despite the best efforts of the United States to derail the trajectory of Cuban society, the Cuban revolution survived. Now, wiser heads in Washington have decided that economic blockades, internal subversion, assassination plots, and efforts to isolate Cuba from the international community were ineffective. It was time for a new policy: normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.   Official spokespersons suggested and media outlets declared that the best way to help the Cuban people recover from their sixty years of pain and suffering is to establish normal diplomatic and commercial ties with the island.

In a recent essay in USA Today, “Cubans Are Still Waiting for the Thaw,” Alan Gomez argues that Cubans are getting impatient with the pace of change that has occurred since December, 2014, when Presidents Castro and Obama announced the opening of relations. He quotes a Cuban economist who says that because relations with the United States are critical to a small country like Cuba, the latter wants to be careful not to make any mistakes in developing new policies.

But Gomez suggests the Cubans are restless. He reminds the reader that Americans were very frustrated with the stagnation of the U.S. economy during the recent recession. But just imagine he poses: 

          going through that kind of economic malaise for more than half a   century. So when they’re told that the end is near, that the Americans and    their money are coming to save them, you can’t blame them for getting antsy           as they look over the horizon (USA Today, April 23, 2015).

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means audacity or nerve. Usually it refers to statements made that are so outlandish that they defy the imagination. This statement, suggesting that Cubans have been waiting for sixty years for the Americans to come with their ideology of possessive individualism, markets, support for big corporations,  and the promotion of consumerism, ranks among the great expressions of chutzpah in our time. It ignores the beacon of hope, the inspiration, the material progress in health care, education, culture, and work place experimentation in the relations of production, which makes Cuba an actor many times bigger in the eyes of the world than its size.

In the end, a real transformation of United States/Cuban relations will require a fundamental change in the American consciousness such that it respects the qualities of both countries, not the superiority of one over the other.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

IRAN: PRAGMATISM VERSUS GLOBALISM IN THE WORLD TODAY



Harry Targ

Candidate Barack Obama’s most appealing campaign promise in 2008 involved his pledge to transform United States foreign policy from one relying on the perpetual use of force to one based upon the skillful application of bargaining and negotiation, the traditional tools of diplomacy. However, most peace activists were clear-headed enough to know that an Obama foreign policy would not be anti-imperial but they hoped that the US would not blunder into additional wars that would cost the lives and treasure of people all across the globe.

Six years of Obama foreign policy have been mixed at best. US troops are still in Afghanistan. The United States, under cover of NATO, helped destroy the authoritarian but stable government of Libya, leaving a fractured dysfunctional civil war in its place. Military advisors remain in several countries. Drones have targeted alleged enemies in multiple countries. And the United States has continued efforts to destabilize governments, for example in Venezuela.

On the other hand President Obama has committed the United States to a dramatic and significant negotiation process with Iran in conjunction with nations in the United Nations Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5+1. Iran has committed itself to a process of reducing nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for the end of economic sanctions. Nuclear scientists believe the tentative agreement as reported is feasible and desirable. Prominent voices from the foreign policy community regard the agreement as significant; some say as significant as President Nixon’s agreements with the former Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China, both in 1972.

But Obama’s opening to Iran, potentially his most important foreign policy legacy, has generated outrage in the United States. For the more open-minded, a careful assessment of the impending Western/Iran agreement on the latter’s nuclear program needs to be examined referring to history, the contemporary Middle East/Persian Gulf context and the possibilities of tension reduction in the region that could come about because of the agreement. Finally, all of these factors need to be evaluated in the context of the domestic politics and the legacy of racism in the United States.

Historically the United States presence in the Persian Gulf/Middle East region expanded with its establishment of a permanent relationship with the region’s premier dictatorship and sponsor of violence, Saudi Arabia, at the end of World War II. President Roosevelt agreed to provide that country with arms and military support permanently in exchange for perpetual access to oil. Since then the Saudi Arabian government, in conjunction with other Gulf States, has funded terrorist actors in the region and destabilized regimes regarded as threats to its regional hegemony.

In addition to US ties with the Saudi dynasty, the United States supported the secular and brutal dictatorship of the Shah of Iran. His power was solidified in a CIA backed military coup in 1953 that ousted radical nationalist leader, Mohammad Mosaddegh, from power. The ousted leader had promoted the Iranian nationalization of its own oil industry. Subsequent to the U.S. coup, the Shah ruled his country with a heavy hand. By 1979, 70,000 political opponents were in Iranian jails and Iran had become the fifth largest military power in the world.

Then the catastrophe happened: Iranian workers and religious activists overthrew the Shah in 1979, thus threatening other regimes friendly to the US such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the flow of oil from the region to Europe, Japan, and the United States. US hostility to Iran escalated. The US hosted the ailing Shah for medical treatment and after Iranian students took US embassy personnel hostage, President Carter made it clear the United States would not return the Shah to Iran to stand trial for his crimes nor would the United States apologize for its role in putting the Shah in full control of his nation. Also, after the Iranian revolution, the United States gave large military support to Saddam Hussein’s military attack on Iran, leading to the eight-year Iran/Iraq war that cost over a million lives.

Also the United States backed Israeli military adventures against Lebanon and the Gaza strip where allies of Iran reside. Once this history is included, the troubled US/Iranian relationship, stripped of the conventional and overly-simplified narrative of Iran as a global supporter of terrorism and driven by religious extremism, becomes more understandable.

Today’s context makes the story even clearer. The Syrian civil war includes conflicts between anti-government factions supported by the Saudis, the United States, the Israelis, and a government supported by Iran and Russia. The Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), while a threat to Saudi hegemony in the region, is also a movement in opposition to the Iranian-backed Iraqi government, the Syrian government, and the horrific role the United States has played in the region at least since the Iraq war. Violence in the region is fueled by religious differences and the struggle for power between Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, the United States, and Israel versus Iran, the Syrian regime, Shiite backed governments, supporters of the Palestinian people such as Hamas, and Russia.

Given the enormous complexity of the history and context of US/Iranian relations in a region plagued by colonialism, neo-colonialism, the sixty year war between Israel and the Palestinian people and the spread of violence between states and within states, any efforts to negotiate tension-reduction and arms control and/or disarmament agreements among key players is vitally important. Further, Israel already possesses nuclear weapons. The seething caldron of violence and advanced weapons justifies fears of escalating regional and worldwide nuclear war,

While Obama’s campaign and periodic rhetoric about a more “pragmatic” foreign policy--negotiate rather than make war--has not been fully realized, the negotiations begun between the P5+1 and Iran in 2006 and expanded during the Obama administration, constitute an effort to defuse escalation to war in the most volatile region of the world and most sensible policy analysts endorse the effort. However, there is a domestic campaign in the United States to derail the US/Iranian negotiations for at least four reasons.

First, a possible long-term agreement tying Iranian dismantling of technologies that could be used to build nuclear weapons in exchange for the end of harsh US economic sanctions against Iran puts diplomacy ahead of force or the threat of force as the primary instrument of United States foreign policy. This diplomacy first approach, called here pragmatism, is fundamentally at odds with the neoconservative program articulated by foreign policy influentials who have acquired undue influence in Washington DC since the Reagan years. These are the Project for a New American Century elites, the neoconservatives, the key decision-makers who launched the Iraq War. They still believe the United States should use its military power to remake the world in its image. The most extreme spokespersons from this point of view in recent weeks have called for war on Iran.

Second, the pro-Israeli lobby is driven by the idea that Israel must remain the regional hegemon and the United States has an obligation to support Israel in every way, irrespective of the violence and instability it creates. For them, United States foreign policy should be guided in all its conduct by what such policy means for the state of Israel.

Third, a possible US/Iranian agreement can establish a very “bad example” for the future of United States foreign policy. A shift from guns, bombs, and drones first, to a foreign policy based primarily on diplomatic activity might lead peace advocates to renew their call for cuts in military spending. Neoconservative pundits and military-industrial complex spokespersons often frame their analyses in terms of “planning for the next war.” Preparation for war, they believe, should be the number one priority of United States foreign policy.

Finally, negotiations between the United States and Iran from the vantage point of domestic politics, that is Congress and the electoral process, is only marginally about international relations. The first priority of the United States Congress, presidential candidates, most of the Republican Party, and a sizable number of Democrats is about opposing everything President Obama does.

What gives fuel to this opposition in contradistinction to the old foreign policy norm of “bipartisanship” has to do with race. In addition to all the other factors noted above, racism has motivated much of the politics of opposition since 2008. Candidate Obama campaigned around the world in 2008 to enormous plaudits. In the United States his global appeal challenged the whole history of racism that has conditioned and distorted American political life. That is an extra burden this president has had to face in his foreign policy practice beyond mere partisan disputes about policy.

In the end, President Obama’s ability (with P5+1) to pursue and achieve an agreement with Iran might determine whether the world will see a global war in the coming years or declining violence in the Persian Gulf/Middle East region.

The mobilization of the peace movement in defense of a US/Iranian agreement, therefore, is a mobilization against the neoconservative agenda of perpetual war, Israeli hegemony, the military-industrial complex, and racism in the United States.