Home/Daniel Larison/The Abnormal Demand to ‘Behave Like a Normal Nation’

The Abnormal Demand to ‘Behave Like a Normal Nation’

Mike Pompeo delivered a speech on Iran today at the Hoover Institute in which he repeated his tedious “normal nation” rhetoric:

Trying to coerce another state to become what our government wants it to be is a fool’s errand. It is also extremely arrogant to think that our government has the right to dictate terms to others like this. Our government has no business trying to force other states to undergo some sort of transformation. The more that the U.S. applies pressure to make them do what our government wants, the more stubbornly they will resist. Almost everything that Pompeo cites as proof that Iran does not behave “like a normal nation” is evidence that the Iranian government behaves very much like lots of other states: it pursues regional influence, aligns itself with political forces that share the government’s objectives, and develops military defenses to deter attack for the sake of its own security. Like other states, Iran’s government prizes its independence, and to submit to the demands that the U.S. has made would mean giving up a significant part of that independence. “Behave like a normal nation” is little more than a code for demanding humiliation and surrender, because Iran is the only country being held to this “normal” standard.

Iran is a country of more than 80 million people and it is going to have an important role in regional affairs no matter what kind of government it has. Norway has a population of a little over five million people. No offense to Norway, but telling them to “be like Norway” amounts to telling them that they should accept having little or no influence in their region. Pompeo is essentially saying that Iran should punch far below its own weight, and if they don’t they will be penalized severely. No nation would accept the reduced role that Pompeo demands, especially when the demand comes from the world’s only superpower that behaves more abnormally than any other nation in the world.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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