Diversionary theory of foreign policy: Analyzing Iran Crisis from regime perspective By Imran Nazir

International, Issue

Research on the causes of war is as old as human civilization. Many theories have been developed over time to frame conflicts and war. Scholars grossly define human nature as an enabler of war. They find human beings are naturally prone to conflicts with others. Murder of Iranian IRGC’s highest official Soleimani by USA in Iraq is now a hot topic. Analysts are taking different perspectives regarding Iran crisis recently boiling over Middle East. Regrettably few media personals foolishly note this conflict as a foreground of the Third World War. This article would try to reveal a different perspective which would seem less exciting but logical in sense.
There is some hidden and open motives behinda leadership’s move to engage with international conflicts and war broadly. Escalation of conflict is often deliberate. Initiating conflicts with foreign counties provide incentives for political leaders and political party as well. Diversionary theory of foreign policy is an attempt to deal with this kind of deliberative escalation of conflicts. This article will primarily describe tenets of diversionary theory of war in foreign policy and finally try to engage with Iran crisis where bothstate’s authorities have higher level of stake.
Diversionary theory of war in foreign policy is controversial but its controversy does not exhaust its potentiality to explain war-pro behavior of states. Simply diversionary theory depicts that state leaders resort to external use of force to distract domestic attention away from internal conflicts and constraints what in return provide consolidating power in hands of leaders. It is now evident that leaders acting on foreign policy also have to rely on domestic support and formal election. Leaders often fail to mitigate internal conflicts and social unrest. Governments use force in domestic level to mitigate those problems and failures. Using force frequently brings agitation and dissatisfaction among citizens and leaders start to lose legitimacy and popular support. This is the point where diversionary theory of war in foreign policy is used by leaders to regain legitimacy and grip in governance. It is proven that member of a group become more attached and united when there is a possible threat from outer groups. Nation-states deliberately evoke smog of nationalism in crisis with foreign country. Leaders try to poke enemies and make way for conflict even war in some instances. Internal cohesion and solidarity are resulted with massive support to political regime when words like “national security at stake”, “call for solidarity” are preached again and more. Scholars define this situation as rally round the flag effect. These kind of diversionary attempts often lead to war. It has more potentiality to stabilize domestic distress when it is regarded against a long term proclaimed national enemy. For example, Indian people have always been dubious and hostile about Pakistani intention historically. However, there is an interesting fact that democratic governments are more likely to use force in external affairs compared to autocratic regimes for diversionary purpose. Here logic is that autocratic governments can use direct force to surpass popular agitation while democracies cannot directly halt popular grievances. That is why few tricky American Presidents have gone to war to legitimize their fragile acts. Mr. Clinton engaged in Kosovo liberation war to divert his scandal. However, next section would deal with empirical applicability of diversionary theory of war in foreign policy referring recent Iran crisis.
Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq came as a shock to international community. But it would not seem to be a shock if we see the background of decision from different angel. From the very beginning of D. Trump’s campaign for Presidential election race, he took aggressive position. He urged to make wall with Mexico, wage trade war with China, kick out immigrants etc. He could not force Mexico to build wall while China did not vow to Trump. Unfortunately his commitment to bring USA as an international dominant force utterly failed. He also failed to show notable progress in domestic affairs. Along with these unfulfilments, he acted very poorly in dealing with international affairs.Recent Ukrainian scandal of bribing is forcing him to the edge of Presidency. Already House of Representative passed impeachment bill. Though, it is unlikely to be passed in final hearings in Senate since upper house is dominated by Republicans.
We can relate the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani bridging between the diversionary theories of foreign policy and suitable background for its application. Donald Trump certainly knows his charismatic leadership of sudden storming. He wiped out all presidential candidates in 2016 election by fire of his hatred speech. His “anti” campaign paid him well. Now he is trying to repeat that old strategy in new outlook. He thinks that bullying foreign enemy would make him credible in the circle of his crazy fans. At the same time, possibility of war would increase the selling of US arms in Middle East. Business group will love it very much. Obviously his decision to kill Soleimani has visionary target on 2020 Presidential election. US people are comparatively ignorant of foreign affairs. So it would be a bet for Trump to show his strong man personality to American people. Initiating conflict with Iran would substitute his failures and opens a possibility to become president again. It is time to see what happens in upcoming days in US politics.

The author of this paper is a student of  Dhaka University