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US Foreign Relations Museum

On the Washington Mall

|


proposal

To establish a US Foreign Relations Museum on the Washington Mall.

Genesis:

It started out as the "Mossadeq Memorial Museum on the Washington Mall" but soon expanded to embrace a larger history. However, the Mossadeq story is a good place to start, and will be an important component of the Foreign Policy Museum.

Who was Mossadeq and why does he need a memorial in the USA?

The book "All the Shah's men" describes the alleged coup orchestrated by the CIA in 1953 to overthrow Mossadeq, the prime minister of Iran at the time. The book suggests that this was the first instance of CIA using covert ops to overthrow the leader of another country. Their success with this emboldened them to do more of the same around the world. It was the start of a trajectory of bad ethics and worse foreign policy. So, in fact, Mossadeq's story is American history, it's a chapter of that history that is about a perversion of democracy.

Most Americans haven't heard of this guy. It's not a part of the collective American consciousness. In a sense, the Mossadeq episode is where democracy was hijacked by the American government, where Iran was betrayed, and where the vision of good relations between countries became murky. It's not "all America's fault", of course. A lot of Iranians were bought out and conspired to do in their prime minister. But it certainly is a place where upstanding American leadership and foresight was missing.

Which is why we need to shed such a strong light on it now. As it is, there is a major blackout on the issue. If there is a segment of news about Iran on TV, you typically find the reporter saying something like "Relations between the US and Iran soured 25 years ago when Iranians attacked the US Embassy and took Americans hostage...". In fact, relations soured 50 years ago when America launched a coup and violated Iranian democracy - using the very same embassy facilities to operate out of.

Of course there have been many unpleasantries under the bridge since then (actually, the bridge seems to have been destroyed completely). And the purpose of a museum that pores over these unpleasantries isn't to indulge in some sort of blame or victimization game. Rather, it's to take the mistakes of the past, acknowledge them, try to retro-optimize the past if possible, and get people to think of better ways to interact in the future.

More than Mossadeq

The museum goes beyond this, of course. Mossadeq was just one story in an ill-advised book. The museum can feature other US foreign policy choices elsewhere, both before and after Mossadeq. Both disastrous and beneficial, and things in between (It's not all bad. Much of it is very good. We want a holistic view). When we make the museum, we can have a fixed area for Central and South America, a Guatemala and Chile exhibit. And who can forget Asia.

We can have right and left wing interpretations of the same event, too. We want to encourage conversation. The museum has the integrity to present the facts and factual causality, but of course, people interpret things differently sometimes, so that needs to be made explicit as well.

Truth and Reconciliation

In a sense, this museum is modelled after the principles of the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" in South Africa.

Blame and Credit Pie Charts

It's not all Americas fault, of course. Take the Mossadeq case. If we were playing a game of strategy today and you got to play Mossadeq's role, what would you do differently? Would it have changed the game? Of course, his imperfect strategy and naivete (he thought America had ideals and valued democracy!) doesn't justify a US orchestrated coup, and we are not trying to "blame the victim" here. We're just suggesting that in any given situation, each individual might have more power than they realize at the time. We just want people to be more open to the possibilities around them in any given moment. At the very least, it's important to learn lessons from history so as not to repeat them, if possible.

And if we are going to "blame the victim", this can actually be a constructive exercise. If indeed America was playing "the great satan" and violating Irans democratic process, many Iranians bit the apple, so to speak. The Americans only had a few agents on the ground and some cash. But the most useful thing they had was a lot of Iranians who could be persuaded or bought to act against Mossadeq. So there was an inner betrayal. An important part of the museum will therefore exist to make this inner betrayal explicit. Again, this is not so much to blame the victim, but to start looking for ways to strengthen the democratic process in divisive countries based on these and other countries experiences. It's a tool for reflection.

It would be nice to turn this into a pie chart. Each slice of pie a different character/entity and their relative portion of accountability in the fiasco.

A Foreign Policy Museum on the Mall? That'll Never happen

You have every right to be cynical, Odds of the museum's existence at this point are very slim. Nevertheless, in simply attempting to establish such a museum, a lot of important objectives will be realized. Issues will be raised in public forums, the country will be pushed towards many conversations it needs to have in a constructive way. For immigrants and foreigners, the dialog will be a welcome part of a more responsive America. They will see that America is serious about it's leadership of democracy and freedom in the world.

Any groups that get involved in the conversations around the museum and in proposing and contributing exhibits will get to practice their skills of cooperation, historical spin, public relations and democracy and so forth. They get to get the hang of coalition building and influencing politicians and becoming visibly and constructively involved in the body politic. And this sets an example for other countries to engage in constructive historical analysis.

If the museum is built, it will help other countries with pride issues. It's nice to have your story told and recognized and acknowledged.

Also, people all over the world will, paradoxically, feel more American, or connected with America when there is this factual temple (so to speak) on the mall that enables meditation on international relations.

Simorqanize:

I was telling this idea to my cousins and talking about how we all have to improve our coalition building. Like Simurgh! We individuals have to rise to our own highest good and best ethics, and then work together to rise to an even more transcendent good! This takes a lot of organization, social skill building, etc. - we don't just have to get organized, we have to get Simorghanized : )

The museum can have a big mosaic of simurgh made up of different smaller mosaics of birds that represent each player in this drama - perhaps all the countries...an American Eagle for America, and so forth (what is a Persian Bird?)

Oh, there are so many uses for a museum of democracy and foreign policy. And so many artifacts to place in the exhibit. In fact, the visual image that triggered this whole meditation was a picture of Mossadeq posing by the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. He made a trip to America to discuss the problems they were having at the time, and made sure to stop there for the photo op. An act of genius, very symbolic. He was appealing to Americans sense of liberty. And then they stab him in the back.

But that was the past. We don't have to do any more back stabbing. We can all turn over a new leaf. At least that's what the ultimate goal of this museum is: to show the errors of poor ethics, and to help envision a better way.

Change your wicked ways

It's not just me, many evangelists think America needs to repent! I'm not sure what they mean by that, but I think it means to confess your past sins, ask forgiveness for them, and to resolve to live in a different, new, righteous, better way. Of course, let's take most favored nation status here. America is just one country. All the other countries and people need to repent as well. Muslim countries have lots of accountability and need to look at their pie charts - how much was their victimization by foreign powers, how much was their own ridiculousness. But the good thing is that when I start off with the Museum for American accountability, they can't whine anymore that I'm bashing Muslim countries when I get all critical...Once one party starts down the path of responsibility, it just becomes so obvious how much better being responsible and accountable is. Shed the pettiness!

Practical considerations:

I can just imagine a bunch of us Iranians going to visit the Washington mall and taking pictures and measurements. Bam! We get arrested. They'll think we're planning a terrorist attack, but we're planning a museum! It's too funny.

Project Design

Sorry for this hasty write up. This is a "back-of-the-envelope" sketch. In time, I hope to write a really spiffy proposal on this topic. But for now, I'm just getting started on it. I like how the internet is one giant envelope-back. We scrawl down all these temporal ideas. Some of them solidify and take form.

For this project to happen, eventually we'll have to tackle the following:

  • Purpose
  • Principles
  • Vision
  • Brainstorming
  • Organizing
  • Identifying Next Actions
  • Your mission, should you choose to accept it.

Purpose

Before you bother with anything, you have to know WHY you want to do it. What is your motivation. What are your intentions. For the Foreign Relations museum, we want to create a place in which Americans can review their Foreign Policies in the past and present. They can be educated, debate, engage in cnversations on what it means to be American, and what is the best way for America to be in the world. The relationships. A place to envision the action steps needed to make the world safer, better, prosperous. A place where American ideals can live true. A place to discuss bringing American policies back in line with American ideals. A celebration of America and an invitation to integrity. We want this place to create the space for positive foreign relations for the US.

Principles

The principles section looks at our standards and boundaries. How do we want to go about doing what we want to do. Some principles: Integrity, accuracy, conflict resolution, context. Most favored nation approach. Space for discussion and debate. Located on the Washington Mall. Interactive, entertaining, thought provoking, inspiring. Kid Freindly. Every country represented. A hall for speakers and stage for plays. And more!

 

Well, that's all the time I have here. If you want to add to this, please contact me!

We're out corralling our unlimited imagination and leveraging our limited resources. We'll complete this section when we get back!


 


 

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