Sorry, but I’m Not Sorry

*An unexpected awakening to American apologists at Stanford:*should Stanford University apologize to Iran?

In the wake of Iran placing Stanford University on their “enemies list,” we think it is appropriate to revisit the effectiveness of an apologetic American foreign policy. Iran’s assessment provides us with an opportunity to view the huge issue of American foreign policy in a different, more personal light.

Stanford has the distinction of being Iran’s enemy because of its purported role in “inciting this summer’s postelection unrest and waging a soft war against the Islamic Republic.” The more likely reason is that Stanford’s Director of Iranian Studies, Abbas Milani, a prominent Iranian dissident, is a frequent critic of the authoritative and brutal Iranian regime.

Apologists frequently argue that widespread anti-American sentiment is caused by the arrogant and imperialistic actions by this nation. However, this approach doesn’t seem to hold for the case of Stanford. Indeed, what Iran’s actions toward our community reveal, more than anything, is its authoritative regime’s opposition to Western beliefs.

What arrogance has Stanford committed beyond hiring a renowned scholar specializing in Iran? What responsibility can we students possibly bear for Iran’s decision? And what does an apologist stance actually accomplish?

The unreasonable decision to consider Stanford an “enemy” will hopefully shed light on the broader topic of American apologism. The Dixie Chicks debacle of 2003, in which lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President George W. Bush during a London performance, was our generation’s first encounter with the public hailstorm that can arise on both sides of this issue.  While the initial reaction to the group was overwhelmingly negative, since then the trend of apologizing for America and its actions has become much more popular; so much so, in fact, that we believe similar remarks made today would be far more acceptable than they were seven years ago.

As of late, offering excuses for America is not restricted solely to the Jane Fondas of our time.  Our own President has made a habit of asking pardon for America and its actions, particularly on foreign soil.  In his first sit-down interview after taking office, Obama told Al Arabiya news, an Arab news network, “We sometimes make mistakes.  We are not perfect.  But if you look at the track record, America was not born as a colonial power.”  This thinly-veiled jab was not only a criticism of the previous administration’s actions, but also of America as a whole.  This was not the only time that President Obama has apologized for our nation; from claiming American has been “arrogant and dismissive towards allies” to “acting alone” in the war on terror, Obama’s foreign policy has often been apologetic.

Political commentator Nile Gardiner summarized the drawbacks of this style of foreign policy when he stated, “Every groveling apology by the President undermines America’s confidence, standing and power, and strengthens the hand of those who seek her destruction.”

We understand that this administration inherited a unique and serious set of foreign policy issues and has had to deal with widespread anti-American sentiment.  Finding a diplomatic response to this political environment is a huge challenge, but one that can be addressed without undermining the positive aspects of our nation.  We fully acknowledge that there are imperfections and inefficiencies in parts of both American institutions and attitudes.

However, to ask pardon for the country as a whole devalues the many great things that define our nation.  It is an affront to the men and women who serve our country through the military, but also our educators, civil employees, small business owners, and all of the people whose very existence proves that there is still much in America of which to be proud.  Unfortunately, the apologist world view runs strong at Stanford – all too frequently, defending America means taking the overwhelmingly unpopular stance.

Iran’s decision to make Stanford an enemy personalizes foreign policy for all members of the Stanford community and highlights an issue that we hope can be applied on the national scale. A Stanford apology to Iran for our supposed offenses would be ridiculous.  We assert that apologizing for America, either domestically or abroad is just as absurd and far more detrimental. If you really want to make a difference, stop apologizing and start acting.

**Kelley Winn is a senior majoring in History and minoring in Human Biology. Valerie Brown is a senior majoring in International Relations.*Both love elephants, political and real. *

Subscribe to the Stanford Review