December 1st, 2011
12:00 AM ET

Letters to the President #1045: 'The law of unintended consequences'

Reporter's Note: Every single day I write a letter to the White House. Not once has the president responded. But maybe today is the day.

Dear Mr. President,

Some distant relative of mine (I can’t recall his name) made a terrible mistake when he was a young teen according to family lore. He was standing near a barn and noticed a piece of straw sticking out between the boards from inside. Rather absentmindedly he thought he would strike a match and burn the straw back even with the wall. That was the intended consequence. But the unintended consequence was what followed: The straw burned to the wall, through the crack, ignited piles of straw inside the building, and “Bob’s your uncle” the whole joint went up in flames.

The story comes to mind as I consider the latest news from Iran. In a nutshell, protestors stormed the British embassy and trashed the place. Their intended consequence would appear to have been to send a message: We’re mad at the Brits for imposing further economic sanctions on our country, and we figure burning a few flags and smashing some windows will make the point clear.

The unintended consequences? Well, those seem to be shaping up by the hour and they are none too pretty for Iran. Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands have all recalled their ambassadors. Iran has grown more diplomatically isolated. Europe is growing more united in its opposition to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In short, what a couple of hundred angry Iranians (and likely the political operatives who ok’d or perhaps even organized their coup de’ Brits) thought would dramatize their outrage, instead may be making their situation considerably worse than it was.

In effect, they are like a kid who issues a mock challenge to another to “meet after school and duke it out,” only to be shocked when the “challengee” says “Sure! Let’s go!”

Is the world now poised for war with Iran? Probably not. But the planet has clearly moved a step further away from peaceful, production relations with Iran. And Iran will pay the price.

Just a few thoughts on a busy Wednesday. Call if you have a moment.


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Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1 • Tom Foreman
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Ahmad

    We all share one moon ! Dance for PEACE !

    December 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm |