Unprincipled capitalism shouldn't be for export

by DARAB GANJI Monday, Dec. 16, 2002 at 6:31 AM

The corporate scandals caused by a handful of U.S. companies have highlighted the importance of rigorously adhering to American principles and the rule of law.

The corporate scandals caused by a handful of U.S. companies have highlighted the importance of rigorously adhering to American principles and the rule of law. However, corporate responsibility does not stop at the American border. In light of the disastrous events of Sept. 11, 2001, the world must realize that Corporate America will fully stand behind the U.S. government in applying American principles consistently overseas.

If American principles are ignored and unprincipled capitalism -- pursuing business with anyone, any time, without giving priority to U.S. national security -- becomes a practice for even a handful of U.S. companies, rogue regimes, such as the ones currently ruling Iran and Iraq, could ultimately be provided with an increased revenue stream that allows them to escalate their support of terrorism and build more weapons of mass destruction while suppressing their own people. In the end, unprincipled capitalism will undermine the very system that is the foundation of Corporate America.

The Osama bin Ladens of this world and terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida and Hezballah are incapable of single-handedly delivering large-scale terrorist acts without high-level assistance which comes with open or disguised state support. Recent reports indicate that Iraq has been smuggling nerve gas to al-Qaida. Moreover, in December 2001, the U.S. Justice Department, in the first criminal indictment relating to the Sept. 11 terrorist acts, stated that "Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with representatives of the government of Iran, and its associated terrorist group Hezballah, for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States."

The reference to Iran should not come as a surprise. Since its inception in 1979, the "Islamic" regime in Iran has been actively engaged in the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, support for international terrorism and hostage taking, subversion of the Arab-Israeli peace process and the abuse of human rights. Furthermore, the mullah regime has consistently promoted the spread of radical-militant Islamic fundamentalism throughout the world. The State Department continuously refers to the Islamic Republic of Iran as the principal and most active state sponsor of terrorism.

In 1996, Petro-Hunt, in cooperation with the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at Southern Methodist University, organized a conference in Dallas titled "Iran in Transition: An Economic, Political and Energy Conference." At the time, U.S. sanctions policy toward Iran was being formulated in Washington, D.C., and therefore was a prevalent and passionate topic of discussion. One of the most important points made at the conference, that showed foresight, was that the price for short-term economic gain from dealing with the mullah regime in Iran [would] mean longer-term human and economic disaster.

Despite the clerical regime's notorious 23-year track record, there are still three principal groups in the United States that consistently call for U.S. engagement with Iran. Although these groups have a convergence of interests, they have in essence three distinct objectives.

The first group includes those who genuinely believe that there is a strategic benefit to the United States through engagement with Iran. They argue that Iran could be of assistance in the war against the Taliban/al-Qaida, as well as in restoring stability to Afghanistan. They have been proven wrong on both fronts by recent events. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cut through the mullah regime's doublespeak: "Iran is clearly a country that is harboring al-Qaida. It says it isn't, but it is."

The second group advocating engagement with Iran are those who primarily have a commercial interest. They would like to see improved relations and a dropping of U.S. sanctions because they are currently missing out on business opportunities. They are wrong in the sense that one of the ultimate beneficiaries of a free and democratic Iran will be U.S. companies; in contrast, those who will lose the most will be the companies who have allowed themselves, and their brands, to be associated with the current unpopular regime.

The third group pushing engagement with the ruling mullahs are essentially the apologists and spin-meisters for the Iranian regime. For the past 23 years, they have claimed that moderates do exist within the current system, and that U.S. interests are best served by seeking out and engaging them for the mutual benefit of the American and the Iranian peoples. Their efforts have repeatedly misled various U.S. administrations on the true state of affairs within Iran. The result has been repeated policy failures amid the futile search for "moderates" within the mullah leadership. This group cynically tries to use the first two groups to further its own agenda. In his last State of the Union Address, President Bush rebuffed the apologists. He demonstrated a clear understanding of the true nature of the Iranian regime by branding the clerical rulers as part of the "axis of evil."

The Bush administration is absolutely right in supporting the Iranian people and not the mullah regime. In view of the escalating anti-regime demonstrations and pro-democracy movement throughout the country, the Iranian people will undoubtedly succeed and seize their freedom in the not too distant future.

The long-term interests of Corporate America will not be served by doing business with rogue states, just as the U.S. government cannot win the war on terrorism by engaging regimes that harbor and support terrorists.

American principles must not stop at our shores. America must proudly, forcefully and consistently promote its principles overseas and by so doing serve as a model to show the world that the true path to freedom and prosperity can be achieved through free market and principled capitalism.

Ganji is a political economist serving as vice-president and international director of Petro-Hunt, L.L.C., an independent energy firm with headquarters in Dallas.