عنوان مقاله [English]
For most non-academics, foreign policy is one of the most obvious aspects of politics. Most people believe that they have enough knowledge to comment on foreign policy, and this is a main reason that discussion on Iran's foreign policy is one of the hottest conversation topics among Iranians. The nature of these debates is mostly intense and lively criticism of foreign policy of the country in an unscientific manner. At the same time, as expected the foreign policy issues are evaluated by experts and experienced researchers in Iranian academic circles. The two research questions to be answered in the present paper are as follows: 1. What is the status of critiquing Iranian foreign policy in academic research in Iran? 2. What are the weaknesses and strengths of these critiques? In the hypothesis, we argue that the characteristics of education and political culture of Iran have contributed to the shortcomings of the works addressing foreign policy of Iran in a proper manner.
In the article, critical thinking has been adopted as the theoretical framework, because critical thinking is the analysis of known facts, evidence, observations, and arguments with the goal of assessing and forming an opinion about certain issues. In other words, critical thinking is a mode of thinking about any subject or problem, by which a person improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them. Critical thinking is a rich concept of high value that has been developing throughout the past decades. The term critical thinking has its roots in the mid-late 20th century, but its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended because of respect for students’ self-reliance and the need to prepare students to be successful in life as well as for democratic citizenship. The so-called critical thinkers have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate.
To answer the main research questions, quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis were used. A representative sample of papers published in the Foreign Policy Quarterly in the period 2016-2021 was taken. The reason for choosing this journal as the focus of our study is that it has been publishing research on Iran's foreign policy and related topics for many years. Out of 129 articles published during this time period, 51 articles specifically discussed issues related to Iran. 28 articles were on political-security issues, 8 articles on economic issues, 9 articles on political-economic issues, and finally 6 articles had considered all four political, political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of foreign policy analysis. In the first step, we evaluated the content of these 51 articles on Iran's foreign policy carefully and completely. Of the 51 articles, only 23 directly focused on Iran's foreign policy, and only one paper was written with a critical approach. The findings revealed that all these articles had serious shortcomings in one or more issues which needed to be underscored in order to conduct a thorough research. Inadequacies were observed in the following areas: careful literature review to show historical background, use of an appropriate research method, adopting a theoretical framework, recommendations for future research or for policy choices, attempts to make predictions about the future by using methods such as scenario building.
The authors conclude that the origins of the lack of critical thinking must be searched in educational and cultural domains: First, it was argued that enough attention have not been paid to critical thinking in Iranian schools and universities. Therefore, the students are encouraged to accept and praise viewpoints in an uncritical manner instead of learning to be critical thinkers. Likewise, Iran's educational system is such that it does not welcome critical research for publication. Therefore, authors prefer to focus on topics that are more likely to be accepted and published in journals instead of working on critical articles. Unfortunately, the researchers are not influenced by strong personal and scientific motives for fact-finding and problem-solving, and are mostly concerned with job requirements and other mundane variables. As a result, the papers are not sufficiently innovative since the topics are occasionally repetitive or with little value for policymakers or scientific community. The predominance of the positivist approach in teaching students in universities is one of the other weaknesses that has discouraged researchers to welcome critical works. Thus, the researchers who generally use conservative and non-critical approaches do not seek to change the general direction of politics and help the reconstruction of power relations. In addition to the educational factor, Iranian political culture has contributed to the lack of interest in critical works being conducted and published. Authors’ feelings of insecurity to express different opinions and fear of the consequences of expressing different thoughts have made them to endorse ideas instead of criticizing ideas and policies. Although it is now generally accepted that critical thinking can be taught and cultural weaknesses can be overcome, not enough effort has been made to change this problematic aspect of political culture, which has reduced the motivation for researchers, students, and university professors to engage in debates and critiques in academic journals. In Iranian universities, instead of teaching critical thinking, students are taught how not to get into trouble by adopting a conservative stance which avoids criticizing the views of others. Low level of tolerance in Iranian society for being criticized is another cultural weaknesses, which has led people to be more conservative. Another underlying factor for inadequate attention paid to critical research goes back to the lack of encouragement by the officials in Iranian diplomatic community who do not think they need academicians to conduct this type of research. Instead of welcoming criticism of policies and programs, foreign ministry officials have sought to hire academics who defend the current state-of-affairs, and justify the existing programs and policies.