Entropy is the tendency of a system to move to its most energetic (entropic) state. For example, you expect ice to melt, turn into water and evaporate into the air. In order to maintain H2O in its solid state (ice), you have to apply energy (a powered ice box/fridge); otherwise it will eventually dissipate into water vapor.
Social entropy is a similar concept applied to people - we have a tendency towards anarchy unless society applies extensive energy (laws, police, Dick Cheney, etc.) to rein us in. The NY Times reported today that the level of social entropy in Iran has increased to the point where the government is expending significant energy to control it and keep the community "intact."
We may be dormant (complacent) for a long, long time simply because we don't know better - think about the fall of the Iron Curtain; think more about the shifts in perception/behavior/desire/unrest in countries like Japan, China and Korea. But once information about a less-constrained society is "available," it is almost inevitable that shifts happen. This is how America was colonized and eventually formed as an independent state.
What catalyzes significant changes to the social entropic state? Fear? Hope? Freedom? Safety? Opportunity? Risk? I think it's all of these (and more). There is enough knowledge and insight to be able to predictably shift a society's entropic state either from within or from outside; there are also evil and benevolent ways to do this.
Vis-à-vis Iran, I think Secretary Clinton must rethink her position - weaponizing nuclear technology is a threat, but the current tack (attack, provoke, vilify, and (over)react to every twitch) demonstrates how easily Iran is able to goad and manipulate America, and is clearly NOT working. To the contrary, and not unlike the War on Terror - Iran's hand is strengthened at minimal cost to them.
America in true Aikido fashion, must take advantage of Iran's inertia and momentum, and divert her attention from weapons, warfare and terrorism into defending the status quo inside Iran. It must do this in a way that is not invasive but rather creative and filled with guile (a foreign concept in the good ol' US of A). The recent Iranian election combined with the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri have opened a door for the West - one that they can help widen by being good global citizens and in no way referring to, commenting on, or vilifying the current regime.
I'd create a US-government-sponsored scholarship fund for all Iranian (why stop there - all Middle Eastern) students that covers expedited student visas, transport, tuition + room & board at any American high school or University, provided the Iranian student is able to gain acceptance (i.e. they are evaluated equally to any other candidate), and they successfully undergo a careful security screening. Clinton's statement should say "we wish to celebrate our friendship with all Middle Eastern countries (including Pakistan and Afghanistan), and do so by offering to help their children be as well-educated as possible and as well-prepared as possible to meet their future and achieve their greatest potential."
What will happen?
- First (and this applies to everyone in the Middle East), parents will see a possibility for their children to create a better future; they will see a possibility for their families to be more than they are today; they will see a possibility for achievement and attainment that secures the destiny of their progeny, and they will push their children towards it. The side effect is that they will view America as someone that can and is helping them.
- Second, the Obama Administration uses this to fund expansion of schools in America from the ground-up, improve cultural awareness between Middle Easterners and Americans, and save money because this is way cheaper than war. This is about as good a stimulus package as you might find.
- Third, it is a way to create a vestedness for America in the Middle East (in particular with those who are susceptible to terrorist recruitment); despite being disaffected, you are less likely to want to bomb the country in which your brothers and sisters are studying for fear of killing your brethren (and biting the hand that feeds you) - I'm not saying this is a guarantee (suicide bombers do kill their own today), but it does engender better feelings.
- Finally, in Iran specifically, this is a way to empower to those that challenge the status quo by recognizing and offering them a chance for a better future for their children. The Iranian government will want to resist this dilution of their power base and way of life, and focus more energy on resisting it. They will try suppression, but that will only work for so long - a willful citizenry can be very powerful.
At some point they will have to offer a better alternative to keep Iranian students in Iran (especially as Iranians see their peers from other Middle Eastern countries flocking to a better education), with better and more "open" local schools, more freedom of expression, etc.
They will have to respond knowing that their actions will affect their ability to trade globally.
If we use society's natural tendency towards entropy and self-determination, not usurp a country's right to self-determination, and honor that country's people by hosting and educating them in our nation, good things will come, and they will live in the form of lasting friendships and better understanding. There will be a harmonizing of all our states of entropy.