I’m too ill-informed to opine intelligently on what’s going on in Iran right now. I know the election was not a free election, because the Mad Mullah’s hand-selected four candidates. I know Obama was either naive or evil to suggest otherwise. I know that the outcome was almost certainly a foregone conclusion (the Mullahs wanted Ahmadinejad to win). And I know that the Iranian people have arrived at a pivotal moment.
In 1979, that pivotal moment meant a complete regime change, and perhaps this pivotal moment will too. I’m not too optimistic, though, because I’m unaware of either a clear ideology or a recognized figurehead driving the change. The Iranian people are mad that even their rigged election was then faked, but they’re not coherent.
It was different in 1979. Back then, the regime change had an ideology in Islamism, and a figurehead in the person of Ayatollah Khomeni. This time, the outraged Iranians are a giant body, without a head. I think it’s that headless quality that leads those who pay attention to these things to fear that this will be a Tienanmen moment, where people rise up but, without anything more than frustration backing them, collapse again when the government brings in its tanks.
Nevertheless, as with Tienanmen, maybe the people are planting seeds. China is certainly not a free country, but it did change after 1989. From that moment forward, the party leaders embarked upon the interesting experiment of a totalitarian, ostensibly communist dictatorship with a semi-capitalist economic model. My sense is that the country is still more oppressive than anything a free people could countenance, but that it is a more free country than it was before.
Perhaps something wonderful will come out of what’s happening in Iran. Perhaps the people will break free of the chains that have bound them for 30 years. Or perhaps they’ll rattle the cage so much that the powers that be are forced to change, albeit slightly more slowly than with a turn-on-a-dime revolution. Or (and this is the bad thing) perhaps the Mad Mullahs will clamp down with such iron fists that the concept of freedom in Iran will die for another 30 years — and we will continue to fear the time bomb planted within such easy reach of so much of the free world.
Two more things. First, if you’re interested not just in the facts, but in understanding those facts, I can’t do better than to recommend ThreatsWatch.Org. My friend Steve Schippert is keeping an especially close eye on things in Iran and his insights are first rate. He’s also alive to the human moments, as with this picture of a woman engaged in an extraordinary act of bravery. He’s also a little optimistic: “Follow the women of Iran. For, as go the women of Iran, so will go the men. For they will be the barometer of revolution.” Wouldn’t it be nice if, in a Muslim corner of the world, women could lead the charge?
Second, I was wondering how many revolutions (or attempted revolutions) have played out in years ending in “9.” The French Revolution began in 1789, the German revolution creating the Weimar Republic began in 1919, the Iranian Revolution began in 1979, the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the Tienanmen uprising were in 1989, and this moment of Iranian fury is taking place in 2009. There are also a lot of “8” years. Revolutions swept across Europe in 1848 and again in 1968. Is there something about the end of a decade that fires people up?