Some Home Truths About the Latest Iranian Revolution


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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37 Responses

  1. Dave S. says:

    Just because the US has been accused of something doesn’t mean we should just go ahead and do it; it doesn’t make it any more right.

    I wouldn’t necessarily ascribe the “protestors will fail anyway” outlook to Obama – maybe they think the protests will succeed but that doesn’t change the need to maintain distance. Regardless of outlook, you’re right about the minimal impact of any outside position, and the less said the better.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Which is worse? Neoconservative Idealism or Kissingerian Realism?

    Both leave a bitter, bitter taste in ones mouth.

    Saying “this is not the way the world ought to be” leaves one still wanting to spit.Report

  3. Mike Farmer says:

    In Obama’s case, even though he’s known to be a good speaker, it may be best to remain silent. However, had history produced a great man or woman at this point in time, a speech could be given which transcends both sides of the conflict — not being a great man, I can’t imagine the content, but I can imagine the outline — a speech that speaks to common humanity, and in spite of our ideological and religious differences, calls for a common movement toward peaceful global interaction and respect for the basic desire for human/spiritual fulfillment — or something to that effect — a speech that is only tangentially about Iran, but is understood on a deeper level by all.Report

  4. Consumatopia says:

    Granted, I suppose there’s the question of how credible this accusation seems to the Iranian people, but in a country where the state controls the media, I think the perception of American meddling is probably beyond our control.

    If this were true, wouldn’t more Iranian opponents of Ahmadinejad be calling for American interference?Report

  5. Will says:

    Consumatopia –

    My understanding is that many dissidents are calling for greater American assistance:

  6. matoko_chan says:

    Dont be a retard Will.
    If Khameini and Nejad can stick the great satan onto Mousavi and the greens they are done. Obama is doing exactly the right thing.
    Saying there was no difference in american policy between Najad and Mousavi was the greatest counter propaganda gift he could give the greens.
    We aren’t going to meddle anymore.
    tant pis for the neocons.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    Don’t be a racial slur either!

    As a matter of fact, sexual references are right out too.Report

  8. Will says:

    Matoko –

    Given the state’s near-monopoly on media output and the fact that Ahmadinejad et al have already accused Obama of “meddling,” I think the best case scenario is that Iranian opinion on the extent of American involvement will be very muddled. I don’t place much store in symbolic rhetorical gestures, and I think that Obama’s restraint may do the protesters some good, but I think the real reason behind our current policy is a pretty straightforward realpolitik calculation.Report

  9. matoko_chan says:

    What a bitter pill for the conservatives.
    Free market capitalism revealed as survival of the greediest, our foreign policy exposed as a recruitment bonus for the jihaadi factory, prolife terrorists and neonazis embedded in the rightside.
    You should fold your tents and fade away…….you are too stupid to survive.Report

    • Bob Cheeks in reply to matoko_chan says:

      MC: Where’s the love, dudette? Where’s the liberal compassion? What about your white, honkey, pasty-faced friends, don’t they deserve not to be dissed, to be embraced with that historic Sufi love for their fellow man?Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    It’s like two entirely different conversations are taking place…Report

  11. matoko_chan says:

    No Will…..anything that Obama says that can be percieved as support for the greens will harm them. The seems incapable of understanding that this an INTERNAL muslim conflict in a THEOCRACY. This is not a revolution against al-Islam, but a reform of al-Islam.
    So any bullshytt statement that Obama supports the greens can be cast as anti-Islam. Islam is guarantee of the peoples rights in a theocracy.
    The right has been pithed by years of islamophobic frothers that believe the cartoon construct of fundie-jihaadi Islam pimped by the axis of idiots– Steyn, VDH, Malkin, etc.Report

  12. matoko_chan says:

    The right seems incapable……of many things.Report

  13. matoko_chan says:

    As I said, I think this is a perfectly sensible approach. But saying so out loud seems absolutely verboten.

    No. It is a perfectly STUPID approach. Do you have anything BUT stupid approaches anymore?Report

  14. Consumatopia says:

    Actually, Will, this part seems difficult to reconcile with your view:

    What’s especially troubling, he said, is that Obama’s reaction has added fuel to a rumor traveling around Iran that Obama is in secret talks with the Iranian government. “They think he is trying to help the Mullahs stay in power,” he said..

    So his view isn’t your view that Iranians are already going to assume America is allied with the opposition.Report

  15. E.D. Kain says:

    matoko – you’ve said some very nice things to me in the past, so I really do appreciate that. But I would appreciate it even more if you would please adhere to our commenting guidelines. This is not a place to come to call people stupid or retards etc. That’s lousy behavior and it’s not the sort of thing I want to see at the site. Any more. Ever.Report

  16. Michael Drew says:

    There are myriad realpolitik reasons for not grandstanding here, not just the one that you would like to see the president cite. The one that to me seems most verboten to say out loud is that this truly is a matter of Iranian concern, not international concern, and its outcome is rightly determined by Iranians, regardless of what Americans or Frenchmen or Martians would like to see happen. There are many, many non-democracies and sham democracies all over the world, and while all our statements in favor of democracy remain operative, we don’t go around heaping white-hot pressure on every country that goes through a disputed result, or suppresses dissent in the aftermath of one. And we also don’t go around choosing sides in other countries’ politics. Just because we don’t like one side in this dispute, and the other side weard Calvin Klein boxer-brief, (and we have a lot at stake) shouldn’t make that any different as a matter of what is right and legitimate. We just don’t live up to the selective standard that many people call for in this case with respect tocases that catch our interest less, and so we would in fact be singling Iran out for special scrutiny if we pretended that they in some way are standing out for their misfeasance thus far. We should of course reiterate our (propositional) support for universal free and fair elections, the right of peaceful protest, freedom of communication, etc. And should there be a major upswing in the level of suppressive violence, it might very well call for special attention to be called to it by the president. But the violence thus far has been at a level that frankly should not be surprising or shocking given the size and tenor of the protests. Iran is dealing with this in the way it sees fit to — not perfectly, certainly, but not outrageously (yet) either — and so the it is because it is the right thing to do that the president of the United States has thus far reiterated our values and called on Iran to embrace them, but not escalated his rhetoric or sought to intervene in the outcome beyond that.

    That is the reason for restraint that I find is least acceptable in typical foreign-policy intellectual circles (which tend to be preoccupied with debates about whether we should be pressing our interests on the one hand, or our values on the other, on foreign countries, or wheter we can have it both ways), and which I find most compelling and wish the administration would embrace as its primary reason for following the course it has.

    (Beyond which, as a practical matter, i do not think preserving Ahmadinejad as a bargaining partner is the primary motivating factor, though it likely is one consideration.)Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Oh, and Larison just reminded me of the other reason Obama should give for restraint (and for remaining restrained): it’s likely to get a lot more people killed than is strictly necessary for no damn good reason whatsoever.Report

  17. matoko_chan says:

    What people, most especially people on the right seem absolutely incapable of understanding is that Iran is a successful theocracy. The conflict is between two competingversions of al-Islam. Democracy simply doesn’t enter into it.
    Even if the the election is rerolled, and Mousavi becomes president, even if the Assembly of Experts installs Sayeed Montazeri in Khameneini’s place, Iran will still be a theocracy.
    It is simply not our business.
    We are done meddling.Report

  18. matoko_chan says:

    Also Michael, Iran is an Islamic Republic.
    A democracy is the perversion of a republic, right?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to matoko_chan says:

      We are also a Republic, or so we claim. But we also claim to be a democracy — the world’s greatest! So I don’t know about that. But I do take your point about the incoherence of the arguments of those who say democracy is being stifled (more) in Iran. They don’t have a democracy, and they could perhaps set one up if they wanted, or at least try. I will grant that writ large and extended to their logical conclusion, these protests have that potential. However, it doesn’t appear they have the size or staying power to make that happen, and even if they did, even though that goal might be in their grasp, it’s not clear they embrace it. So again, I take your point.Report

    • Bob Cheeks in reply to matoko_chan says:

      Yes, of course.Report

  19. matoko_chan says:

    we do claim to be a democracy? where?
    I was paraphrasing Plato actually…something he said in The Republic.
    Here’s what Mousavi says

    If the large volume of cheating and vote rigging, which has set fire to the hays of people’s anger, is expressed as the evidence of fairness, the republican nature of the state will be killed and in practice, the ideology that Islam and Republicanism are incompatible will be proven.

    You see…I still catch the whiff of Big-White-Bwana memetics here…the idea that the infinite superiority of Judeoxian “democracy” is what these small brown heathen muslim people really need….they just don’t know it.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to matoko_chan says:

      You think you hear that from me? Clearly, it can be heard from many quarters. I am trying to say that maybe they want democracy (or a more accountable Republic of some sort), maybe they don’t, either way it should be utterly up to them, and we should not interfere.

      As to Republicanism and democracy, I don’t buy that they are incompatible, but I suppose if I am up against the ancients I’m not likely to come out on top there. If you insist we are not a democracy, I can only say fair enough.Report

    • Bob Cheeks in reply to matoko_chan says:

      “… the ideology that Islam and Republicanism are incompatible will be proven.”
      He’s correct. I can’t imagine that there will ever be dialogue between the totalitarian mullahs and the democratic students. That’s why God made guns. Sometimes, in the harsh realities of the world, man must through off the yoke of the oppressor…the blood of the hero and villain will flow together in the streets…better dead then living under an oppressive regime.
      MC, I didn’t know Shia were allowed to dance? Do you do the bugga-lo? You are a graceful gazelle!Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

        Actually Bob, if you look at the entire statement Mousavi is trying to preserve the reconciliation between Islam and Republicanism that was born in the Revolution by calling for a new election and a legitimate vote-count. It is the argument of American partisans of this uprising that that reconciliation is on its last legs or perhaps finally shattered due to the violation of the Republic in the election certification and subsequent reiteration of its legitimacy by the Supreme Leader. They argue that therefore the days of the Revolution, if not the Republic, are numbered. They may in fact argue that the strength of protest at this point is not relevant. They would in this sense differ with m_c that Iran is a successful Islamic Republic, as the Revolution’s attempt to reconcile the two is failing.

        I don’t frankly know whether any of this is true.Report

        • Bob Cheeks in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Frankly, Michael, being a White Sepelchure (sp), these desert dwellers have me confused as well. All I do know is that our “street agitator” president is doing the right thing in staying out of these Persian’s business. Though, I have a feeling the Israeli’s will not tolerate their enemies with nukes for very long, then it might be ‘come to Jesus’ time for everyone!Report

  20. matoko_chan says:

    One more thought before I go clubbing.
    George Bush made democracy a dirty word.
    Discuss among yourselves.Report

  21. matoko_chan says:

    I am a Sufi.
    Perhaps you will have heard of dervishes?

    The students are NOT agitating for democracy. They want the regime to follow the rule of Islamic law in an Islamic republic.
    George Bush made democracy a dirty word in MENA. Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to matoko_chan says:

      We agree that en masse, they are not calling for democracy (some surely would take it if they could). I think their goals are evolving, but started out much as you describe. I in fact nowhere stated that Iranians are marching for democracy — merely that our statements in favor of it generally should be enough for those who want to see the popular uprising in Iran as a call for democracy (or even merely greater freedoms), and that whatever Iranians’ wishes are, they must be allowed to pursue them of their own accord, and not be influenced into greater or lesser protest or revolt than naturally lies in their cause.Report

    • Bob Cheeks in reply to matoko_chan says:

      Only those that whirl, beloved of God!
      So, MC, forgive me but I’ve been drifting, are ye with the theocracy or do we embrace the republican virtues?Report

  22. mike farmer says:

    It’s amazing how some people think history began in 2000.

    For those of us who have been alive since Eisenhower, Bush’s blip is just that, a blip. My biggest problems with Bush are that he pushed too hard for the Iraq war, although he had plenty of support from both parties and congress controlled the purse-strings, and his betrayal of free market principles. But he was just the president, and although we’ve given presidents’ more power, we still have a big old government which has been growing more statist for decades and decades.Report

    • Bob Cheeks in reply to mike farmer says:

      You provide the solemn logic of a political realist, a refreshing breeze here in ZEE\Zee land, where up is down, and certain young women nip at the heels of innocent strangers!Report