28 December 2009
Iran for Dummies
It looks like another round of Gestapo tactics on the streets of Teheran as the Ahmadinejad administration and the Khamenei government hope to beat the still-disgruntled opposition into more complete submission. Ever since the disputed election, every time we see demonstrations and violent reactions from the authorities we hear Americans deploring the President's failure to denounce the Iranian regime more strongly. We even see a few people urge the adoption by the U.S. of a "regime change" policy toward Iran. That's the only way to help those poor dissidents, we're told, or the only way to prevent the country from perfecting nuclear weapons. The dissidents clearly have a hard road ahead of them, but they've impressed me as a courageous and not easily deterred lot of people. So far I see them protesting and not attempting to bring down the government. I definitely don't hear them saying, "America, come liberate us with your bombs!" They have enough troubles with their government reflexively accusing all dissidents of being American stooges anyway. So, for the dummies: all your regime-change rhetoric is only going to make things worse for the people you want to help. And here's another problem: you have no right to help them. You can cheer them on as private citizens, and to the extent that I believe that Ahmadinejad stole the election I'd cheer on the dissidents, too. But some of the people most loudly cheering them on now, who take on faith that the election was stolen, had no tolerance whatsoever for Americans who believed that the presidential election of 2000 was stolen. I can't help wondering how much tolerance they'd show for demonstrators shouting "Death to Bush" before calling the riot squad. Hypocrisy, however, is not the real issue here. The real issue is individuals conspiring to make the overthrow of any government a matter of explicit American policy. In my mind that's morally equivalent to a declaration of war, and as far as I'm concerned, if someone is out in public saying that the U.S. should change the Iranian regime, then no matter how despicable Ahmadinejad and Khamenei may be as people or as politicians, they'd be within their rights to have that agitator killed. I'm not saying that such people should be killed or that I'd approve of their deaths. I'm just reminding people that the Islamic Republic as the recognized sovereign of the country has as much right to defend itself from foreign menaces, pre-emptively if necessary, as any other nation claims for itself. If that sounds to anyone like "moral equivalence," then too bad for you.