When one thinks about the Powerline blog, run by three lawyers, one normally doesn’t think about them as cutting-edge vidbloggers. But they have two videos up right now that have fired up my imagination and blogging instincts. (The second video I’ll discuss later.)
I’ve often said that the Iranian government is performing one of the most delicate balancing acts I’ve ver seen — one that puts “riding a tiger” to shame. They exist between two tremendous pressure forces, pushing in opposite directions, and they need to keep them as close to equal to prevent either exploding or imploding.
On the one hand, they have the focus of a good chunk of the world, leaning on them. They royally pissed off the US back in 1979, when they handed us one of the biggest humiliations in our nation’s history when they overran our embassy and took our citizens hostage. (Thank you, President James Earl Carter.) A lot of us haven’t forgiven them since then, and a lot of us don’t think we ever will as long as the government of Iran claims any kind of linkage or responsibility for that act. They’ve since gone on to bigger and better things, garnering the focus of the world as they work on (or sometimes not work on) nuclear weapons, threatened much of the world’s oil supply (during the “tanker wars” phase of the Iran-Iraq war), subsidize and sponsor terrorism around the world, and in general act like the malignant tumor on the world stage that they are.
In brief, most of the world doesn’t like them, and would be very happy if they were to fall.
On the other hand, they have a civilian population that is growing more and more discontented with the mullah’s rule. For years I’ve been told that the Iranian people are nowhere near as anti-American as they seem (for some reason, I tend to get a bit miffed and judgmental over people that routinely hold “death to America” rallies,” and take it a tad personally), and that they are far more Western-friendly than I give them credit for being. I’ve also been told that they are growing more discontented with the current government, and growing more and more willing to express that discontent in ways that should terrify any dictator.
That video, embedded at both Powerline and Pajamas Media, shows me — quite graphically — that the mullahs who run Iran ought to be terrified. It shows an utterly spontaneous uprising by the people of Iran, turing en masse against the “morality police.” Not only is one of those thugs brutally beaten by the mob, his co-thugs are chased away from the scene.
As Mr. Hinderaker points out, the mob’s chant ought to give fear to any dictator: “How many people do you think you can kill?”
These are the young people of Iran. These are not the same people who overthrew the Shah in 1979 — those people are the ones who govern
Iraq Iran. But they are the same demographic group — the “heirs” of the students who led the Islamic Revolution. And they are slowly coming to realize that they just might be able to do the very same thing.
Back to my “pressure” metaphor: the government of Iran is under tremendous pressure from both within and without. They only survive by keeping the pressures roughly equal in both directions. Should the balance shift too much in either direction, they will fly apart.
That leads to two questions. The first is, how can we best achieve that goal? I happen to think I would be much happier if they were to “explode” rather than “implode” — if the pressures from within prevail.
That means that there has to be some way to increase the differential on the government, to cause the internal prssures to overcome the “shell” of the existing government. That can be done by decreasing the external pressure, increasing the internal pressure, or both.
Achieving the first goal is tough. With Iran’s nuclear program (which, it being Wednesday, means I think it is back “on”), we simply can’t afford to give them too much breathing room to develop the bomb. And it seems that it’s a catch-22 — if we work to keep them from getting the bomb, we heighten their paranoia and motivation to get the bomb. If we ease off, we give them greater opportunities to develop the bomb.
But there has to be some way we can undercut the mullah’s main “club” — the threat of an attack by the West. There has to be some way we can simply cut that leg out from under them (or, at least, whittle it down somewhat) so their paranoia suddenly loses a great deal of its persuasiveness to the Iranian people.
The second goal is also challenging. We need to find a way to foment even more dissatisfaction among the Iranian people with their government, and to help them continue to “feel their oats” and act out against the mullahs. I think one of the best ways we can do that is to bring more and more “sunlight” into the country. They’ve already embraced the high-tech communications revolution that has swept the world — the video was shot on a cell phone, and uploaded to YouTube. Satellite TV dishes are incredibly common, and the government can’t filter the internet enough. The young people of Iran have tasted the future, and they like it.
I think we need to find ways to remind the Iranian people of the one thing that gives the mullahs the greatest nightmares: that they have the same power today that their fathers held in 1979 — the ability to overthrow an oppressive government. And we need to encourage them — not with weapons and money, but with promises to welcome them into the 21st century and all that that entails.
Because the one thing that must never be forgotten when plotting the overthrow of a government is the one thing we didn’t take into account in 1979, when Jimmy Carter encouraged the overthrow of the Shah and the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini: that the new government is actually an improvement over the old. We’ve been paying the price for that appeasement, that concession to militant Islam, for almost 30 years, in blood over and over and over again.
And so have the people of Iran.
Update: Once again, I confused Iraq and Iran, and thanks to yetanotherjohn for catching me on it. Why, oh why, did we allow two countries with virtually the same name to exist right next to each other? My fingers protest strenuously.