Monday, July 08, 2002
Back from vacation. Had a wonderful time. Didn't think about politics for an instant. Theater reviews to follow later today. Meantime, an important update on Iran from Michael Ledeen.
In 1989, when the student revolt erupted in Tiananmen Square, the big question was: what will the army do? Will they obey orders to fire on the students? There was a time, briefly, when it looked like different armies might fire on each other. As we know, the People's Liberation Army obeyed orders, crushed the students, and ended the hope of Chinese freedom, probably for at least a generation.
But their loyalty to the regime won them something else. The Chinese Army came out of Tiananmen Square effectively in control of the Chinese government. The Party now ruled by force alone, and force was in the hands of the generals. Had they turned against the regime then, the Communists would have been hung from lampposts in the streets. The Party knows that the Army holds the power now, and for that reason they have done everything to placate the Army: more money, more weapons, more privileges and - most dangerous - effective control over Chinese foreign policy. Hence the rabidly nationalist, revanchist and aggressive regime we have in China today.
Iran today looks very much like China in 1989. The people of Iran are, if anything, even more inclined to revolt, and to more radical change. The Chinese students, after all, protested in Mao's name and under Mao's portrait. As we cynically analyze the potential impact on our national interests, and weigh our concern for stability against the progress of freedom, we should remember what the betrayal of the students of Tiananmen wrought in terms of Chinese policy. As in 1989 China, in Iran today the balance of power belongs to the armed forces. If they side with the people, the regime is finished. If they are patriotic, this is what they will do, and will likely inherit a place of honor in a new, pro-Western, democratizing Iran, a place something like the Turkish Army in its role as guardian of the nation and its constitution. If they are cynical, though, or unsure of outside support, they may side with the regime. If they do this, they will save the regime, and if they do that they will rule it. Iran is bad enough as it is. Do we really want to face them after we have betrayed her people in their quest for freedom, and after the regime knows its only justification is force, and determined to use imperial conquest to validate that force internally, and to placate the military who would be the true inheritors of the state if there is a 1989-style crackdown tomorrow?