Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Good piece on Iran from Daniel Pipes. He doesn't think the regime is on its last legs; he correctly notes that those in power are ready to kill to stay there (but will the soldiers pull the trigger for them? That's the question.) but does think that regime change is only a matter of time. But here's the key section:
By virtue of getting more or less what they wanted in 1979 (i.e., no shah), the Iranian population realized that it had control over and responsibility over its destiny.
This development, unknown among Arabic-speaking populations, has led to something quite profound and wondrous: a maturation of the Iranian body politic. It has looked at its choices and thumpingly comes down in favor of democracy and a cautious foreign policy.
The contrast between the maturity of Iranian politics and the puerile quality of Arab politics could hardly be greater. Yes, both are dominated by tyrannical regimes, but Iranians can see their way out of the darkness. It is conceivable that before too long, the apparently disastrous Iranian revolution of 1978-79 will be looked back on as the inadvertent start of something wholesome and necessary.
This is a very important point. I am less than optimistic about the prospects for any kind of healthy democracy in Iraq after an American conquest, because there is nothing there to build on, politically. Ditto Afghanistan. Liberated by outsiders, with no authentic nationalism, no patriotic elite, no domestic civil society to build on, Iraq will only be held together by occupation. It'll be better than things are now, but that's the best that can be said - and even that will only be true so long as the Americans stay.
By contrast, I remain more optimistic about Egypt than most precisely because Nasserism and the Sadat-Begin peace accords consecutively established Egyptian independence on Egyptian terms: the former from the West, the latter from the chimera of pan-Arab "nationalism." Egypt has enormous problems as a society, but at least it is to some degree a nation. It is easier for me to imagine a Carlos Salinas type coming to power in Egypt and putting the country firmly on the road to reform (even as he lined his own pockets and played bloody politics to stay in power), paving the way for a Vicente Fox type a couple of decades later, than I can in any other major Arab country. I'm not saying it's gonna happen, or even that it's likely to happen, only that it could happen, and it will never happen in Syria or Iraq or Saudi Arabia.