Thursday, December 30, 2004
3 follow-ups to the last post:
First: thanks to Ross Douthat, Steven Menashi, Ramesh Ponnuru, John Derbyshire and Paul Cella for linking. An embarrassment of kindness and of riches.
Second: I wanted to clarify one thing about the whole "Western Civilization" thing, in case it wasn't clear. I was not primarily making a point about "us" but about "them." Western Civilization is, in its ambitions and self-conception, universal. But the fact that we see it that way doesn't mean that they - whoever they may be - see it that way. And that's something we have to factor in when we think about how we approach them. The Polish opponents of their Communist regime wanted to re-join a West that they felt fully part of. The Russians who supported Yeltsin were, in many cases, Westernizers - people who wanted to join a West they did not yet feel fully part of. From what I gather (and I'm no expert) the current Iranian regime is deeply unpopular - but the opponents of the regime do not, in general, want to join, much less re-join, the West. They may indeed want to end Iran's conflict with the West, but that's not the same thing. That difference between Iran and Poland should have an impact on how we approach Iran, and should caution us in drawing simple analogies between the Cold War end-game and our situation vis-a-vis Iran.
Third: another factor that distinguishes Poland from Iran: Poland's Communist dictatorship was widely (and correctly) seen as having been imposed from without (and by a historic enemy and oppressor: Russia). Ditto for all the other Communist regimes of Europe. By contrast, the Communist regimes of Russia, China, Vietnam and Cuba were the product of domestic revolutions. I note that all the European Communist regimes are no more, that Russia saw a revolution by Westernizers that is now in the process of unravelling under Putin (and when we contemplate the alternatives to him that might realistically come to power, they are less congenial to the West, not more so), while the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cuban Communist dictatorships endure. They may fall yet, or they may evolve (as China's regime has been) into non-Communist (and probably more successful if still dictatorial) regimes. But they have so far proved vastly stronger than the optimists, in the immediate post-1989 glow, anticipated. So with Iran, whose revolutionary regime, while deeply unpopular, is also authentically a product of the Iranian people rather than a foreign imposition. This, too, should bear on our approach to them.