There is a ritual every few years–it was Ukraine first, then Lebanon, then Georgia–where the stirrings of a mass movement in some Third World dump reminds the neocon right of the moral clarity of the Cold War, where nationalists and popular movements such as Poland’s Solidarity were brutally supressed by communist regimes and their security apparatus. In those times, the moral example of the defiant people remained an inspiration to us all and a reminder of the indefatigable human spirit. Today we’re supposed to be seeing that in Iran.
I can’t get too pumped about what’s going on in Iran. Perhaps on balance Mousavi would be better for the United States and the Iranian people. It’s hard to say. But lots of angry people in the streets does not mean he’s a great guy with a great plan to support a more liberal and decent regime in Iran. Muqtadr al Sadr used to get the crowds out too. Indeed, so did Khomenei. It’s just as likely, considering the people and history involved, Mousavi would spend much of his energy oppressing his erstwhile oppressors if elected. This is the way politics runs in the Third World.
We are talking about an Islamic poltical party in an Islamic state. Almost no one talks about how Mousavi ran the show in Iran in the 1980s as Prime Minister when Iran was America’s mortal enemy, and his track record then–when Iran was supporting kidnappings of Americans in Lebanon and attacks on US ships in the Gulf–is chiefly why the Iranians like him. Why should we think his vague anti-corruption platform means we’ll have a friendly regime there? Why do neocons lose their judgment every time some “color revolution” comes down the pike?
I view events in Iran no so differently from the elections in Iraq. Even though the elections were fairly run in Iraq (which may not have happened in Iran, but I can’t be sure unlike so many breathless commentators), nearly everyone voted for sectarian parties in Iraq and also in Iran. It’s Saddam vs. Sadr vs. Badr kind of stuff. There’s no reason to get too pumped about who wins in these kinds of elections, because the problem in Iran and Iraq too is not the elections or the lack of them. The problem is the underlying anti-modern, anti-liberal, pro-sharia viewpoint of the electorate that is rooted in the dominant understanding of Islam itself. I don’t see anything Mousavi or any other Iranian politician has said that will reverse that fundamental aspect of Iranian society.