America and Iran
: L. Bruce Laingen, who was charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Tehran when it was seized by Iranian hostage-takers, writes a column arguing that we shouldn’t get involved in Iran and that it’s not ready for revolution. I wonder what the Iranian bloggers have to say about that; it’s one matter to debate America’s support of the Iranian democracy movement and quite another to debate the existence of that movement.
Regime change in Tehran is inevitable. But it must come from within. Iran is not Iraq. It is big; it is populous: 70 million and counting. It is overwhelmingly Shiite. Its people are culture-proud and intensely nationalistic. The current student unrest is symptomatic, but there is little evidence of a burgeoning public movement sufficient to press revolutionary change. A quasidemocratic process and an evolving civil society work to keep political agitation largely under control, with the Basij and other militants put on the streets to curb student unrest. After the climactic events of the revolution and the eight years of devastating war with Iraq, there is little public readiness for institutional upheaval. Nor is there any evident alternative leadership of any stature among the students or other opposition.
Change will come, but it can and should be “soft” change.