As this blog watches and analyzes the events that are currently unfolding in Iran, one cannot help but see some things worth pointing out. It's worth noting that many times in someone's lifetime, history has an odd way of repeating itself and in ways that are quite telling and easy to read. But to be in tune with such things, some conditions must be met.
For one thing, a person must be able to grasp history. Reading is one way to learn about any event or era from the record books of time. But nothing beats the best way to understand such events, which is having lived through them up close and personal. Want to learn about the fall of the Berlin Wall? Ask someone who was alive and/or aware of his/her surroundings at the time.
In January 1978, there was a situation in Iran, not altogether unlike today.
Iranians were not happy. There was widespread corruption in the Shah's government, just as there is today. People generally mistrusted their leadership, they felt they were puppets being controlled by puppet masters and were losing patience with this arrangement. They felt like there was a death grip upon them.
Originally, the resistance was fueled more by nationalism and populism than for religious reasons. The Islamic part of the revolt was more the result of some slick opportunism on the part of Ayatollah Khomeini and his reactionary supporters. The Shah was seen as another extravagant monarch, who had sat upon a throne created for him by the "evil satanic forces" of the United States. There was a certain element of socialistic idealism being injected into the movement.
At the time, it took a lot of work to understand why Jimmy Carter was oblivious to the concerns of the Iranians. The near simultaneous scenarios that unfolded during his watch were not handled in a consistent manner.
Human rights was not an issue in Iran, as it was in Nicaragua. The U.S. needed Iran as an ally because it shared a border with the USSR, Nicaragua did not. Therefore, Carter overlooked the Shah's misdeeds committed in the reinforcement of his reign and Iranians resented it. At the same moment in time, the similar unrest was brewing (for similar reasons) in Somoza's regime and Carter actually catalyzed the revolution with his call for human rights.
Calling for greater freedoms in Nicaragua and at the same time supporting the Shah was not a particularly smart thing to do. The Iranians were not fools, they picked up on this quickly. They saw what was what, no one had to explain it to them.
So here we are today, in 2009. We have a similar spark igniting in modern-day Persia and the current President is sending similar mixed signals. Obama has postured himself to look weak, painted himself into a corner, and I think is making some major miscalculations in the process.
Because he has called for engagement of Iran and it's leaders without condition, he cannot take sides with the opposition, right now. The risk of this is minimal, unless this evolves into a situation where regime change does take place. At this point, the new regime would already feel alienated by the US. In a lot of ways, this isn't much different than 1979.
Obama's response to North Korea has been insufficient. They know it, and are pushing the envelope further. His affinity for Arab potentates has been overzealous. They know it, and are playing it for all they can. Now, we have this situation in Iran which on the verge of exploding, and where is Obama? On the fence, because he put himself there. Lack of firm responses will yield the same results every time and will encourage more foreign policy challenges.
Yes folks, this is the beginning of Jimmy Carter II (The Sequel). And you can see it all play out live, on a newscast screen near you. The summer of discontent is here, even the Iranians are having a tea party.
For all of you who are too young to remember the Carter years with his miserable leadership, you can now see it with your own eyes. Maybe those of you who thought we were just a bunch of "out of tune with reality" old people when we told you all of this, now you will learn history the hard way. But not to worry, think of the lessons you can now teach your kids someday, when they are wanting to elect an "out of touch" arrogant greenhorn.