As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, Iran enters limbo, an uncertain yet perilous period of time separating anger-driven demonstrations from either bloody tyrannical repression or sustained popular struggle producing a liberalizing revolution.
Frustration, righteous anger and bitterness powered Iran's post-election demonstrations. These emotions are also fuel for revolution. Toppling Iran's corrupt Khomeinist regime, however, requires leadership, organization and time -- in other words, calculated assessments and cool political war-fighting skills disciplining the emotional fires of outrage and disaffection.
American independence required a field army, ragtag force though it was. Anger may lead to enlistments, but it doesn't solve supply problems. Anger fades when you freeze at Valley Forge; superior leadership -- leading by immediate example and demanding sacrifice to achieve common goals -- turns anger into long-term commitment.
It is possible the Iranian people aren't ready for the sustained sacrifice revolution against murderous tyrants requires. Confronting riot police and armed pro-regime gangs demands courage and a corporate willingness to accept casualties, meaning dead friends in the street. When and where this threshold is reached, then crossed, is a psychological and historical mystery, a gray rainbow of escalation -- hence limbo.
The Iranian people weren't ready to fight the regime's thugs in 1995, though broad dissatisfaction with the ayatollahs' increasingly corrupt regime was already evident. My co-author James F. Dunnigan said to me in 1995, as we worked on the Iran chapter of "A Quick and Dirty Guide to War," Third Edition (William Morrow, 1996): "The Iranians aren't ready to die for freedom. Not yet." It was a blunt statement, a bit chilling, but accurate.
The surprise election of Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami as president in 1997 may have tempered public disaffection with hope. Khatami, a respected scholar, was supposed to lose, but he won over 70 percent of the vote -- a protest-vote candidate writ large. Moreover, professorial Khatami had the temerity to win re-election. The embarrassed Khomeinist mullocracy (with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, playing a key role) jinked the electoral system to ensure there would be no more Khatami-type interlopers.
Now, the robed tyrants pre-selected presidential candidates. As a result in 2005 the noxious, Holocaust-denying, nuclear-weapon coveting millenarian, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, became president.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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