Aside from a mass deployment of force against unarmed protestors (which, unfortunately, is not unlikely) what is the worst possible outcome in Iran? Answer: That it becomes unavoidably clear the post-election conflict isn't a struggle between tyranny and freedom -- the epic narrative we've been hearing in absolute, non-contestable terms. The worst thing that could happen next, at least for the absolute, non-contestable pundit-ocracy, is that it becomes clear we're looking at an intra-Islamic power struggle that has nothing to do with liberty and justice for anybody.
If this happens, the next question becomes: At what point do said pundits change the color of their Twitter avatars (Joe Scarborough) and their blog backgrounds (Andrew Sullivan) back from Islam green? And will they ever apologize for the fuss?
Dream on. There's something about commenting on the Middle East -- really, commenting on Islam - that causes pundits never to say they're sorry. Even if Iran's protests reflect a theocratic power struggle between rival mullahs - namely, between Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who backs Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Ali Khamenei, who backs Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it will just be time to move on.
Such a revelation -- that this may be a battle between theocratic, anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-jihad, Khomeinist factions -- should be enough to chill the enthusiasm of any pro-democracy booster. But would the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens, for example, so far the swooniest of all commentators, (harkening to the "sweet" sound of "Allahu Akbar" as "the rallying cry of the protesters"), continue to push the opposition propaganda that "there are two interpretations of Islam: the aggressive Islam of Ahmadinejad, or the mercy Islam of Mousavi"? Probably.
And if a Stalinist-style power struggle by way of Mecca were unmasked, would Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Krauthammer withdraw his sweeping claims that on Tehran's streets "all hangs in the balance"? I doubt it. After all, he's still cooing over "Iraq establishing the institutions of a young democracy" even as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now declaring a "great victory" over the "foreign presence" now leaving Iraq -- meaning all U.S. troops who have fought and died for that lousy country.