April 26, 2007


Culture War: AMERICA'S BEST WEAPON IS THE IRANIAN PEOPLE. (Azar Nafisi, 04.26.07, New Republic) If you take the long view of

Iranian history and focus on the country's people rather than its rulers, a very different picture emerges: that of an Iranian order in crisis.

Evidence for this proposition is everywhere. A cursory look at Iran's publications and blogs shows that, although some Iranians--for a variety of reasons--support their regime's nuclear ambitions, most are far more interested in trying to redress day-to-day problems like corruption, the struggling economy, rising unemployment, political and social repression, and a general lack of freedom. Few are well-informed about the nuclear program, and most are embarrassed and disturbed by the image of their country in the world. Indeed, Iran's new international isolation and pariah status is deeply unpopular at home, and the fact that the government is emptying its coffers to foment revolution abroad rather than to support the welfare of the Iranian people has turned many of Ahmadinejad's supporters against him. Workers' protests have lately escalated in at least ten cities. Angry union leaders have held the president responsible for the weakening of the economy. In the recent city council elections in Tehran, only two of 13 winners were supporters of Ahmadinejad.

This discontent has seeped upward to high levels of Iranian politics--for instance, members of parliament, who, during Ahmadinejad's presentation of the annual budget last December, noisily protested the worsening economic conditions. There has even been serious talk about impeaching him. Since his election, Iranian hard-liners have openly divided into two opposing factions, creating a great deal of anxiety among conservative leaders who have been trying to mend the breach. Prominent reformist dissenters, such as Ayatollah Montazeri, have accused the government of using the country's considerable resources to meddle in other people's affairs. Even Ahmadinejad has occasionally sounded dispirited. He recently conceded that 28 years of Islamic rule has failed to eliminate liberal elements from Iranian society. Almost 30 years ago, in his prophetic essay "The Power of the Powerless," Václav Havel wrote that "a specter is haunting eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called dissent.'" That specter has now moved to Iran.

The fact that neither Khatami nor Ahmadinejad has been able to foster unity--even within the ruling elite--is a good indication of the crisis within the system. For over two decades, the main resistance to that system has come from within Iranian civil society. And it is Iranian civil society that will ultimately prove to be the Achilles heel of the Islamic Regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2007 2:38 PM

That's the idea. Final victory in the culture war can come about peacefully, by a process of diffusion. The world culture, carried by technology within the world economy, has a substance, an idea, which free people are struggling to accept. Call it "reformation," if that pleases you.

After all, that't what the paroxisms of violence exploding out from the spiritual jailhouse are all about. The jailors are well aware that their old, rotten world is slipping away forever.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 26, 2007 5:32 PM