February 10, 2003


Iran's Failed Revolution: The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic movement has oppressed its young, disillusioned its veterans and silenced ayatollahs who question its course. (NY Times, 2/10/03)
Few Iranians have been celebrating the 24th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution this month. It is easy to understand why. A movement that once brought millions into the streets demanding freedom from the shah's dictatorship has gone on to oppress its young, disillusion its middle-aged veterans and silence even grand ayatollahs who question its course.

Of course, revolutions generally extinguish rather than enhance freedoms, but anyone wishing to understand the particular failure of Khomeini's Revolution need look no further than his own book, Islamic Government:
The fundamental difference between Islamic government, on the one hand, and constitutional monarchies and republics, on the other, is this: whereas the representatives of the people or the monarch in such regimes engage in legislation, in Islam the legislative power and competence to establish laws belongs exclusively to God Almighty. The Sacred Legislator of Islam is the sole legislative power.  No one has the right to legislate and no law may be executed except the law of the Divine Legislator. It is for this reason that in an Islamic government, a simple planning body takes the place of the legislative assembly that is one of the three branches of government. This body draws up programs for the different ministries in the light of the ordinances of Islam and thereby determines how public services are to be provided across the country.

Thus did the Iranian people (with probable NY Times approval) shuck off the relatively benign and Westernizing authoritarianism of the Shah and don the totalitarianism of the mullahs. Like all totalitarianisms this one has been a disaster. What remains to be seen is whether it is possible to have a government that is Islamic in character without a radical Reformation of Islam. We suspect not. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2003 1:16 PM

The quote from Khomeini's book seems a lot less sinister to me than it does to Orrin. Khomeini is taking the orthodox Muslim view that God's Law, just and immutable, has been laid down once and for all in the Koran. Consequently, there's no need to establish new law - there's only a need to deal with the practical administration of government, setting budgets and tax rates and so forth. All the big issues (such as marriage law, rules of inheritance, and criminal law) are already handled in the Koran.

I can imagine an "Islamic Republic" within this theory of governance. People elect a regulatory body that administers the government, while a body of experts strikes down regulations that are inconsistent with the Koran, much as the Supreme Court strikes down laws that are inconsitent with the Constitution.

Posted by: Peter Caress at February 10, 2003 2:02 PM

Reminds of the argument that Communism is really a wonderful system; and that the brutal, failed Communist regimes don't tell us anything because they weren't "really" Communist.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 10, 2003 4:22 PM

We need some cynic to write up a paleocon's lexicon:

Relatively benign = malign, for example.

Where is Ambrose Bierce when we need himm? Where is he anyway?

Posted by: Harry at February 10, 2003 5:28 PM


You're scary. You hate the Muslims when they're Islamicists, don't think they can be governed democratically, and don't like a Westernizing autocrat. All that's left is extermination.

Posted by: oj at February 11, 2003 11:40 PM

That is my reading of history. I don't like it, but

there's been lots of history I don't like.

If I'm wrong, well and good. If I'm right -- and

I'll match my understanding of history against

any and all Muslims put together -- well,

the Avars make a lesson.

Posted by: Harry at February 12, 2003 11:44 AM

That being the case, it's hard to say the Islamicists are not justified in seeking to genocide us first.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2003 1:05 PM