Take the epithet “neoconservative,” for example. Most of the leading neocons are supporters of democratic revolution, all over the world. So how can they be called “conservatives,” neo or otherwise?
The Left slapped the “conservative” label on them because to acknowledge that the Left had abandoned those fighting for freedom was too painful, too humiliating, and psychologically discombobulating. How could it be that the Left’s enemies were now flying the banner of revolution?
And yet, it was true. The greatest revolutionaries of the last twenty years of the twentieth century were all “conservatives”: Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II. Since all three had to be denounced as reactionaries, it was impossible to recognize that they subverted the Soviet Empire and contributed to revolutionary successes in Latin America, Africa and Asia. “Conservatives” can’t do that; conservatives maintain the world as it is, they don’t transform it. Only “progressives” can.
Today it is very difficult to find anyone on the “progressive” side of the spectrum who recognizes that Iran fulfills all the conditions for full-scale revolution. When Iran became a central policy issue, the “conservatives” were in power, led by Bushitlercheney. The Left could not possibly support Iranian democratic dissidents against the mullahs, since that would give legitimacy to Bush & Co. Thus the Iranian revolution had to be denied, just as the widespread revolt against the Kremlin had been downplayed during the Reagan years.
This accounts for part of the failure to see Iran plain. Anyone who looks can see that the country is in constant turmoil, that the regime has lost its legitimacy, and that anyone with a shred of moral conviction must call for support of the Iranian people. Those who deny it are actually maintaining a dangerous fiction about themselves.
As they deny the death spiral of the mullahcracy, so they deny the strategic fact that should most concern our leaders: the mullahs are killing Americans every day, most notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military men and women on the battlefield know all about this, and yet countless politicians and pundits shamefully pretend it isn’t so, or it isn’t all that bad (this often comes from the likes of Defense Secretary Gates, and even from General Petraeus from time to time). The military commanders bite their tongues for a while, and then provide a trusted journalist with the facts, as we see in two recent stories in the London Times, here and here, documenting Iranian collusion with the Taliban.
Despite the moral and strategic imperatives, no Western government has yet seen fit to provide assistance to the Iranian dissidents, or even to talk to their leaders. I am given to understand that members of the intelligence community, to their credit, proposed opening a channel of communication, but they were quickly slapped down by the policy people, to their shame.
I do not believe in historical inevitability, but I do think that the Iranian regime’s days are numbered. Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and the new tycoons of the Revolutionary Guards are now objects of derision in the streets of the country. During the recent Fire Festival, an Iranian wryly said to me that Khamenei’s official photograph must be the most popular picture of all time, since it was the principal component of the bonfires. The supreme leader is widely considered to be the supreme loser.
When the regime comes down, the leaders of a free Iran will look back and ask themselves why no one in the West helped them when the regime was beating, torturing and executing them. What will our leaders say?