Michael Ledeen has a
persuasive article in NRO arguing that Iran is about to fall and a new
democratic state will take the place of the current theocracy. I’m inclined to agree,
but I’m not so sure that the means of US intervention would guarantee those ends. Ledeen asks:
The stakes are very high. The fall of the mullahs in Tehran
would send a devastating message to the entire Islamic world: Theocracy has
been tried, and it has failed. Osama bin Laden’s vision has been rejected by the
people of Afghanistan and the people of Iran, by Sunnis and Shia alike. We
must help the Iranian democrats. We must give money, urgently and
immediately, to Iranian National TV, now struggling to stay afloat in Los Angeles.
We must assist the student and labor leaders, who are often forced to choose
between feeding their children and heating their homes. We must help them
communicate with one another. Can’t we provide some wireless PCs to the
The answer to these is a provisional yes. I’d agree with all of these goals,
but it is crucial that the money not come from the US government. If anything,
the best place for it to come would be from Iranian exiles living in the United
States. Using the government as an official source of funding would only help
to discredit the dissident movement in the eyes of those Iranians who are
currently sitting on the fence in terms of a regime change.
Iran is starting to look more and more to the West, and has taken the first
steps towards reform. While the anti-American sentiment has died down in Iran to
a large degree, that’s because America has taken a hands-off approach to the
situation in Iran. Imagine if the Iranian people found that the dissident movement
was being funded and supported by the US. Would that reduce the credibility of the
dissident movement and cause the current regime to attempt to tighten its control
over the Iranian people? It’s an open question.
However, I agree that a free Iran would be a great asset to the stability of
the Middle East. I believe it will happen – but it will happen on its own. The people
of Iran have seen what freedom is like – they know that they want that kind of
freedom for themselves. In the end, it is that drive that will cause the downfall
of the mullahs and hasten reforms in Iran. The US need not intervene unless
asked to, or forced to. We can give our moral support to the dissident
movement, but direct intervention may be the wrong move at the wrong time.