Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Unique View on Iran: Would You Believe, From an Iranian Historian?

Memo to Lindsey Graham and his bellicose buddies on the Repugnant Right: The President has been “timid and passive”?

Try statesmanlike and farsighted:
Is 101 years a bit far to go back to help us understand what's happening today? Not in Iran. If there is one thing that both fundamentalists and reformers will agree on, it's that the Iranian people's long (and largely unfinished) march to freedom began during the Constitutional Revolution, or 'Mashruteh', of 1906-1909. Say that very word to a basiji thug or to one of Tehran's green-clad young twitterers today and both will tell you, insistently, that they are the true defenders of its legacy. The mashruteh is Iran's Federalist Papers and Boston Tea Party, all rolled into one; its Spirit of '76.

Iran's constitutionalist uprising was the first great revolution of the 20th century -- an expression of spontaneous rage against a corrupt and bankrupt monarchy. Much like today's movement, it didn't demand a fundamental overthrow of the prevailing system. Instead, it unified the country's merchants, intellectuals, and (yes) clerics in demanding nothing more than an elected parliament and a constitution. The result? A remarkably progressive charter that enshrined the principles of equality, personal rights, universal public education, and freedom of the press. It was the first document of its kind in the Middle East, and it has formed the basis of Iran's political debates ever since.
John Ghazvinian, Historian, University of Pennsylvania

Does History repeat itself? Fortunately for us, we have a student of History as our President:
Despite a wave of indignation and demands for tough action from the United States (driven, no less, by politicians with close ties to the evangelical Christian movement and its missionaries living in Iran), official Washington maintained a dignified distance from events on the ground, and refused to take sides -- at least not overtly. The US minister in Tehran was sympathetic to the revolutionaries, but projected an aura of quiet detachment. The State Department did the same. And all this during the rambunctious presidency of the original rough rider himself -- Theodore Roosevelt. When William Taft took the oath of office in 1909, his inaugural address expressed optimism about the possibility of improved trade relations with Iran, but said nothing about the turmoil on the streets.
Read full article here.

Professor Ghazvinian gives his appraisal of President Obama’s position:
President Obama is taking the long view, and he is dead right. This is Iran's struggle, not America's. And when the dust has settled, the Iranian public (for whom the spectre of foreign interference is a longstanding obsession) will remember the note he struck this week.
It should be noted that the Graham-“bomb-bomb Iran” McCain view is not universal among Republicans and conservatives: Count Peggy Noonan, George Will, Sen. Richard Lugar (the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee), Henry Kissinger, and even Pat Buchanan among those supporting the President’s position.

Re: Teddy Roosevelt –- that he would take such a measured position on the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1909 is not as surprising as John McCain holding T.R. up as his “hero.” Either McCain is self-delusional (a possibility), or he’s less familiar with T.R.’s presidency than with the heroic snapshot of the Rough Rider that defined T.R.’s popular mystique.

Republicans today like to perpetuate the myth that they’re worthy descendants of the “party of Lincoln,” the GOP. That is a false presumption. The “party of Lincoln” died a less than honorable death when Teddy Roosevelt bolted the Republican Party, after irreconcilable differences with Taft, to form the U.S. Progressive Party, aka his “Bull Moose” third party. Roosevelt made an unsuccessful run for president in 1912, splitting the Republican vote and assuring Wilson’s election. The “Bull Moose” Progressive Party was short-lived, but it remains the most successful third party in American history, garnering 27% of the vote to 23% for Taft's big business Republican Party in the election of 1912. Woodrow Wilson won with a 42% plurality for the Democrats.

Teddy Roosevelt demanded vigorous government intervention to "destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics" as "the first task of the statesmanship of the day" -- hardly the candidate and policies John McCain and BFF Lindsey Graham would be comfortable with in 2009. Even by today's standards, the Progressive Party platform was true to its name, including a plank for national health insurance. Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to call for universal health care.

Hell, T.R. sounded downright Obamaesque!

The progressive “Lincoln Republicans” who followed T.R. to his “Bull Moose” party would eventually find a home in the Democratic Party of Wilson and T.R.'s cousin Franklin, later joining with progressive Democrats to propel FDR’s liberal New Deal policies.

So much for the GOP and the “party of Lincoln.”


Reaganite Republican said...

Obviously -although it’s the last thing Team Obama wants to hear- Ronald Reagan’s support of Poland’s Solidarity in the dark days of the Soviet-ordered crackdown is the model here- not the preposterous straw-man argument of “what are you going to do, invade?” disingenuously presented by the do-nothing, Obamapologist left.

And isn’t this what George W Bush told you was going to happen in the Middle East in the wake of Iraq’s liberation?

Maybe that’s why Barack Obama has so little apparent interest in finishing the job in Iran… no matter how much it benefits the US and free world.

That, and the fact that he’s already piled all his chips on legitimizing this vile regime- a democratic revolution at this point would be downright embarrassing for him.


Peter said...

Damn this is funny.

Ronald Reagan, who loved right-wing death squads?

Studied much Polish history? On our "support?"

Iraq's "liberation." LOL. Any college sophomore who had taken a Middle Eastern history class amid the keg stands could have evaluated the absurdity of this position.

"Maybe that’s why Barack Obama has so little apparent interest in finishing the job in Iran"

The job is WHAT??

"That, and the fact that he’s already piled all his chips on legitimizing this vile regime- a democratic revolution at this point would be downright embarrassing for him."


Carlos said...

LOL ... just like old times, Peter. Nice of you not to reveal your old handle; the Reaganite could burst an artery.

Peter said...

Poland and Iran. That is comparing apples to....scuba gear?

What a ridiculous statement, but then again--consider the source.

PatEsposisto said...

Thanks for providing the historical perspective. I'm so glad someone is pointing these things out. Now, if you could just get some national airplay for your insights ... it would make me happy :)