26 June 2009

Iran - an historical perspective

Iran is building a new kind of society -- an Islamic republic -- a project it has only been at for 30 years since it emerged from the dictatorship of the Shah, a dictatorship imposed by Great Britain and the United States. The events in Iran today are tragic, but building new societies is a process often replete with bouts of violence.

Consider, for example, the United States. Some Americans, former presidential candidate John McCain among them, are criticizing President Obama for not responding more strongly to the events in Iran. They forget their own history. In building its republic, the United States has endured repeated events of intense violence. It was founded in war. Within a century, it was engaged in one of history's bloodiest civil wars. It grew by crushing the native peoples. The struggle for human rights convulsed its people in violence up until the late 20th century -- two hundred years after the birth of the republic, its cities were burning and blood ran in the streets. Mr. McCain et al. can hardly expect more from the Iranians after only 30 years.

For Iran, whose civilization dates back millennia, 30 years is but a moment. We can only hope the violence of the current moment will be minimized and will lead ultimately to a better society, i.e. a step forward. In the short term, unfortunately, it's looking much more like a step back.

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