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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Andrew Sullivan's democracy in Iran and the South Africa analogy 


Andrew Sullivan notes the reports of fierce electioneering in Iran and says that "something is happening here":

Now check out this video of a public clash between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi supporters in the streets of Tehran. It's vivid, electrifying stuff - not a sign of a brutal totalitarian regime. I know we have to be cautious and I know who holds the military power. But we should not be blind to change when it emerges.

Andrew, I think, misses the point. Iran has had any number of tightly contested elections -- the first and surprising election of Mohammad Khatami, for example -- and within its limitations the Islamic Republic is, well, a functioning republic. The problem is that the clerical Guardian Council decides the list of permitted candidates. Anybody who is not acceptable to the clerics simply is not allowed to run at all. Arguably, the best modern analogy is aparthied South Africa, which was a well-fought democracy among whites but which was a sham for everybody else. Non-white ethnicities could vote, but only for their own relatively powerless representatives. In Iran the test is religious rather than ethnic (although query whether an Iranian Arab would have any chance at all regardless of his Islamic bona fides), but it is basically the same idea. Iranian voters "know hope" in pretty much the same way that non-white South Africans did back in the day, by genuinely choosing among candidates that the police state has selected for them.

12 Comments:

By Blogger DEC, at Wed Jun 03, 04:33:00 PM:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

"With a little more than two weeks to go before Iranians go to the polls to pick a president, RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari sketches the candidates and outlines the political landscape."

Video:

http://www.rferl.org/video/384/362/1804.html

Article:

"Election Jokes Doing The Rounds In Iran"

http://www.rferl.org/content/Election_Jokes_Doing_The_Rounds_In_Iran/1741049.html  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jun 03, 06:15:00 PM:

"In Iran the test is religious"

Really? Iran is a country with a 98% Muslim population. There is essentially no test because the entire country is essentially homogeneous. The relition test falls apart when you consider the fact that in spite of COLLECTIVELY only making up 2% of the population, some non-muslims DO get elected.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Jun 03, 06:36:00 PM:

Of course, the Guardian Council is interested in a presidential candidate's attitude toward the enforcement of its version of Islamic law. So it remains a religious test, even if among Muslims rather than between Muslims and other religions.  

By Anonymous Jim Clay, at Wed Jun 03, 07:03:00 PM:

It's even worse than that. Even after they are elected, both the Guardian Council and the Ayatollah can overrule the legislators at any time. So really, what's the point?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jun 03, 07:17:00 PM:

The point, Mr. Clay, is to provide a fig leaf for those in the West that do not wish to recognize that a confrontation with Islamic Republic of Iran is inevitable.

They're not a totalitarian state, they are a Republic! With elections! and robust debate!!!!!

And that darn Guardian Council; I mean, what's that all about? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!!!

Someday we will wake-up and something really terrible will have happened because of those lunatics, and then, even Andrew Sullivan may have second thoughts.

Which will still allow him to blame the cowboy Bush.

-David  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Wed Jun 03, 07:23:00 PM:

There is essentially no test...some non-muslims DO get elected.

Non-muslims who have been vetted as acceptable by the Guardian Council.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jun 03, 09:17:00 PM:

Of course. No one claimed they had a democracy, but it is also not a dictatorship. It is a blend between a republic and an oligarchy. Interestingly some of the voices that dismiss elections in Iran are the very same voices who ring alarm bells at every inflammatory statement made by Ahmadinejad.

In reality, the regime in Iran is not led by lunatics. They have been consistently pragmatic in taking courses of action that benefit Iran. If they were crazy, they could openly attack us in Iraq knowing that we could quickly supply them with their 72 virgins each. They did not. Bilateral cooperation between us and them is also not unheard of (at least until the axis of evil speech) and should not be dismissed out of hand.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jun 04, 10:02:00 AM:

The 'crazy/non-crazy' debate is a silly one. Crazy people do not rise to control nation-states. (though sometimes they inherit them, as centuries of inbred European monarchies has shown us)

However, it is a serious mistake to assume that simply because a foreign leader is not crazy then he thinks like you do.

At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, Hitler was not clinically crazy but he still diverted military supply trains to make way for Holocaust trains while German armies were being driven back on both fronts. Stalin was not crazy, but still absurdly took the Germans at their word concerning the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and felt that the primary foreign military threat was Japanese, and even threatened to execute Soviet spies who reported to him (correctly) that the Germans were about to attack. Saddam was not crazy, but still felt entirely at ease using arbitrary arrest, torture, execution, rape, chemical bombardment, and strafing by Hind attack helicopters to run his country.

Just because the Iranian President is not a frothing, wild-eyed fanatic does not mean that he is also not a true believer.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Thu Jun 04, 10:56:00 AM:

but it is also not a dictatorship


When gays are summarily executed, I'm pretty sure most people would say you've wandered off into dictatorship territory.

By your definition, nothing commonly recognized as a dictatorship in the past is one.  

By Blogger Candide, at Thu Jun 04, 01:33:00 PM:

Iran is a "danger" to the US only because if Iran starts a war with Israel, Americans would have to do something. Naturally, majority of Americans would rather do nothing.

For example, few years after Pres. Bush summoned enough political will to destroy Saddam regime in Iraq, majority of Americans came to conclusion that it would have been much better to do nothing, i.e. leave Saddam in charge in Iraq and continue starving regular Iraqi people with sanctions in perpetuity.

Now Americans elected the most-likely-to-do-nothing President.

The problem with doing nothing, of course, there is a "danger" to be called coward, and nobody is comfortable with that.

But Americans should not feel "threatened" by Iran, because the chances of Iran attacking Israel are extremely remote. None of Iran neighbors have any interest to see Iran taking on Israel and emerging victorious. Militarized, nuclear and victorious Iran is a grave danger to Arabs, Russians, even Indians and Chinese. For all of them, the best outcome of Iran-Israel conflict would be to have it dragged indefinitely, weakening both sides. If there has to be a victor, for them it better be Israel, because they know how to keep Israel isolated. Victorious Iran is absolutely unacceptable to Arabs and Russia. If there is a chance of Iran victory, Arabs and Russia will intervene to make sure it doesn't happen.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jun 04, 01:49:00 PM:

The danger is not one of Persian armies marching over Southwest Asia. That's not how Iran measures its power. That's not even how we measure our own power.

Iran wants control over as many institutions and governments in the region as it can get, from Taliban warlords (whom they covertly supply) to Hezb Allah and the government of Lebanon to Gulf state Shi'a rebels to Hamas to Iraqi insurgents and political parties and even to Somali pirates (unconfirmed).  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jun 04, 03:44:00 PM:

The Iranians used children with keys around their necks (symbolism of some kind) to clear mine fields in the Iran-Iraq war of the '80's. I guess the keys were supposed to be some sort of symbol that gained them immediate entrance to Paradise after they got blowed up real good.

Iran, through it's proxies, was probably responsible (>95% prob.) for the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1984 that killed +280 US Marines (and a simultaneous bombing of smaller French military contingent, too).

Various "leaders" in Iran call for the "erasure", "removal from history", "elimination" of the "Zionist State", i.e. , Israel, all the time. What could that mean, along with their clandestine atomic weapons programs? What are the clues?

And nearly every Friday for the last, oh, 30 years, an Iranian Imam will hector the faithful throngs in Teheran and other places, with a sermon that begins with calling for the "Death of the Great Satan", meaning the United States of America. Every Friday for 30 years. I guess habits die hard, huh?

Are all the people in Iran lunatics? Not by a long shot; just the ones that appear to be in charge. I stand by the usage of the term "lunatics".

I also don't accuse the present Administration of President Obama as "cowardly" (and not that anyone was saying such a thing), but he is on the beginning of a steep learning curve, about to find out how little words matter when dealing with these.....people.


-David  

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