“In a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran,” wrote Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times, “voters here overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered [president] who advocates greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world.” We did the same thing in 2008. Yet here we sit, almost five years later, with a massive hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, an imploding Iraq and exploding Afghanistan, getting ready to enter the Syrian minefield. Syria, we are told, is a humanitarian disaster whose dictator clings to power with atrocities and chemical weapons. Therefore, to level the playing field, we must give the rebels more destructive weaponry. The increasingly collateral damage must be very grateful.
Meanwhile, next door in Iran, a majority of the people, in something called an election, expressed their demand for change. How did a vile theocracy that builds bombs, supports terrorism and rigs votes, let that happen? America’s default reaction is that any expression of democracy in the Middle East is a vote for America’s values. But maybe the Iranians decided they wanted a different, more moderate and less belligerent approach to the world based on their own values – just as we did in 2008. And maybe, instead of arming dissident groups we don’t understand, so they can fight their way to the kind of elections that don’t work in Iraq, we could look at a different way, one that goes back to Gandhi and Havel and Mandela and that just might be emerging in Iran.