Watching the events in Iran this week, I cannot help but think that a quick course in successful revolutions would benefit the freedom-seeking people of Iran.
The most important thing I would stress is that the popular Marxist socialist ideas of the past really aren't relevant to a real revolution. Marx completely underestimated the importance of the power of the state. Successful revolutions occur, in real life, when the existing regime is unable to repress its people because it runs out of ammunition, money, and willing soldiers.
Moreover, what usually tips the balance is outside foreign influence. Without the support of extra-national resources, the existing regime generally manages to temporarily concede enough, temporarily repress enough, and temporarily bluff enough to pull through the crisis. I recommend Theda Skocpol's book, States and Social Revolutionshttp://www.amazon.com/States-Social-Revolutions-Comparative-Analysis/dp/0521294991/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245217542&sr=8-1 which is a comparative analysis of political revolutions in Russia, France, and China. This book provides readers with insight on the reality, and not the emotional fantasy, of revolution.
The main point I'm trying to make is that Chairman Mao's ideas are probably more valuable than ideas like wearing green or having everyone show up at the same time, some place on a map. As Mao wrote: "A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous." Right now, I think most U.S. official observers are betting on the success of Ahmadinejad because they don't think the people in Iran have the willingness to take their revolution up to the level it would need to be to truly succeed. This cold realism, in part, is responsible for Obama's lackluster support of freedom fighters in Iran. For more details on the militaristic reality of modern day Iran, please see an excellent little article by Danielle Pletka and Ali Alfoneh at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/opinion/17pletka.html?ref=opinion.
Nevertheless, based on Skocpol's theories, what would need to happen to make the "Green" revolution in Iran successful?
1. Focus efforts on undermining the financial stability of Ahmadinejad's police and military powers. In a crisis, there is no better friend than ready cash. Thus, one of the secrets for success in overthrowing a corrupt regime is to drain it of the cash it needs to survive. Financial isolation of Ahmadinejad and his allies is extremely important. This means that anything which disrupts his ability to pay the police or the military is a great idea right now. Freezing bank accounts, slowing down financial services, cutting off foreign investment...all of this will have more impact than anything designed to emotionally "rally" the people.
2. Accept that outside assistance should be welcomed, not shunned, and open the gateways to international assistance. Under the old Marxist model, outside intervention was unnecessary...even counter-productive. The reality of revolution, however, is that it is extremely difficult to overthrow a corrupt regime without outside support. The Shah of Iran's family would probably still be in power if it had not been for the influence of U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Outside intervention is essential because a revolution is not usually winnable if it is a "fair" fight that only involves domestic vs. domestic forces. Even the U.S. was dependent on France during our revolutionary war. This means that the opposition to Ahmadinejad and his allies should look for outside cash and other resources to assist them at this crucial moment.
3. Disrupt communications for police and military forces. A mob enjoys a temporary advantage if the police and military forces are unable to communicate with each other. Organization and communication is a force multiplier for the state, and thus it becomes important to do whatever can be done to cut lines of communication, disrupt messages, and inject confusion into the ranks of the police and military. In particular, the mob has an advantage everytime it succeeds in isolating Ahmadinejad and the ruling elites. Tactically, a coup d’état involves seizing physical control of the country’s key government offices, communications media, and infrastructure.
4. Beware of new faces. In moments of crisis, your best friends are your oldest and dearest friends. You know their strengths and weaknesses and you know the extent of their loyalty. The greatest danger for those seeking to overthrow a corrupt regime comes from their "new" friends. Although many of these new friends are decent and honest people, they are also more likely to be spies sent in to undermine your small and developing organization.
5. Trust your own perception and understanding. One of the great advantages of revolutionaries is that they see things fresh and trust their own judgment. This is actually a force multiplier for the freedom fighters because "trusting yourself" speeds up the decision-making process and activates the full use of your mind to take advantage of small moments, brief opportunities, and scarce resources that can make all the difference.
There are more and more ideas and insights I could offer, but sometimes - in emergency situations - it's best to keep things simple. Nevertheless, I'll close by saying that I think it is fair to say that with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all weakened by their own internal problems...this is an ideal time for a revolt in Iran along the lines articulated by anti-Ahmadinejad forces. My comments above are meant to represent the best distillation of my understanding of politics and social science. Personally, I'm convinced that the long-term prosperity of the whole region will be dependent on the full compulsory education of both men and women, the end of child labor, and the intelligent efforts of all of us - inside and outside of Iran - to adjust to a modern world were religions are judged by their unintended consequences....not their carefully planned promises.
One of the ways Americans divide themselves up is according to which side they root for in foreign wars and insurrections. In the case of Iran, I think it would be wise for everyone who opposes the Democrats to line up on the side of the freedom fighters supporting Mir Hussein Moussavi. As far as I can tell, the conflict surrounding Moussavi is not going away. Apparently, more than 100 opposition members have been detained and Moussavi reportedly “remained at home Sunday with the police closely monitoring his movements.” Even worse, the Obama administration has decided to line up with Iran's most senior cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called the election a great success and “has once again approved its result.”
Obama appears to be following the typical appeasement strategy which hopelessly believes that doing nothing wins us international support when, in truth, it signals a weakness that allows folks like Moussavi to get ground up by Iranian military and government elites.
I think the smarter option is for us to start wearing green, to use our modest Twitter and social networking tools to support the Iranian opposition, and to encourage those who would put greater military pressure on Iran. It is silly to think that revolutions occur when the public reaches an emotional boiling point. The reality is that revolutions only succeed when governments fail to repress them with military force. Accordingly, the more distractions we can provide for the Iranian military, the more we can expect to see public emotions turn into a beneficial change of regime. Also, I think it is unrealistic to think that axis of evil type governments change only through internal stress.
All in all, I think this is an important time to send a strong message to the protestors in Iran that we support their efforts and will do whatever we can to help them achieve their freedom. We can encourage them by pointing out that they are on the side of justice and winning history. Iran will be a silly, weak, and backward place as long as it abuses gays, women and children with an outmoded religious/political ideology. The starting point for the U.S. is that Obama should stand up and support a second election with international monitors. As a political scientist, I know the polls cannot be that far off - even in Iran.
I ran across a great article and graphic from Power Line which shows how the Obama stimulus plan is already failing to perform as advertised. The dark blue line shows where Obama predicted unemployment numbers would be with the assistance of the stimulus plan. The light blue line was his prediction of what would happen in the absence of the stimulus plan.
The reality of our present situation is indicated by the magenta dots that show actual unemployment numbers. It looks to me like the curve is going straight up. If so, I think this will be further evidence that after two years of Democrat control of Congress employers are terrified of adding new workers to their payrolls.
President Obama's job approval rate now equals his job disapproval rate for the first time in his Presidential term. What is the cause of this uptick in disappointment with the new President? My guess is that higher disapproval ratings are tied to negative news stories about the Obama administration. Negative stories have been associated with his desire to close Gitmo and bring terrorists to U.S. territory, with Judge Sotomayor's questionable statements regarding the superiority of the "wise Latina," and bad news about the GM bankruptcy. Traditionally, however, a key factor in personal judgments about Presidential approval is the voter's view of the economy. Here, increased unemployment rates are probably most highly correlated with Obama's declining job approval numbers.
As one of the nation's more visible victims of affirmative action, I've experienced a lot of good, old-fashion indignation as I read up on Judge Sotomayor and her decision in the Ricci v. New Haven case, the case where she allowed reverse discrimination to run free. I was especially saddened to read that Obama got a nice positive bump in the polls when he announced her nomination. Nevertheless, it takes time for the public to pay attention to even the worst forms of injustice.
Thankfully, Obama's bump in the polls has now faded away as people learn the reality of Sotomayor's unpredictable, self-indulgent judicial philosophy.
For example, Rasmussen Polls show 41% now favor her confirmation while 36% are opposed. This is in dramatic contrast with the situation a week ago when those numbers were 45% and 29% respectively. What was positioned by the Obama administration as a slam-dunk nomination now appears to be less and less popular with the people who matter the most - the voters.
In terms of promoting affirmative action, Obama and his liberal allies are on the wrong side of history and contemporary public opinion. Quinnipiac University, for example, released new polling data showing that affirmative action is a losing issue for Democrats. The Quinnipiac poll shows Americans reject affirmative action policies based on race by a 55% to 36% margin. This result, of course, is consistent with electoral results including the rejection of affirmative action by voters in both California and Nebraska.
Likewise, the respondents reported that they disagreed with Sotomayor's ruling in Ricci v. New Haven by 71% to 19%.
Most important, the Quinnipiac poll - a random sample of 3,000 voters - shows divisions within the Democrat party base on this issue. Only a plurality of black voters support affirmative action in government hiring, while a majority of Hispanics oppose it. By taking a principled stand against Judge Sotomayor's racist comments and her position on affirmative action, Republicans have an opportunity to win back majority support and take a stand on behalf of all the teachers, police officers, and firefighters who are harmed by affirmative action on a daily basis.
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About John C. Drew, Ph.D.
John Drew is an award-winning political scientist who has taught American government and public policy at a few of our nation's formerly prestigious institutions including Williams College. He posts under the pseudonym Augustine 25. Dr. Drew is an occasional contributor at American Thinker, Breitbart, Campus Reform, PJMedia, The College Fix, FrontPage Magazine and WND.
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