Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Distant Mirror in Iran

Mohammad Sahimi at Tehran Bureau has a magisterial, level-headed, fact-crammed, on-the-on-hand-on-the-other-hand overview of the situation in Iran that should not be missed (h/t Gary Sick). It's a Rorschach test for those with hopes or fears or strong opinions about Iran, in that it details the weaknesses of the hardliners' position as well as the full implications of the fact that the ruling clique has all the guns and Mafioso-style control of the economy.

I would not presume to add my thinly informed two cents to this deeply informed analysis. But one free association is perhaps worth recording. It was triggered by one item in a list of challenges faced by the ruling hardliners:
Secondly, the Ahmadinejad group is totally devoid of intellectuals and deep thinkers who can lead or even show the way to improving the economy. Most moderate conservative experts have fled the Ahmadinejad camp. The composition of his new government, which is totally devoid of any “heavy weight” expert, is highly illustrative of that fact.
This gave me a flash image of the U.S. after a Palin-led or other extreme rump Republican takeover -- enabled perhaps after a nuclear terrorist attack (Joe the President, anyone?). Our system has stronger antibodies than Iran's, but who's to say it couldn't happen? The Bush Administration went a ways down this road, packing the Justice Department, EPA and countless other agencies with faith-based ideologues and industry shills; it went a long way toward bankrupting the country with a 1-2-3 punch of tax cuts for the wealthy, entitlement giveaways and unnecessary war; it further undermined institutional norms and taboos by cooking the intelligence-gathering process and instituting a torture regime; it stimulated and materially aided what Andrew Sullivan calls "movement conservatism, the business," i.e. the entertainment juggernaut of mainstreamed Father Coughlin-level demagoguery.

We're in partial remission at the moment. But the radicalization of the Republican rump is dangerous; demagogues are waiting in the wings. The country needs two parties capable of governing. As of now, we don't have that.

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