The Campaign Spot

If the Comparison Found Them Exactly the Same, We Wouldn’t Need the Comparison

Are the events we’re wtinessing in Iran the next Tiananmen Square? Or 1979 all over again? Or the Solidarity uprising? Or the next Orange Revolution? Is Obama’s position the equivalent of President George H. W. Bush’s “Chicken Kiev” speech? Or the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1989?

Peter Wehner thinks back to Reagan’s 1983 speech about the Soviet Union — “the focus of evil in the modern world” — and reflects the impact it had on that country’s dissidents. Joe Klein declares his posting “completely ridiculous,” and cites his two visits to Soviet Union and Iran. (I guess we should be glad he didn’t add a “nyah, nyah, and Charles Krauthammer didn’t.”)


Ed Morrissey looks back at Ronald Reagan’s reaction to the imposition of martial law in Poland, including the statement, “Two Decembers ago, freedom was lost in Afghanistan; this Christmas, it’s at stake in Poland. But the torch of liberty is hot. It warms those who hold it high. It burns those who try to extinguish it.” Ed concludes:

Note what Reagan did not do.  He didn’t say we needed to declare war on Poland, the reductio ad absurdum offered as a criticism of conservatives by progressives intent on defending Barack Obama’s weak response.  Reagan kept his options close to the vest, both in this statement and during the subsequent questions asked by reporters at the presser.  Reagan chose to stand for freedom and to publicly support those taking great physical risks in demanding it, keeping the pressure on the oppressors.

Pandagon responds, “Poland 1981 is not like Iran 2009. I know this because they are totally [bleeping] different.”
Much of the debate we’ve seen in recent days has revolved around the starting point, “these protests are similar to X” [Poland, China, Ukraine, Romania] and others insisting it’s foolish, wrongheaded, or ignorant to compare Iran today to X. This seems like a silly point to get hung up on, because it’s obvious that no example will be a 100 percent match to Tehran today. Iran is different from all other countries, and the country today is different from the way it was in the past, including 1979.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t get something useful from examining history, and similar popular uprisings against other regimes. There seem to be key questions and turning points that run through all of these instances around the globe; I’m thinking of this observation in The American Scene:

The question of whether a revolution will succeed is always whether the regime is firm and united enough to be willing to use force to crush them, and whether the military is willing to obey orders to crush them. If you’re willing to shoot the people, and your troops are willing to shoot the people, you win. If you’re not or they’re not, you lose.


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