]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]        IN MEMORY OF IRAN         [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                        By Roger Scruton                   (10/12/88)
From UNTIMELY TRACTS (NY: St. Martin's Press, 1987), pp. 190-1
(This originally appeared in the TIMES (London), 6 November 1984)

 [Kindly uploaded and provided with notes by Freeman 10602PANC]

   Who  remembers Iran?   Who  remembers, that  is,  the shameful
stampede of Western journalists and intellectuals to the cause of
the Iranian revolution?  Who  remembers the hysterical propaganda
campaign  waged  against the  Shah,  the lurid  press  reports of
corruption, police  oppression, palace  decadence, constitutional
crisis?   Who  remembers  the thousands  of  Iranian  students in
Western universities  enthusiastically absorbing  the fashionable
Marxist nonsense purveyed to them by armchair radicals, so as one
day to lead the campaign of riot and mendacity which preceded the
Shah's downfall?
   Who  remembers the  behaviour of  those  students who  held as
hostage  the envoys  of the  very same  power which  had provided
their  'education'?   Who remembers  Edward  Kennedy's accusation
that  the Shah  had  presided over  'one  of the  most oppressive
regimes in history'  and had stolen  'umpteen billions of dollars
from Iran'?
   And who  remembers the  occasional truth  that our journalists
enabled us to  glimpse, concerning the  Shah's real achievements:
his  successes  in  combating  the  illiteracy,  backwardness and
powerlessness of  his country,  his enlightened  economic policy,
the reforms which might have saved his people from the tyranny of
evil mullahs,  had he been  given the chance  to accomplish them?
Who remembers the freedom and security in which journalists could
roam Iran,  gathering the gossip  that would  fuel their fanciful
stories of a reign of terror?
   True, the Shah was an autocrat.  But autocracy and tyranny are
not the  same.  An  autocrat may preside,  as the  Shah sought to
preside, over  a representative  parliament, over  an independent
judiciary, even over  a free press  and an autonomous university.
The Shah, like Kemal Ataturk  [umlaut over the 'u'], whose vision
he shared,  regarded his autocracy  as the means  to the creation
and protection  of such institutions.   Why did no  one among the
Western political  scientists trouble  to point  this out,  or to
rehearse  the  theory  which  tells us  to  esteem  not  just the
democratic  process,  but also  the  representative  and limiting
institutions which may still flourish in its absence?  Why did no
one enjoin us to  compare the political system  of Iran with that
of Iraq or Syria?
   Why did our  political scientists rush  to embrace the Iranian
revolution,  despite  the evidence  that  revolution  under these
circumstances must be the prelude  to massive social disorder and
a regime  of terror?   Why did  the Western  intelligentsia go on
repeating  the  myth  that  the   Shah  was  to  blame  for  this
revolution, when both Khomeini and the Marxists had been planning
it for 30 years and had found, despite their many attempts to put
it into operation, only spasmodic popular support?
   The answer to all those questions  is simple.  The Shah was an
ally  of  the  West, whose  achievement  in  establishing limited
monarchy in a vital strategic  region had helped to guarantee our
security,  to bring  stability to  the Middle  East and  to deter
Soviet expansion.  The  Shah made the  fatal mistake of supposing
that the  makers of Western  opinion would love  him for creating
conditions which guaranteed their freedom.  On the contrary, they
hated him.   The Shah had  reckoned without the  great death wish
which  haunts our  civilisation and  which causes  its vociferous
members to propagate any falsehood, however absurd, provided only
that it damages our chances of survival.
   For a while, of course,  those vociferous elements will remain
silent  on the  embarrassing topic  of  Iran, believing  that the
collapse of Iranian institutions,  the establishment of religious
terror,  the Soviet  expansion into  Afghanistan  and the  end of
stability in the region are all  due to some other cause than the
Iranian revolution.  Those who lent their support to this tragedy
simply turned their back  on it and went  elsewhere, to prepare a
similar outcome for the people of Turkey, Nicaragua, El Salvador,
Chile, South Africa  -- or wherever else  our vital interests may
be damaged.
   Of   course,    it   is    difficult   now    for   a  Western
correspondent to enter Iran, and if he did so it would not be for
fun.  He  could not,  like the  ghouls who  send their despatches
from Beirut, adopt  a public posture of  the front-line hero.  He
would have to witness, quietly and  in terror of his life, things
which  beggar  description:  the  spontaneous  'justice'  of  the
revolutionary guards,  the appalling scenes  of violence, torture
and demonic  frenzy, the public  humiliation of  women, the daily
sacrifice of lives too  young to be conscious  of the meaning for
which they are condemned to destruction.
   He  would  also have  to  confront  the truth  which  has been
staring  him in  the face  for  years, and  which he  could still
recognise had the habit of  confessing his errors been preserved:
the truth that  limited monarchy is the  right form of government
for  Iran, which  can be  saved  only by  the restoration  of the
Shah's legitimate successor.   But such a result  would be in the
interests not only of  the Iranian people, but  also of the West.
Hence few Western journalists are likely to entertain it.

                                                (6 November 1984)

   [The following notes are not part of the original article.]

                      Selective Chronology

1977: 20 Jan, Jimmy Carter inaugurated.
1978:  Violent  public  disorder  in  Iran;  8  Sep,  martial law
declared in 12 cities.
1979: 16 Jan, the Shah  (1919-1980) leaves Iran; 31 Jan, Khomenhi
(1900-),  in exile  since 1963  and living  in Paris  since 1978,
returns from exile;  4 Nov, Iranian  militant students seize U.S.
embassy, take 90  hostages of whom 62  (eventually reduced to 52)
are Americans, demand return of Shah.
1980: 24  Apr, U.S.  rescue attempt fails;  27 Jul,  Shah dies in
Egypt; 22 Sep, war with Iraq begins.
1981:  21  Jan,  American  hostages  freed,  after  444  days  of
captivity, in exchange  for release of  frozen Iranian assets; 22
June to  end of  year, over  2,000 people,  reportedly members of
Majahedeen-i-Khalq and  smaller Marxist-Leninist/Maoist factions,
die before revolutionary firing squads.
1984: Iraq,  and later  Iran, attack  several oil  tankers in the
Persian Gulf.
1988: 20 Aug, war with Iraq ends.

   The  Left is  opportunistic:  it is  drawn  to where  there is
wretchedness.  Its failing is that, when it succeeds, it replaces
a large wrong with a great evil.  The tragedy of Iran is that the
intellectual classes of the West would only direct their energies
to  the destruction  of the  Shah:  they preferred  revolution to
reform.  It is unfortunate that those killed by the revolutionary
government cannot express proper  thanks to the intellectuals who
were so successful on their behalf.
   Since  the 1960s  the Iranian  crown  was busily  creating the
circumstances in  which the cancerous  influence of intellectuals
would flourish.   The Shah's  great contribution  to his downfall
was his effort  to impose modernity on  Iran within his lifetime.
Paul Johnson, in  Modern Times (1983),  observes that "[The Shah]
destroyed himself by succumbing to the fatal temptation of modern
times: the lure of social engineering. ... The planners, educated
abroad and known  as massachuseti (after  the famous Institute of
Technology, MIT), had  the arrogance of  party apparatchiks and a
Stalinist faith  in centralized  planning, the  virtues of growth
and bigness. ... [A]gricultural planners ... behaved with all the
arrogance of the party activists  Stalin used to push through his
programme,  though  there   was  no  resistance   and  no  actual
brutality.  ...  Iran's  horrifying  experiences  illustrated yet
again the law of unintended  effect.  The Shah's efforts to force
a  nation into  modernity produced  atavism.   The state  road to
Utopia led only to Golgotha [(pp 704-708)]."
   Some popular support  of the Islamic  fundamentalists may have
been a reaction against the family-planning program of the Shah's
government,   which   worked  with   American   universities  and

Jacqueline Kasun, The War Against Population
            (Harrison, NY: Ignatius Press, 1986), p. 89. :
   With  support  of the  control  system --  AID  [Agency for
   International    Development],     International    Planned
   Parenthood, the Pathfinder Fund,  the Universities of North
   Carolina and Chicago,  and the Ford  Foundation -- the Shah
   and  his sister  became  enthusiastic proponents  of family
   planning  ....   The  ministries  of  health  and education
   redesigned  the school  curriculum, rewrote  the textbooks,
   and   retrained   thousands   of   teachers   to  emphasize
   ``population  education''    and  sex   education....   All
   methods  of  reducing   births  were  legalized,  including
   abortion and sterilization....  Upon seizing power, the new
   government threw  out the family  planning apparatus, threw
   out the  law allowing  abortion and  sterilization, and, in
   short order,  threw out the  United States. (Interestingly,
   the Iranian  birth rate, one  of the highest  in the world,
   showed little decline during the family planning years.)


   For an interesting  account of the  death-wish as an influence
on the  thought of the  Left see Igor  Shafarevich, The Socialist
Phenomenon (New York: Harper & Row, 1980).

                         *     *     *

Return to the ground floor of this tower
Return to the Main Courtyard
Return to Fort Freedom's home page