Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Arnold Beichman, 1913-2010. R.I.P.

Our main site is of course known as Intellectual Conservative. Today, we lost an intellectual conservative. Arnold Beichman, a political scientist and journalist who spent much of his life writing and speaking out against communism and revolution, died today at the age of 96.

Beichman continued to write sharp commentary almost to the very end of his life. Take a gander at what he had to say about Iran under Ahmadinejad in July 2007 after it had begun to ration gas:

If there is one country in the Middle East that should be a howling economic success, it is Iran. And if there is one country in the world that proves revolutions usually create worse conditions than previously existing, it is Iran. For however bad conditions were in the days of the shah and his secret police, the Savak, Iran was a far happier place and more open than it is today.

I had this confirmed for me a few months ago on a trip to Washington, D.C. I could tell from the surname on his visible license that my airport taxi driver was Iranian. I asked him how he had ended up in Washington. "Because I was a fool," he replied. In Iran he had been a major in the Iran air force, well paid with a nice home and family. Then he got involved in the revolution against the shah and was exiled. "How much better off we were under the shah than under Khomeini," he said.

Too late. It's always too late. The lure of revolution may be irrational and, often, irresistible. What follows the overthrow of the old system is even worse — the Reign of Terror, the aftermath of revolution. From the rule of 18th-century Maximilien Robespierre to 20th-century dictators like Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-tung, flow torrents of blood, the blood of their own people, their own citizens, their own children.

The 19th century was the century of nationalist revolutions, the 20th century ended as the century of counter-revolution. The 21st century appears to be the Era of the Lone Bomber — no longer a terrorist, today a "militant" on a suicide mission, recruited by a nation-state, Iran, and endowed with the war powers of the nation-state. Is Iran untouchable?

Beichman concludes his thoughts with a most pertinent question. Sanctions are the preferred route but there's no political will for Russia and especially China to go along with us. But even if Russia and China came on board would those sanctions be any more effective than the ones that are already in place?

If the Obama Administration isn't moving heaven and earth to obtain the release of the three American hikers it is certainly not going to embark on a military strike especially when Sarah Palin endorses the idea.

Which leaves it up to Israel. But if the Obama Administration does move heaven and earth it would be to prevent an Israeli strike against Iran even if it did develop a nuclear weapon headed straight for Jerusalem.

Alas one can only imagine what the world might be like had the Iranian Revolution never happened thirty one years ago. A revolution that has as Beichman put it "flow torrents of blood, the blood of their own people, their own citizens, their own children." Unless someone chooses to act Iran will remain untouchable. And with that another voice for freedom has been lost.

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