Friday, June 19, 2009

On Fragility

David Brooks, seconded by Andrew Sullivan, seem to agree that the Iranian regime is "fragile." I don't have fully formed thoughts on this, but it strikes me as a very strange characterization. Would you describe a government as fragile if it is threatened by enormous demonstrations? Fragile in what sense? It seems like the vast amount of effort expended by the demonstrators, perhaps millions of them, is an indicator of the stability of a regime. Additionally, I think the comparison of Iran to "other autocratic regimes" is inapposite. Iran has a vibrant public culture that would never have been allowed to develop in the the former Soviet Union and its satellites (which I imagine is Brooks's intended "autocratic regime").

I am also dubious of the idea that a governing system based on the "banishment of reality" is somehow inherently more fragile than one based on "reality." We only have to look at our very recent history to see how effective the government can be at manipulating "reality." Reality doesn't speak for itself, and can serve the interests of repressive regimes just as well as those we would be inclined to prefer.

(Brooks also identifies the shouting from the rooftops as a new custom, springing organically from the "new situation," but that's an homage to similar actions taken by Ayatollah Khomeini's supporters during the 1979 Revolution.)

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