Saturday, June 30th, 2007
The Soviet Khameini ?
Dr. Barnett has often used the analogy of the Soviet Union under the long rule of Leonid Brezhnev to describe the current Iranian regime:
“This article aptly captures what I saw similarly in the USSR in the summer of 1985: most people simply opt out. They’ve figured out how to make their private lives decent through a thriving black market and off-line alternative lifestyle and in their public lives they pretend to obey so the mullahs can pretend to rule.
This is the dropped-out mentality Gorby ran into in the USSR with his perestroika: basically everyone told him to go shove it cause they weren’t in the mood and there was nothing he could offer them. Thus, the Sovs’ sad decline pushed that train right off the tracks.
Watch Ahmadinejad’s hard-liner-approved reformist successor try to revitalize the masses through such tactics after Ahmadinejad’s crackdown tactics achieve nothing but more opting out in the face of the accelerating economic collapse.
Then watch the real change begin.”
I’m not up to date on the details of the Iranian economy, which is ( at a minimum) riven by underemployment, a youth demographic bulge, systemic corruption and underinvestment in critical sectors. Chances are, the Iranian economy, despite it’s problems and governmental mismanagement, have not reached the craptacular proportions of decreptitude that prevailed prior to the Soviet implosion. Nevertheless, some of the Soviet-Iranian parallels are striking:
Highly factionalized, undemocratic, leadership
Trend toward gerontocratic ruling class
Opaque decision-making process for strategic problems
Power is both centralized in government hands yet diffused at top levels, creating paralysis
Increasing reliance upon (and expansion of) paramilitary security forces to secure rule
Tightening of political censorship and “public morals” campaigns to appease ideological hardliners
Public alienation from and cynicism toward official state ideology
Rising nationalism separate from state ideology that both supports and undermines the regime
Rampant corruption at all levels of society
Dual centers of power in foreign affairs
Ideological hardliners in key positions to control security services rather than pragmatists
Critical economic questions are repeatedly ignored in favor of factional interests or ideological concerns
Increasing reliance on raw material commodity exports for government revenue
I’d be interested to know how Iranian towns and cities in the interior compare to Teheran in terms of services, material goods, poverty and like indicators.