28 May 2007

27 May 2007 - The Iran hostage crisis, revisited

I am traveling, in the aftermath of a great year at law school, and thus my entries have been shorter than usual. I’ve also been substituting for James Myburgh at the politics blog over at Moneyweb, so I’ve had my hands full. However, there’s still a lot to read and write about the Middle East, and I’ll try to keep things going on my usual daily basis, with as much detail as I have time to provide, over the next 2 weeks.

At an airport today, I picked up a copy of Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah, a recounting of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81. What has struck me, after 150 pages or so, is the belief among many well-meaning embassy officials in the early days that their unique rapport with local culture, or their diplomatic experience, would help smooth things over in the early days. A dangerous miscalculation.

Another interesting feature is the degree to which the Islamist radicals who took over the embassy were inspired by the university occupations on American campuses in the late 1960s. Except in Iran, the leftist rhetoric was used in the service of an essentially fascist religious autocracy—an ultraconservative revolution. Perhaps the radicals of left and right were not so different, in any case.

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