The news from liberated Tehran is perplexing. As I undestand it, having read the published wisdom of Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Hon. Andy Young and others of like mind, Iran has just been saved from the worst tyrant in the history of the world. I speak of the shah, a tyrant worse than any Chilean general ever heard of, a tyrant even worse than Somoza! He absconded with anywhere from $2 billion to $35 billion -- on this the scholars are still in dispute. He butchered hundreds of thousands of people. He skiied in the Alps without benefit of clergy. Yet finally, just short of a year ago the Iranians were delivered from his rule, and in his stead came a saintly horde of holy men led by the Rev. Mr. Ruhollah Khomeini. One would have expected gaiety in downtown Tehran and mosques full of happy faces.
The Rev. Khomeini should have been happiest of all. In years gone by, he has been a somewhat obscure figure, despite his formidable scowis and occasional temper tantrums that suggested close communication with the winged spirits of the higher altitudes. Earnestly rubbing his noodle into the prayer rug and inculcating his arcane message of love to only a handful of rube students, he left little mark. Then he began to quibble over the clandestine stipends Savak was paying the other mullahs, and he began to heave off his shocking views of the world. What is more, he phrased these views in a style that has become all to familiar. The shah sent him packing, and in exile he did live until network TV discovered him ranting in a Paris suburb. From then on he became a star of the evening news, and in time a mob of merry yokels welcomed him back to Tehran even as a lugubrious shah flew thither.
Yet somehow peace and contentment did not come to Iran. Oh, that is not to say that there were not happy days. There were hundreds of executions. The jails were replenished with hasbeens. Street demonstrations, though erratic, continued. And even the Rev. Khome Rev. Khomeini knew periods when the buzz between his ears was faint. After all, he now had his Islamic republic. Women had safely been stowed away beneath their chadors, and rock music was no more. In historic Qom, the Rev. Khomeini spent halcyon days sweetly lapping up his luncheons of bread and gravy, perhaps mulling over plans for a few new prisons, but nothing more.
Then five weeks ago he filled with a stupendous fury. When one pauses to think about it, the thing is odd. He should have been purring with holy contentment. the shah had been shipped to a New York hospital. he He underwent a painful operation. The holy man should have been kicking up his heels. But no. He was in a fury. Did the shah's sudden reemergence remind the Rev. Khomeini of the celebrity he had lost? Did he in far off Qom suddenly yearn to star again on network TV? This is not to be ruled out. He and his followers are putting on a show that no TV executive could ever have confected.
The appalling spectacle that has been pothering Iran for over a month now brings together two irrational forces. The first is the anti-Americanism of a congeries of people who quite obviously knew very little about America beyond what they have picked up from the more hysterical regions of the American left. Last week when the holy man rumbled on about "world-eating American imperialism" and beseeched his supporters "to rub America's snout into the dust," the rhetoric was pure Khomeini, but the themes were indistinguishable from those of many American radicals, who see America as a land inhabited by militarists, CIA agents, opressed minorities and devious tycoons. (And here may we pause to note that the themes of America's radical left are increasingly at one with those of America's radical right.)
Anti-Amercanism is a vicious and unreasoning bigotry. No expedient, not the return of the shah or even his public beheading by the remarkable Sen. Kennedy, would assuage it for long. The only intelligent way to deal with anti-Americanism is to tear a page from the Israelis' manual on defense against bigotry. That is to say our government must cease rendering itself contemptible to the world and must respond decisively and punitively to those who violate our rights.
The second irrational force involved in this imbroglio is, alas, the Carter administration. The Rev. Khomeini's fevered mobs began this farce with an act of war. Ever since, they have acted as bellicosely as they could -- a point that even our government might admit to had Allah in his munificence allowed a few nuclear devices to fall into the holy man's hands. It is as irrational for our government to pad about the world taking legalistic briefs to the United Nations and to the International Court of Justice as it would be for a woman to bubble on about the weather and to powder her nose while being raped. The holy man has made himself clear: he is not susceptible to international law or diplomacy. To act as though he were is as irrational as it is to continue to saunter along insisting on the safety and comfort of the hostages -- 50 men and women who have been brutalized by lunatics day and night for five weeks. The Iranians are besotted in anti-Americanism. Our government is drunk on a cheap vision of Wilsonian idealism.
To appreciate just how tragic and altered our condition in the world has become, reflect on the thoughts of an observer comfortably removed from it all. Jean-Francois Revel, writing in the Nov. 24 issue of the Parisian magazine L'Express, asserts that the United States, "the aggressed-upon nation," has "by a sort of tacit, and all the more overwhelming, consensus, been put outside the law, banished from the international community by its own allies." I think this is true. We are now a pariah nation, exposed to the bigoted rage of any foreign mob. The Carter administration's overindulgence in Wilsonian pieties will nt protect us and will only bring us more of the world's contempt.