It is increasingly apparent that the Iranian revolution is no run-of-the-mill upheaval. It is a historic event of the first water. It is nothing less than the precursor of a new era in international relations, an era in which power and prominence correlate with the number of hostages a nation can sock away in its national hoosegow.
How this stupendous climax can still escape notice from our profs ensconced in their various centers for advanced study I cannot say. Perhaps the boys tank up a bit too strenuously during sherry hour. Maybe they just cannot bring themselves to break the news to our presidential opsimath -- after all, a politician can learn only so much in four years, even one who has had as much to lear as our Jimmy Carter.
At any rate, the facts are inescapable. In Tehran, a new chapter in diplomatic intercourse is being written. In the years ahead a nation will no longer need a mighty army or great wealth to become a significant force in world politics. It will not need cunning diplomats or even coherent diplomats. All it will need is hostages.
The shah in his salad days had a modern army of some 280,000 troops. He had a crafty diplomatic corps and enough money to purchase the silence of the entire free wolrd, save for the assiduous Ramsey Clark and that crowd of Iranian students who used to march along Fifth Avenue with paper bags over their heads.
Yet, despite his arms and his treasure, never did the man on the Peacock Throne possess the power now wielded by the Sacred Imam and his holy gibberers. Let the weisen heimers joke about Iran's slipping back into the seventh century. Truth be known the rev. Ayatollah Khomeini, D.D.,B.P. O.E., has ushered us into a new era of statecraft, unheard by Niccolo Machiavelli, undreamt of by Freidrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. The government of Iran has been handed over to a gang of low-grade graduate students drawn from the universities of Europe and America, where they once slept through classes and terrorized coeds, yet Iran remains inviolable.
Fifty hostages have made Iran a force to conjure with and at far less expense to the average Iranian than it cost him to maintain the shah's goldplated kaboodle of generals, diplomats and gendarmes. Were the Scared Imam to order his galoots into the embassies of a few more Western powers, Iran might become a superpower. If diplomats are no longer in plentiful supply in Tehran, I suggest he order his agents to shave and shower and head for Europe. He already brags of his ability to ambush people in foreign capitals. Why not kidnap them and bring them back to Tehran as hostages? One or two thousand more hostages could make the Islamic Republic the most powerful nation on earth.
When the American hostages in Tehran are viewed from this perspective, it becomes apparent that in demanding their release we go too far. Looking at it from the Iranian point of view. These hostages are fundamental components of Iranian security. To demand their release is to demand of Iran something on the order of unilateral disarmament. Would the United States turn over its main source of security, that is to say, its nuclear arsenal, to a sightseeing commission from the United Nations? How can we expect the Iranians to turn over their hostages?
For our government to continue to hector the Iranians about releasing the hostages is, of course, pointless. What we should do to raise our standing in the world is simply take a few hostages of our own, and the holy city of Qom abounds with appealing candidates. Yet such a policy is obviously little to our president's liking.
In point of fact, our president's erratic behavior has appeared novel even by his standards. At the outset, he was very angry. Yet he almost immediately abjured force, as though the kidnapping were an accident. He grew petulant. Then he spoke of sanctions. Yet the sanctions were quietly dropped, and in time he actually turned lovey-dovey, a twist that must have caused some unease fo the Iranian pols as they cocked their ears to old Qom and listened for the familiar deadly roar. By the middle of February, when he began adumbrating an eventual return to friendship and harmony with a government that still has not budged on its demands, seasoned observers scratched their noodles. Yet Carter's behavior is not so unusual to those who are aware of the Stockholm syndrome, a well-known psychological condition wherein ex-hostages come to the defense of their captors. Some even develop deep affection for their tormentors; some marry them.
Perhaps the cunning ayatollah anticipated this all along. Possibly Carter's condition is a sad result of his phenomenal ability to empathize. Whatever the case, it is apparent that he is not apt to do much to hurt his Iranian tormentors, a response that surely will encourage others to resort to the hostage-taking policies of the invincible Islamic Republic History is being made.