Retrospective on the Iranian Hostage Crisis

Last week, I was interviewed by Radio Free Europe’s Russian-language station about the 30th anniversary of the Iranian seizure of American diplomatic hostages in Tehran. The transcript, in Russian, is here. For the fraction of VC readers who do not read Russian (a fraction that is smaller than almost any other U.S. law/policy weblog), here’s a summary of my key points: The hostage crisis initially helped President Carter fend off a primary challenge from Sen. Ted Kennedy, as Carter stayed in the White House attending to the issue. However, as the kidnapping wore on, Carter’s weakness became increasingly evident to the American people; it was observed that Soviet government diplomat do not get seized, because everyone realized that the Soviets would respond forcefully. Accordingly, one result of the hostage crisis was the election of Ronald Reagan. (Who of course later made his own terrible mistakes in thinking that he could establish a working relationship with the Iranian tyrants.) Today, Iran is still ruled by tyrants who hate the West in general, and the U.S. in particular, and the West has new leaders who, like many of their predecessors, cling to the vain hope that the¬†Iranian regime can be pacified by concessions. The world’s largest exporter of terrorism, the Iranian regime aims to ¬†dominate the Near East and the Muslim world. With nuclear weapons, the the Iranian regime threatens the whole civilized world. Everything would be different if the Khomeni revolution had been stopped at the very beginning. The longer that regime change in Iranian is delayed, the worse for everyone.

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