How to Lose a Country Gracefully
NY Times / Bill Keller
07-Mar-2011 (one comment)

Our hearts understandably thrill to the courage of those who stand up to power — from Tiananmen Square to Tahrir Square and all the streets that now teem with the young and freedom-hungry. But there is another heroism, scarce and undervalued, that accrues to those who know how to stand down.

What Gorbachev and de Klerk did was not always pretty, and neither man is much celebrated in his own country these days. But each relinquished the power of an abusive elite without subjecting his country to a civil bloodbath. Afterward, they did not flee to the comfort of Swiss bank accounts. On the contrary, they managed a feat that is almost unthinkable in most of today’s erupting autocracies: after succumbing to democracy, they contributed to its legitimacy by becoming candidates for high office — and losing, fair and square...



The USSR's Gorbachev and South Africa's DeKlerk

by FG on

re: Both Gorbachev and de Klerk began as reformers — that is, politicians devoted to making a dreadful system less dreadful, not to actually abolishing it.

No one can say that of Khamenei, a reform-hating reactionary from start to finish.   Moussavi and Karoubbi resemble the two men above and, despite what they say of reforming the Islamic Republic, surely recognize its unreformability now whatever they might say in public.

re: .. de Klerk was quicker than Gorbachev to recognize that his ruling party’s life project — a South Africa carved into a commonwealth of separate and independent nations, poor black ones and prosperous white ones — was cruelly absurd and ungovernable.

The Islamic Republic, perhaps not workable from the start, certainly isn't now after alienating the public with so many horrible crimes.  Don't expect Khamenei to understand that.  He's more like Kadaffi--crazy enough to imagine tha "the people still love me" despite everything.

A great quote: ...the dead live on as evidence of a regime’s cruelty. And few cultures cherish their martyrs as devoutly as Islam does.

Finally, don't miss DeKlerk's response to the article in a postscript where he offers advice for peace.   The writer notes: "What de Klerk sees when he looks at Egypt and Tunisia is the kind of wholesale revolution in the streets that would have swept his own country if he had not agreed to sit down with apartheid’s adversaries. Or, to flip it around, he sees spasmodic upheaval that could have been averted if that part of the world had started earlier on fundamental reforms."