Having covered former Iran hostage Michael Metrinko’s homecoming to Pennsylvania 25 years ago, I remember the mixture of humiliation and rage that proceeded from that long nightmare.
The British hostage crisis has been a Broadway farce by comparison. The sailors (who were apparently guilty of worse than our diplomats in ’79) seem never to have feared for their lives, were never blindfolded or beaten or isolated. They were feted on their departure, adored by Ahmadinejad, and given brand new western suits to look sleek on TV in. The pictures were remarkably similar to the love-fest Nancy Pelosi got in Damascus.
There’s a lot of symbolism in those suits. Visitors to Iran describe it as a bustling, prosperous society. Scott Ritter lately compared Tehran to Tel Aviv, in terms of street life, reflecting the fact that Israel and Iran are the region’s great powers.
Both Richard Bulliet (in my 2-1/2 Experts post below) and Bernard Lewis are right. Muslim societies are suffering from a prestige gap. It’s a small world. We need to boost their self-esteem. That means finding ways to include them in international development. Defanging China involved pingpong contests. Let’s increase civilian exchanges with Iran and Syria… It beats invading them. And beheading us.