Matt Steinglass marvels at the authoritarian mindset:

I continue to find it amazing that authoritarian regimes, faced over the past 20 years with the prospect of nonviolent movements to kick them out of power, have tried to demonize the concept of nonviolent political change as some kind of sinister conspiracy. How do you make Gandhi and Havel into badguys? How ridiculous do regimes sound when they mutter darkly of “peaceful evolution” and “velvet revolutions” and expect people to agree that these are bad things? Can they possibly not recognize that if their regime is vulnerable to a “velvet revolution”, that indicates that their regime sucks? There seems to be some characteristic turn of the phobic authoritarian mind that allows such people, once a force has been identified as “enemy”, to stop reasoning about why it’s an enemy. What kind of intelligence can look at a crowd of unarmed citizens holding signs facing a phalanx of kevlar-clad, truncheon- and gun-wielding security forces and conclude that the demonstrators are them and the people with the truncheons are us?

Elsewhere on his blog, which has been indispensable these last few weeks:

Ayatollah Khamenei made two huge mistakes on two successive Fridays. First he quickly endorsed a clumsily faked election result. Then, rather than accommodating demonstrators’ demands, he announced the regime’s intention to beat them down. A younger, more perceptive, and more daring leader would have recognized that by doing this, he was condemning his own state to either a rapid revolution or long-term stagnation and sclerosis. Such a leader would have found a way to force Ahmadinejad to resign and take responsiblity for the faked election, or found some other way to avoid a conflict that risks civil war. Khamenei is not such a leader. But it is not impossible, through the process of generational change, to get such a leader at the top of an authoritarian power structure. Mikhail Gorbachev was one, and that made all the difference.

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