Thirty-three years ago, an old man with a long gray beard who was tenuously domiciled in Paris saw finally the news that events he had stoked had come to a head, and so time had come for him to go home. The month was February, the year was 1979, and Ayatollah Khomeini flew Air France to a great welcome in Teheran. I was in engineering school at the time, in the university town of Mysore. We had a couple of dozen Iranian fellow students studying with us. They were older than us, and hard, and rough-featured, and taller, and much, much stronger. Each of them had been through military training, and the training showed.
They'd often get girls to their rooms and all of them owned motorcycles (which none of us had) and in general they appeared as having a great time. That got the locals worked up every now and then and they always talked big of wanting to beat up the Irani guys and on some occasions they tried it too. But the Iranians never stopped doing their thing, always detached, ever unto themselves. If they were enjoying the good life, their uniformly dour faces concealed the fact. Sometimes they fought among themselves as ferociously as bulls locking horns, neither fighter yielding, and the rest of us watching and wondering if the fight was going to end at all—but nothing serious ever happened.
They were happy in their restrained way with the success of their revolution, and seemed to think well of the Ayatollah. A few of them were friends with us and they filled out for us the stories of those days in the newsmagazines, regarding the Savak of the Shah, stories of terror and torture and American complicity. Still, they never fully opened up. Three decades have passed. How has life been for those Iranians who returned from Mysore as qualified engineers to an Iran sans the Shah?
I cannot know, but I was reminded of them last week, when a hundred thousand Iranians gathered in Paris, and sent out a call of solidarity to those Iranians opposed to the regime of now. American leaders flew into Paris to address those hundred-thousand, Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich among them, and Gingrich told the crowd they shouldn't talk of the nuclear threat, or Iranian isolation, or human rights, but that the Iranian people should press for regime change only.
A few Iranian Americans also traveled there, one of them a cancer researcher based in Texas whose reason for joining the event is published by Fox News. She has a touching line to explain her reason. Anyway, the folks want an Arab Spring in Persia, which might well happen. But, I ask, how sweet is life after the Arab Spring? What kind of a nation will a revolution deliver which has been brought about with the meddling of outsiders? Even if the outsiders are otherwise heroes, and worthy of adoration, men such as Guiliani?
Change must happen where regimes have turned against their people. But the folks you bring from outside to mend your place tend to leave it broken worse than before.