There is no formula for undermining a decrepit regime. And there are no circumstances in which the United States has been able to peacefully play a leading role in another nation’s revolution.
Then maybe we shouldn't try to do it. Maybe we don't even have the right to interfere with other nations' elections. Maybe we aren't the boss of everyone else. We wouldn't let Iran undermine our elections.
But there are many tools this nation has used to support indigenous democrats: independent media, technical advice, economic and cultural sanctions, presidential visits for key dissidents, the unapologetic embrace of democratic values, the unapologetic condemnation of the regime’s barbarities.
It is impossible to successfully overthrow a foreign government without unintended consequences, but do it anyway.
Recently, many people thought it was clever to say that elections on their own don’t make democracies. But election campaigns stoke the mind and fraudulent elections outrage the soul. The Iranian elections have stirred a whirlwind that will lead, someday, to the regime’s collapse. Hastening that day is now the central goal.
Whose central goal is it? Why is it our job to overthrow Iran's government? Did our waste of lives, money, property and history in Iraq teach us nothing? Is our central goal overthrowing Iran or taking care of our very serious internal problems?
Why is it so important to some people to become swept up in a movement? Does it give them a sense of purpose, excitement and strength? Are they that empty inside, that they must be given a purpose instead of finding their own?
The most important changes happen invisibly inside peoples’ heads. A nation that had seemed apathetic suddenly mobilizes. People lost in private life suddenly feel their public dignity has been grievously insulted. Webs of authority that had gone unquestioned instantly dissolve, or do not. New social customs spontaneously emerge, like the citizens of Tehran shouting hauntingly from their rooftops at night. Small gestures unify a crowd and symbolize a different future, like the moment when Mir Hussein Moussavi held hands with his wife in public.
It's pretty easy to place your own thoughts in others' heads. And it's a heavy burden for Iran, to give meaning and purpose to shallow, vapid Americans.