With the 1979 Iranian revolution so close in the rearview mirror, the mistakes of Western observers then bear remembering today, as the seeds of something momentous may be again at hand. In the late seventies, some intellectuals, enamored with the idea of revolution in general and the anti-Western outlook of the Iranian revolutionaries in particular, projected their political values on the shah’s deposers. When, instead of embracing the ideology of Harvard Square or Telegraph Avenue, the revolutionaries exported terror, exhibited a toxic anti-Semitism, persecuted homosexuals, and pursued nuclear weapons, many of these intellectuals emerged with egg on their faces. As Mother Jones editor Adam Hochschild candidly admitted after Iranian reality had dashed Western dreams: “The Left is always better at seeing what leads to revolutions than at seeing what may follow them.” Though criticisms of the shah of Iran for human-rights abuses and other crimes seemed on the mark, Hochschild conceded in 1980 that his magazine had been “embarrassingly nearsighted about [the shah’s] successors.”
Read the rest of Daniel J. Flynn's essay here.