How the Fate of a Nation Can Rest on One Leader

While doing the new reading on the Iranian revolution, I realized that though this is an incredibly modern and unique revolution compared to the one’s we’ve studied so far, it still have many similarities. The one that jumped out to me the most however, was how the hate of the nation seemed to rest upon the shah’s head. If the shah was a bad ruler (which he was) the nation seemed doomed. Despite many liberal and progressive leaders coming into power that might have actually done some good for the country, the shah always found a way to get them out of power. He was obsessed with being flattered and having the most advanced army, and paid little attention to the impoverished people who lived within his own country. These attributes remind me of rulers from past revolutions we have studied, for example King Louis. He lived extravagantly, and was said to be out of touch with his people and their needs. It just goes to show that the integrity of a ruler in a government that is not democratic is essential to its success.

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11 Responses to How the Fate of a Nation Can Rest on One Leader

  1. Aaron Stagoff-Belfort says:

    Yeah that need for integrity is absolutely true and it is a key reason why many non-democratic governments fail. Muammar Gaddafi’s rule of Libya is a prime example. Gaddafi continually lashed out and harmed his own people for no rational reason. He was completely out of touch with the average Libyan citizens’ needs. Gaddafi is another leader similar to the Shah who saw the scorn of a nation focus on him. Gaddafi was not able to take care of his own people but instead ruled the country selfishly. I’m sure we will be able to draw many other comparisons between other modern revolutions and The Iranian Revolution as we study further.

  2. Sheena says:

    In the case of many dicators they focus on what will benefit them rather than what is good for the county as a whole. Throughout many revolutions and even modern one like Aaron mentioned, the dictator may be able to rise to power even thought there were many other candidates who would have served the country better. For example, these leaders have been present in Cuba, North Korea, Soviet Russia, Syria, and many others. I believe the fear that follows in overthrowing a dictator and fear of what might occur in doing so is what stops the abdication.

  3. Carly says:

    I agree with what everyone has said so far and I think the Shah was a horrible leader and was too selfish to think about what was best for the people of his country. I think we also need to consider his relationships with other countries such as the USA. The Shah put a lot of effort into pleasing the west, such as siding with Israel in the six-day war, in order to gain more weaponry and more money which would go towards his army. I think the Shah was too concentrated on his relations with the West, which gave him less time to think about his own people, causing the people of Iran’s hatred for him to grow. I think the Shah should have focused more on being liked and supported by the people of his own country before making allies, but he was too caught up with having the west provide him with weaponry and the ability to build up a large army, like he had always wanted.

  4. Pho says:

    What I found most interesting about the Shah was that although he was a terrible leader, he was determined to transform Islam into a global power by means of nationalism and modernization, something we haven’t seen in the other revolutions we’ve studied. I agree with Carly in that he put his alliances with the Western countries ahead of his own people. He was strengthening foreign powers while his own people remained poor. However, despite the poor leadership of the Shah, I believe that Ruhollah Khomeini put Iran in an even worse situation by establishing an Islamic republic. The country was moving backwards in a sense that the republic was based on traditional Islamic teachings with a government run by the ulema. Although to some degree the fate of the nation rested on the Shah and other political leaders, I think that the people of Iran were largely responsible for pushing the revolution forward.

    • Dr. K says:

      We’ve seen the combination of modernization and nationalism elsewhere in what we’ve studied: in Mao and the Communist Party, and in the Indian National Congress. So there have been revolutions we’ve studied that have been aimed at modernizing and promoting nationalism. Do you mean that this is the first time we’ve seen revolution where the target of the revolution is promoting modernization and nationalism? That would explain why the revolution in Iran ends up moving in a traditionalist direction.

  5. Kassie says:

    I agree with your observation that the Iranian Revolution is similar to the French Revolution in that leader like the shah and King Louis were both too selfish and power hungry to successfully alter and improve their nation, though both men strived to. King Louis attempted to reform France in response to the citizens’ (particularly the peasants) complaints. The Shah, too, wanted to reform and westernize Iran. However, both leaders ultimate priority was their own power, and this selfishness acted as a barrier to any reform they might strive towards. It is interesting that in the Iranian Revolution, the prime ministers were second power forced that led the nation towards reform and revolution, whereas in the French Revolution, power laid in one person’s hand at a time.

  6. jkleinabaum2014 says:

    I think that it is interesting that often one person or party’s actions often leads to a revolution of the masses. I think that it is when the “fate of a nation rest[s] on one leader” that we often witness revolutions. We’ve brought up some good examples in this thread of leaders who have abused their power. It is when leaders are able to use their power to benefit themselves or they do not lead effectively that we see a revolution happen. We can easily assign much of the blame for the French Revolution to Luis XVI’s indecisiveness as well as the Iranian Revolution on the Shah’s obsession with weapons and flattery. However, in a government similar to our own with a system of checks and balances the fate of a nation cannot be so significantly altered by an indecisive or power-hungry leader.

  7. Nick says:

    While I agree with everyone about how the misuse of power by a country’s leader is often one of the biggest factors in producing a rebellion, I believe that it has been a bit overstressed how much a democratic government does to fix this. The reality is that in any government where one person is given a large amount of power in a leadership position, such as with our President, there is a chance of widespread disapproval and dissatisfaction if they use the resources of a government in a foolish way. Just because our leader is elected by the people does not mean that once he or she has taken office that they are bound to stick to what they have promised. In fact, it often happens that the very people who voted for a leader will soon be calling for that very same person’s head (figuratively speaking) once they are actually elected. What I am trying to say is that the perils of poor leadership are not confined only to dictatorships and non-democratic government; even in a democracy, it is possible for a leader to make very misguided and harmful decisions that can end up crippling the country.

  8. Mary Kate says:

    I agree with Nick. Sure, a non-democratic government can fail solely due to it’s leaders impoverish decisions, a democratic run state can be unsuccessful for the same reasons. Take our economy, for example. Twice in the past hundred years we have reached either a recession or depression due to our nations lack of positive choices when it comes to spending. Yet we’re a democracy. True, we are yet to fail, per say, though many citizens hate or have hated our presidents, current and past. Many of our leaders have driven our country greater into debt or whatever issue the country may be facing, rather than helping to correct the problem and prevent the country from not thriving. I think that the leader, whether he or she be leading a democratic or non-democratic government, can truly effect the well-being and outcome of the country’s prosperousness, and how the country succeeds or fails.

  9. Emma says:

    I think that while there is a better chance that the people will respect, like, and listen to a leader that was chosen democratically, there is always the possibility that they won’t. Just because most of the country likes a leader doesn’t mean they all do. What does this say about a leader in general? Even when chosen by the people he/she is not pleasing the people as a whole. Will there ever be a system where everyone is happy? Do you get better results if you just force the people to listen or if you try and reason with them? I believe that both ways have there up sides and down sides. If you try and listen to the people you can come to a compromise that the people will honor. If you force the people to listen you will get exactly what you want but who knows how long the people will listen.

  10. hmette says:

    I think that part of what makes dictators so delusional and disconnected from their country, as the shah was, is the amount of power that they have over that country. Just as hunger for power can drive a person insane, so can not only having power, but having all of it. The shah was able to, for many years, make reckless decisions without the people, or even his advisers, saying a word for fear of what would happen to them. Groups like the SAVAK that silenced people through harsh punishments and executions were a major contributor in this sense of fear. People often do not speak up until they are supported by many others, as is the case when Khomeini found popularity and began to speak publicly what so many were thinking themselves.

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