Whoa! That jolted me back. Back to December of 1979 precisely. My parents hosted a Christmas dinner party every year and invited all of dad's high school buddies and their spouses. The Iranian Hostage Crisis was the talk of the day and one of dad's more irreverent friends, brought the 'Fuck Iran' and 'Ayatollah Ass-a-hollah' buttons to pass out. Needless to say, none of the lawyers, doctors, bankers or any of the three Jesuit priests in attendence donned the buttons, but as a kid I was captivated. 'Wow, curse words on a button,' I must have thought. Turns out these weren't obscure novelty items. If you walked down the street of any touristy part of Manhattan that Christmas season, you would likely pass several places (or people) selling them. Back then we seemed to understand that Khomeini & Co. were nut cases and deserving of our scorn and vigilence. It was OK. Clearly that is not the case now. Khomeini's proteges are building nuclear bombs, joking about the Holocaust and threatening to wipe another country off the map and the American public seems somewhere between not caring and skeptical of not them, but us! Perhaps the intervening years have dulled us, after all Iran has for the most part been off our radar screen for 20+ years. Our short attention spans don't help either. On the scale of history, the Iranian Hostage Crisis was basically yesterday and nothing has changed, but we don't see it.
Those buttons got me interested in what was going on, and as a kid, I asked the type of questions you would expect of a kid - simple, unburdened by nuance, perhaps inane to an adult yet clumsily trenchant. "Dad, why has the President let those people be held hostage for so long?" I don't know, son. "Dad, will our new President, the actor guy, help those people get free?" I don't know but I think so, and I hope so, son.
444 days. It was my first lesson in foreign affairs. One type of leader let it go on for 444 days. Would the other type of leader have let it go on that long? We'll never truly know, but history has given us about as close to certainty as we'll get - it was unlikely the cowboy actor guy would have let the situation persist.
So, will Iran get the bomb? I don't know, but I hope not. I would be more optimistic if I saw more of those buttons floating around the kiosks and street vendors in NYC these days.