Will It Go Round In Circles?
Hamilton Butler — July 1, 1951

The Mossadegh Project | April 16, 2021                     

A column on the parallels between Iran and Korea by Hamilton Butler (1882-1953), a former interpreter in China and Far East expert. It ran in the same Detroit, Michigan newspaper Butler had written for since 1928.

Korean War media archive

July 1, 1951
The Detroit Free Press

History Repeats Itself


Hamilton Butler (1882-1953) of The Detroit Free Press The two hottest spots in world news today are Korea and Iran. What are the chances of peace in a tiny Asiatic peninsula and the dangers of war in an even less populous state south of the Caspian?

We buttonhole each other and ask for answers to questions for neither of which a confident answer can be given at this time. We are deeply interested in Korea and Iran because of the effect events there may have upon us in the United States.

WHO GIVES a whoop for the Koreans or the Iranians? What right have they to tell us what we shall or shall not do in their countries? What right have they to “feelings” that are outraged by reducing them to the status of pawns in the game of big-power politics?

The announcement, for instance, that the Administration in Washington is willing to call it quits at the 28th Parallel brought terror to the South Koreans. They realize what such a settlement will mean. They will again be exposed to Communist invasion unless UN forces occupy their country for the duration of the world conflict between Communist imperialism and democracy.

AT THE CAIRO conference the Koreans were promised by Churchill and Roosevelt that in “due course” they should become “free and independent.” [U.S. Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Premier Winston Chuchill] At that time (1943) they were neither free nor independent but they were united.

When the Japanese yoke was removed they expected to be turned loose to run their affairs their own way. Yet the expulsion of Japan by American arms was followed by the division of Korea into a Communist People’s Republic north of the 38th Parallel and a UN-sponsored Republic of Korea south of it. The acceptance of that line as a permanent political fact dooms the Korean nation to disunity until it is reunited by the Communists or the worldwide Communist conspiracy is destroyed root and branch.

The Koreans themselves are no longer masters of their own destiny. Are they to be blamed for concluding that might still makes right in the lexicon of the Great Powers?

THE IRANIANS must be thinking somewhat the same thoughts. As a result of historical vicissitudes the Persian Empire which Alexander the Great invaded has undergone many changes. The Iranians, descendants of the ancient Persians, today are a poor and illiterate and disease-ridden people, who were long oppressed and debased by their own rulers.

Yet today they are attempting a come-back along the enlightened lines laid down by Shah Riza. [Presumably he means Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, not his father Reza Shah?] As a means to financing economic reforms and re-establishing their national dignity they decided to nationalize their oil industry.

AT THIS POINT they ran smack into British pride and prejudices and pocketbooks. The British have been draining Iran of its oil under a concession obtained by a British subject from corrupt officials 50 years ago what the late President Roosevelt would have called “an ancient fraud.” We have been dragged in on the British side.

Above the Caspian Sea lies the Soviet Union. The Iranians loathe the Russian Reds. Yet they might appeal in desperation to Moscow for help. The fact is too little remembered today that Sun Yat-sen did not ask for Soviet assistance against the Peking reactionaries until Great Britain and the United States had refused to help him.

The Iranians are caught in the same trap as the Koreans. They, and their reform plans, and their future, are deeply involved in the rivalry between the United States and Great Britain on one hand and the Soviet Union on the other. The wheel of history continues to go around and around in a tragic and repetitious circle.

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952

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Related links:

Underwriting Colonialism | Hamilton Butler on Iran, Jan. 6, 1952

Will History Repeat? | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1952 letter)

Alibis From the Generalissimo | New York Daily News, June 26, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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