Originally published July 8, 2012
Book Review – Answer to History by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. This one takes some searching on bookfinder.com or through a library.
Some years ago, during a transitional time in my life, I worked in a book store. This was a bit like living in Disney Land. It was in the days before Internet book searches and online bookstores so finding treasurers was not so easy. The store owners I worked for would often acquire book collections from desert inhabitants who had moved on, passed on or changed interests. I would often stalk these titles, looking for the unusual, the different opinion, or the story as told by an observer rather than an interpreter. This book was one such book.
I have a quirky view of current events; I tend not to think too deeply about what I find in common media. When I was fairly young I was involved in a fatal accident. The one newspaper article I was able to convince myself to read had so many errors it appeared as though it was a report on a different accident. That instance only strengthened my belief that it is nearly impossible for someone to write a truly objective and accurate account of any event, even if the writer is not emotionally involved in some way. Thus, I seek out different perspectives on ideas and events. Answer to History brought me an amazing perspective on the “modernization of the Persian peoples.”
Most of what we hear of the Shah’s regime has to do with secret service goons, torture, and a host of unsavory things supposedly, and perhaps probably, propped up by the western governments. The point of view from inside the mind of this leader is quite different. Few know of the balancing act he tried to master between the demands of the western world and the pressures of his northern neighbor. He knew the geopolitical dynamics of his region of the world as few others did. Even fewer know of the huge sums of money spent from his family’s trust to create housing, provide education and medical care and to give the people in the street a chance at learning what they needed to know to self-govern. As much as he truly loved his country, and for all he tried to accomplish for it, the man just flat ran out of time.
This book is written in the last days of his life while he was in Exile in Egypt dying of cancer. It is provocative and soul searching. It also should give policy makers pause when they are thinking about involving themselves in another country’s affairs; or suddenly lose the political will to finish what they started.