All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer is a book i first read a few years ago and again re-read last year. It’s the only book i read on the events that led to the overthrow of Mohammad Mossaddegh in 1953 and the establishment of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the absolute ruler of Iran until the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
If you had asked me what happened it would have been very clear in my head. The American and British were instrumental in the 1953 events and Obama’s recent acknowledgment of the part played by the USA in the coup re-affirmed my belief. I should say, re-affirmed my belief in my own knowledge.
Yet it only took an article in the last Foreign Affairs issue, with the title What Really Happened in Iran, to cast doubt on the things i know. The author claims that the CIA and MI6 did play a part but that it was the Iranians and disaffection with Mossaddegh’s reign that led to his overthrow.
While reading the article i kept thinking “no, no that’s not how it happened.” But how i do know?
I’m basing all my arguments on a single book written by a journalist. Should i be comforted that it is critically acclaimed book? My absolute certainty about what happened is now simply “probably”. How do i fix that? Doing my own research is not a realistic option. By reading more books? How do i decide which books to read?
It made me realise how little i know about so many things i’m so sure about and it comes after reading this post I’m Just Realising How Stupid We Are.
I’ve learned that there’s a strong correlation between knowledge and humility.
People who spend 10 minutes on Google studying monetary policy think they have it all figured out, while people with Ph.D.s and decades of experience throw up their hands in frustration. The more you study economics, the more you realize how little we know about it.