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Finally, Khomeini has blown apart the comfortable myth that as the Third World industrializes, it will adopt Western values, and the success of his revolution ought to force the U.S. to look for ways to foster material prosperity in Third World countries without alienating their cultures. Says Richard Bulliet, a Columbia University historian who specializes in the Middle East: "We have to realize that there are other ways of looking at the future than regarding us as being the future. It is possible that the world is not going to be homogenized along American-European lines."
It is, unfortunately, almost surely too late for any such U.S. strategies to influence Ayatullah Khomeini, whose hostility to anything American is bitter, stubborn, zealous—and total. But he may have taught the U.S. a useful—even vital —lesson for the 1980s. He has shown that the challenges to the West are certain to get more and more complex, and that the U.S. will ignore this fact at its peril. He has made it plain that every effort must be made to avoid the rise of other Khomeinis. Even if he should hold power only briefly, the Ayatullah is a figure of historic importance. Not only was 1979 his year; the forces of disintegration that he let loose in one country could threaten many others in the years ahead. -
*An appellation that means "sign of God." There is no formal procedure for bestowing it; a religious leader is called ayatullah by a large number of reverent followers and is accepted as such by the rest of the Iranian clergy. At present, Iran has perhaps 50 to 60 mullahs generally regarded as ayatullahs. * After Indonesia (123.2 million), India (80 million), Pakistan (72.3 million) and Bangladesh (70.8 million).