Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fear of Mahmoud

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Allow me to comment briefly on the Ahmadinejad in New York controversy:

So what?

Which is to say, so what that he's in New York? So what that he spoke at Columbia? So what that he's addressing the U.N.? So what that he wanted to visit Ground Zero?

Ahmadinejad is an appalling and reprehensible man. Columbia President Lee Bollinger got it mostly right: He's "a petty and cruel dictator" -- I say mostly because while he is both petty and cruel he is not entirely a dictator, not with a "supreme leader" above him, not with the Assembly of Experts, not with relatively powerful legislative and judicial branches in Iran. Ahmadinejad is a thug, and a tyrant, but not an autocrat.

Which, again, is not defend him in any way. Consider his denial of the Holocaust, his hatred of Israel, his position on women and gays. He said this, presumably with a straight face, at Columbia: "Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom." -- and -- "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country." To which one must reply: No, they don't. You oppress them. -- Yes, you do. You execute them. And there was so much more, so much ludicrousness, but Bollinger was impressive, attacking Ahmadinejad's views with blistering sobriety, defending the event, the decision to invite Ahmadinejad to speak, the primacy of free speech.

Much has already been written on the controversy (see Memeorandum), but I want to single out Ezra Klein:

I genuinely don't understand the quaking fear over Ahmadinejad's interview at Columbia. When did America become so weak, so insecure, that we mistrust our capacity to converse with potentially hostile world leaders? Do we really believe the president of Columbia is so doltish as to be outsmarted by a former traffic engineer from Tehran? Do we really see no utility in publicly grilling prominent liars in such a way that their denials lose credibility? What do we have to lose from a foreign leader, even a hostile one, somberly laying a wreath at the site of a tragedy? When did we become so afraid? And for all the conservative talk that a loss in Iraq will diminish our reputation for strength and thus harm our security, how must it look when some three-foot tall Iranian firebrand keeps trying to dialogue with us and we keep dodging his calls?

To be fair, maybe Ahmadinejad isn't serious about "dialogue," at not of the constructive kind. Still, why not at least listen to what he has to say? Why not do what Bollinger did? Isn't that far more effective than calling him evil and calling it a day -- or planning for war?

Why not engage him -- and rip him to pieces?

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  • Why rip him to pieces? Sure, the guy is a lunatic for not believing in the Holocaust and killing people for lifestyle choices but he isn't an idiot. He made some good points yesterday, even if much of them wouldn't hold up on a lie detector. I wrote a big post on this that Blogger couldn't possibly fit which you can check out at CrookedInc.Com

    By Blogger Gary Vincent, at 7:43 AM  

  • You people just don't get it. The leader of one of the most oppressive states in the world is invited to one of the most pretigious universities in the USA. Imagine if it was Pinochet...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:01 AM  

  • What good will engaging him do?

    It's not like he will change his ways after debating us or come to some miraculous revelation.

    He will probably just use this for propaganda purposes. He is probably saying stuff in Persian that is not being translated accurately to us. This way, viewers from Iran are getting a different message than the ones Americans are getting.

    By Blogger TorchofLiberty, at 11:30 AM  

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