Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Napoleon on Ahmadinejad

There was a big fuss this week about the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, coming to New York to speak at the United Nations and Columbia University.

A few American presidential candidates frowned on his invitation to speak at the University and at least one or two stated that he should not be allowed to speak at the United Nations.

I've given this issue quite a bit of thought and it has led me to an opinion that can be summarized in three words: Let him speak.

Don't get me wrong, it is obvious to me that this man feels no obligation to include a syllable of truth that does not support his agenda. He is clearly not an individual who has many positions that are respectable or even minimally defensible. Without a doubt, some are nothing short of reprehensible.

Nevertheless, I still support him speaking in this country. In fact, I encourage it.


Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

Anyone who has ever listened to this man talk for more than 60 seconds probably sees where I am going with this. Of course, Ahmadinejad levels harmful charges at the U.S. and others with great frequency - needless to say, rhetoric we could certainly do without . But he also, with equal or greater frequency - makes statements that reveal the extent to which he is 1. completely and dangerously removed from reality and/or 2. shamelessly willing to look the world directly in the eye and lie (examples here).

We are engaged right now in an effort to prove and prevent a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program. At a time when the word of the United States government is trusted less abroad than it arguably ever has been, we are greatly aided when our adversary so foolishly shows his cards.

In addition to letting him speak, I would also like to reject the grandstanding remarks by the President of Columbia University. When "introducing" Ahmadinejad he said, among other things:

“Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” adding, “You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.”

I must ask, what purpose do these remarks, or any insult for that matter, serve? Insults are usually the product of fear, anger and/or ignorance - and it does not serve us well to have our actions clouded by any of them. If one wants to see Ahmadinejad diminished or made to look foolish I am certain that a presentation of facts will suffice. Insults are not required.

One could reply by saying there is value is calling a spade a spade. In my opinion, this is true only when the subject's identity is not obvious or otherwise debatable. Again, thanks to Ahmadinejad's candor, that is not the case.

Americans should remember that we are still in a position of strength - militarily, economically and, in part thanks to Ahmadinejad's foolish candor, we could find ourselves in a position of renewed diplomatic strength as well. I am certainly not advocating complacency, nor am I trying to diminish the legitimate threat that a man like Ahmadinejad might pose if we leave him be.

I am only saying that out of all the things we should rally to oppose in this world, the President of Iran rhetorically walking off a cliff is not one of them.

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