‘Fruitbat’ at Bat
We just can’t stop being nice to Iran.
First, we break Iraq and hand it over to the Shiites, putting in a puppet who leans toward Iran and is aligned with the Shiite militias bankrolled by Iran. Then, as Peter Galbraith writes in The New York Review of Books, President Bush facilitates “the takeover of a large part of the country by an Iranian-backed militia,” with the ironic twist that “there is now substantially more personal freedom in Iran than in Southern Iraq.”
And on top of all that, we help build up the self-serving doofus Iranian president, a frontman with a Ph.D. in traffic management, into the sort of larger-than-life demon that the real powers in Iran — the mullahs — can love.
New York’s hot blast of nastiness, jingoism and xenophobia toward its guest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, only served to pump him up for his domestic audience. Iranians felt that their president had tied everyone in knots, including the “Zionist Jews,” as Iranian state television said. The Times reports that Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the Revolutionary Guards, was on TV criticizing the rude treatment his president received: “It is shocking that a country that claims to be civilized treats him that way.”
(It also raised his profile on the evening news here. Katie Couric dryly has told people that she remembers how to pronounce his name with the mnemonic “I’m a dinner jacket.”)
After the Bay of Pigs, J.F.K. and his advisers worried that American foreign policy would no longer seem intelligent. W. doesn’t even try for an intelligent foreign policy. He wallows in a willfully ignorant foreign policy. And this week, his irrational ways were contagious.
The Daily News headline, “The Evil Has Landed,” was one of the milder imprecations. Consider this reasoned analysis from Greg Gutfeld of Fox News: “So the foul-smelling fruitbat Ahmadinejad spoke at that crack house known as Columbia University today.”
The heavy-handed, small-minded reaction that played into the hands of the slippery “I’m a dinner jacket” is not excused by Iran wishing the U.S. and Israel gone.
The Soviet Union’s stated policy for 70 years was the total eradication of American capitalism and democracy — backed up during the cold war with actual nuclear weapons. But while challenging the policies and ideology of the Evil Empire, Ronald Reagan understood he had to engage Mikhail Gorbachev, not ignore or insult him.
Reagan was able to help the Soviet Union — and world communism — to fall apart. All W. has managed to do is destroy the country he wanted to turn into a democracy and make Iran more powerful than it was before.
In a sad testimony to how bollixed up things are in Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki told the Council on Foreign Relations Monday that civil war has been averted in Iraq — not! — and that Iranian intervention has “ceased to exist.” Gen. David Petraeus recently said that Iran was providing “lethal” support to Iraqi militias.
The president’s irrelevant U.N. speech was a bad combo with the schoolyard name-calling of Lee Bollinger. Even some in the anti-Ahmadinejad audience gasped a bit as Columbia’s president gave the meanest introduction in the history of introductions — one that only managed to elevate the creep sitting on stage with his thugs. Once you’ve made the decision to invite a tyrannical leader, you can’t undo it by belittling him in public. Universities are supposed to be places where you can debate and hear dissenting voices; it would have been far better just to hand the mike to the students and let it rip.
Given the repressive and confused stance of some of our Middle East allies on women and gays, isn’t it insane to get into a war of ideas on homosexuality in the Muslim world?
President Bush is the one who hardened the Iranian resolve to get a nuclear weapon with his policy of negotiating with countries like North Korea that have nukes and invading countries that don’t, like Iraq.
W. and his advisers always act shocked that Iran is meddling in Iraq. Why wouldn’t Iran inflate itself at the expense of its former foe and current enemy?
Even after the Iranian hostage crisis, America never really tried to comprehend the tribal politics in Iran — or Iraq — or bolster the Arab speakers in the intelligence community.
As Mr. Galbraith wrote, Iran’s nuclear program is about prestige. Iranians want to be seen “as a populous, powerful, and responsible country that is heir to a great empire and home to a 2,500-year-old civilization. In Iranian eyes, the U.S. has behaved in a way that continually diminishes their country” — from U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup that reinstated the Shah to W.’s branding them as part of the “axis of evil.”
Wouldn’t sticks and carrots — cultural fluency, smart psychology and Reaganesque dialogue — be a better way to bring the Iranians around than sticks and stones?