The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Robust Debate—Almost

In my two earlier posts on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia University, I suggested that no robust debate would occur. Columbia University President, Lee Bollinger, surprised me, and I suspect, many within his own university, when he ambushed Ahmadinejad in way that can only be described as shocking. Bollinger’s criticism of Iran and Ahmadinejad was to the point, shockingly accurate, and confrontational. Great stuff!

Bollinger's money quotes:

"Mr. President [Ahmadinejad], you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."

"Frankly and in all candor, Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will have meaning for us."

Although I still believe that inviting Ahmadinejad to Columbia was a mistake, I will admit that I was wrong about the tone of the event — an indirect “robust debate” did occur via Bollinger’s speech. If our State Department acted more like Lee Bollinger, I suspect the world would be better for it.

As I watched Ahmadinejad present an irrelevant sermon on biblical issues and his vision of the world, on the role of science, on his country’s oppression, blah, blah, I’m struck by how pathetic Islamofascist thought really is. It cannot confront legitimate criticism, but rather deflects it with accusations, whines about its own victimization, and argues using outright lies and tenuous half-truths. Par for the course, I suppose.

Although I stand by my criticism of the Academic Left, I will now temper it with the recognition that I was too harsh on Columbia University’s leaders. If, in fact, Lee Bollinger planned this ambush from the start, he becomes a hero in the war against Islamofascists. And if he became more aggressive as a consequence of the widespread criticism leveled at his institution, that shows courage and conscience. I applaud him for it.

The Q&A period was, as expected, an exercise in evasion, fabrication, and misdirection. But overall, Ahmadinejad came off as what he is—a buffoon who is the spokesman for a repressive, fascist regime.

The net of it—not nearly as bad I had feared.