Ahmadinejad at Columbia University
I definitely dislike Ahmadinejad, and, as an Iranian-American, I think I know enough about Iran to take such a position with little to no prejudice. He represents an oppressive regime with an unfalsifiable mandate (we represent God, therefore everything we do or say is perfect) whose only contribution to the Iranian people has been the nationalization of oil. Even so, any figurehead of a sovereign nation ought to be afforded respect if he is invited to speak at an academic institution. Granted, Columbia president Lee Bollinger probably introduced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad critically in order to evade criticism for inviting the Iranian president in the first place, but that doesn’t justify such an undignified welcome. College students aren’t dumb. We can form our own opinions without administrative higher-ups telling us what to think, so we don’t need people like Bollinger to frame speeches for us. Perhaps our American political culture has been desensitized to the significance of the position of head of state. It’s no surprise, either, when one considers that our recent political history involves the deconstruction of the Afghan government (legitimate) and the Iraqi government (why are we there again?), as well as President Bush’s intermittent buffoonery.
Also, I’d like to see an actual evaluation of why funding and arming soldiers in a war (as Bollinger accuses the Iranian government of doing) is illegal. The United States has done this in numerous conflicts. I have friends in the U.S. military, and I definitely want them to succeed and survive. Putting my patriotic opinions aside for a second, though, I notice that the United States is in Iraq for a purely political purpose, be it democracy, oil rights, or hegemonic display. Why, then, is it illegitimate for the Iranian government to support soldiers who are fighting for their own political purposes in Iraq? Neither Iran nor the United States can claim the moral high ground in Iraq — neither is making Iraq any better by waging war. Keeping in mind that democracy, in and of itself, is not normatively valuable, I repeatedly come to the same conclusion: no rationale for American involvement in Iraq has been validated, and, every time an American soldier is killed in the fight, the reasons for leaving Iraq — stable or unstable — are compounded. If we see no basis for Iran, a key player in the Middle East, to meddle in the affairs of post-Saddam Iraq, how can we justify American involvement?