When will America learn that the largest part of politics is psychology? Time and again, we fail to see the implications of our actions, with our errors in judgment only leading to victories for our adversaries.
The most recent example was the United States, along with a dozen delegations from Western nations, walking out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
And what did America and the West accomplish by that brilliant move?
They played right into Ahmadinejad’s hand. He could not have scripted it any better.
Immediately following the walkout, footage was undoubtedly beamed to Iran showing the "disrespect" of the West towards that country. The propaganda machine kicked into high gear, courtesy of our long-running and misguided politically correct policy.
It will be broadcast ad nauseum to Iranians – and the entire Muslim world – that we are bigoted, intolerant and hypocritical. It will be reinforced that the West is virulently anti-Muslim, anti-Persian, and anti-Iran, not to mention 100 % pro-Israel, incorrect as that is. We will have succeeded yet again in uniting many Muslims who otherwise hate each other.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and the image of the West walking out on the Iranian leader will stoke nationalistic fervor in his homeland, at the expense of efforts to bring moderate leadership to that country.
So why the asinine walkout? What did we gain? Are we not a democracy that is tolerant of other views, no matter how despicable? Have we not learned that the best way to bolster the status of an adversary, such as the KKK or neo-Nazis, is by providing them publicity through protest? Take away the controversy and attention, and you marginalize them. Their fifteen minutes will be up in ten.
Was the Iranian leader’s speech fiery? You bet. Did Ahmadinejad espouse sentiment against Israel? Of course he did, although he played it coyly by not mentioning that country by name. But at the end of the day, so what? For the vast majority of the world, his views are laughable. He comes across as a blowhard just trying to make headlines, which is understandable since his country has regressed under his leadership.
Ahmadinejad understands Politics 101 — divert attention away from the real issues by appealing to nationalism. The fact that his strategy is so basic makes our reaction that much more illogical, although it should come as no surprise.
Look back to the fierce opposition to Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia University.
If one wanted to voice disapproval of Ahmadinejad’s totalitarian policies and his inflammatory statements, great. But the protests criticizing a private institution’s decision to allow an unpopular figure to speak was a different story.
The situation hasn’t changed. We are making the same mistake, except that this time it is a sovereign leader speaking to a world body. Sure, Mahmoud is divisive and highly controversial, but if these characteristics are the criteria for prohibiting a leader to speak, the line at the podium will be very, very short.
Why are we so afraid of Ahmadinejad? What frightens us so much that we demand his viewpoints be silenced? He is the leader of a sovereign nation, a man whose words and decisions have extremely significant weight on the world stage. Like him or not, he’s the President of Iran, and the West has no choice but to deal with him and his government. The least we can do is listen to what the man has to say.
People can protest all they want. That’s their right in this country, and Ahmadinejad has certainly given the world enough material. But a distinction has to be made as to what is being protested.
This is not a call for appeasement, nor is it running from reality. Iran’s posturing—and actions— have made the Western world very uncomfortable, and if that nation continues down its current path, the situation may well become bloody.
If Iran is an "enemy," what others should be banned from appearing in America? Depends on your definition. Since France aided and abetted Iraq leading up to the Iraq war (in many cases illegally), they could also be characterized as such. Where do you draw the line?
We are not at war with Iran. If Ahmadinejad wants to make ludicrous statements amounting to Holocaust revisionist history, the absence of homosexuality in Iran and who was really behind 9/11, he does so at his own peril. He needs Western investment and petro dollars to survive, and such rhetoric only serves to undermine his credibility and jeopardize the economic stability of his country.
While he advocates much which we abhor, it is the strength of America that allows him to express himself without fear of repercussion.
That is why we are still the envy of the world. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and remain that way.
Chris Freind, author of "Freindly Fire," is an independent newspaper columnist and investigative reporter whose readers hail from six continents, thirty countries, and all fifty states. His home publication is The Philadelphia Bulletin. He can be reached at [email protected]