Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yesterday I wrote about the conference on the "validity" of the Holocaust sponsored by the Iranian government, and how fundamentally stupid it was. I took the opportunity to expound on the topic of freedom of speech, and its importance as a way to expose dumb ideas to ridicule.

Sadly, freedom of speech also leads to freedom to say things that are not only outrageous and stupid, but actually dangerous. The classic example, of course, is that it's illegal to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater, or to incite a mob to violence. So how do we deal with a head of state whose speech does just that?

This morning, CNN is reporting that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is once again calling for Israel to be "wiped out." In times past, one could discount this sort of rhetoric as the overblown posturing for domestic consumption of an Islamist demagogue. Unfortunately, this particular Islamist demagogue is a Shia (meaning that death as a "martyr" is something to be admired), and is steadily working toward development and posession of nuclear weapons. This is clearly a dangerous combination.

So what can we do about it?

Not much.

We have exhausted our moral and political capital by our ill-advised and monumentally-botched invasion of Iraq, which has made the Islamic world more suspicious of us than ever. Although the Sunni Arab world distrusts (if not hates) Shia Persian Iran, in a region where "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is a key philosophy, we have managed to amass an impressive roster of enemies. We have expended hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives fighting the wrong enemy, while the deadly threat of a nuclear-armed Iran took shape just over the horizon. While our leadership splits semantic hairs over whether or not poor, battered Iraq is in a civil war or not, Iran patiently waits and advances its own plans, happy to keep us mired in Iraq and unable to take action against its plans.

At a very bad time, our options are few. I hope that the President is considering all this as he meets - finally - with the experts he should have listened to years ago.
But I'm not holding my breath
Tomorrow, thoughts on less apocalyptic topics. For now, have a good day and hope that a great blast of wisdom suddenly explodes in the White House.

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