Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"A Long Habit of Painting its Enemies 10 Feet Tall—and Crazy"

Fareed Zakaria explains how the Bush administration helps Iran's Ahmadinejad seem more powerful than he really is.
One man who is greatly enjoying being the subject of this outsize portraiture is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has gone from being an obscure and not-so-powerful politician—Iran is a theocracy, remember, so the mullahs are ultimately in control—to a central player in the Middle East simply by goading the United States and watching Washington take the bait. By turning him into enemy No. 1, by reacting to every outlandish statement he makes, the Bush administration has given him far more attention than he deserves. And so now he writes letters to Bush, offers to debate him and prances about in the global spotlight provided by American attention.

Ahmadinejad strikes me as less a messianic madman and more a radical populist, an Iranian Huey Long. He has outflanked the mullahs on the right on nuclear policy, pushing for a more confrontationist approach toward Washington. He has outflanked them on the left on women's rights, arguing against some of the prohibitions women face. (He wants them to be able to attend soccer matches.) Almost every week he announces a new program to 'help the poor.' He uses the nuclear issue because it gives him a great nationalist symbol. For a regime with little to show after a quarter century in power—Iranian standards of living have actually declined since the revolution—nuclear power is a national accomplishment.

Extra facts you won't learn from President Cheney:

The Pentagon's budget this year is more than double Iran's total gross domestic product ($181 billion, in official exchange-rate terms). America's annual defense outlay is more than 100 times Iran's.


Blogger chris_e said...

I agree with you that bush rhetoric empowers Ahmadinejad. At the same time such empowerment expresses one of the most interesting paradigm (shifts) in the world today. Inevitably Bush's rhetoric strenghthens the prime minister in two ways. (1) through image. in the end rhetoric is rhetoric and not deed but when bush casts ahmadinejad as powerful both the international and domestic iranian scene. (2) through international political constellations. applying negative powers of oppression, repression and sactions on iran and the middle east demands stronger politicians and diplomats to protect their respective nations.
and theres the shift. although bush would probally rather destroy iran, his rhettoric pulls iran further into the global geopolitical regime of nations and away from the local power of the mullahs. well see how it plays out but i would really like to take my wife to an iranian soccer match

8:38 PM  

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