I have a different take than Kyle on the whole controversy regarding the barring of Iranian President Ahmadinejad from placing a wreath at ground zero. I think it’s a diplomatic blunder that will only bolster Ahmadinejad at home because it will be seen as an insult to the Iranian people.
I am no fan of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has risen to power by demagoguing nationalist sympathies. He is firmly entrenched with fundamentalists who squelch individual freedom, support human rights abuses in the name of righteousness and who will game democracy wherever possible.
I am not concerned about barring him because of how it affects Ahmadinejad’s personal feelings, but because how it comes off to the Iranian people. The large majority of the Iranian people were shocked by the terrorist attack of 9/11 and were sympathetic to the victims of that horrible day. Like it or not, Ahmadinejad represents them in their desire to pay their respects to the victims of that attack, their families and to Americans in general. Barring this simple gesture simply because we don’t like the messenger makes the wrong statement to the Iranian people.
It is also counterproductive. Ahmadinejad has been largely a failure as a leader. From what I hear, his economic policies have been abyssmal and the Iranians are tiring of his lack of diplomatic acumen. His popularity seems to fluctuate on his ability to demagogue to nationalistic pride. When Bush called Iran part of the “Axis of Evil,” he was able to portray it as an insult to the Iranian people. When we invaded Iraq and with Bush constantly making hawkish statements about Iran, he has been able to engage in chest thumping about how he has always warned against American interventionism and been able to trump up fears of massive death and destruction in Iran.
The banning plays right into Ahmadinejad’s hands. It will help him get a boost at home just when his popularity seemed to be dwindling.
When can we get some people involved in diplomacy who understand that it sometimes requires intelligence and subtelty and not always a chest-puffing, sledgehammer approach?
UPDATE: Just put on the biohazard suit and jumped over to wingnut Malkin’s site for her in depth thoughts on this issue. With all the intelligence of the playground bully, she says: “Take Your Wreath and Shove It.” I suspect the worst day for her will come when Iran finally takes a step away from her brother-in-arms, Ahmadinejad. That’s the only explanation I can come up with the tactics righties like her engage in that continue to bolster this guy at home.