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Two worthy essays written today should get your attention. First, we have our good friend and fellow CQ reader Michael Ledeen writing about the meaning of the recent vote in Iran. I wrote about the precarious political position in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finds himself, and Michael goes into more detail at the American Enterprise Institute:
The first step toward understanding the Iranian “elections” is that they weren’t. Elections, that is, at least in our common understanding of the term, namely the people vote and the counters count those votes and so we find out what the people want. That’s not what happens in Iran, where both the candidates and the results are determined well in advance of the casting of ballots. Yes, people get mobilized and go to the polls and mark their ballots and put them in the ballot box. But then Groucho comes into play: “I’ve got ballots. And if you don’t like them, I’ve got other ballots.” So, as usual, candidates (featuring, as usual, the unfortunate Mehdi Karubi, the eternal loser who nonetheless remains at the top of the mullah’s power mountain) complain that ballot boxes disappeared, and new ones magically appeared, and numbers change, and counters are replaced. It’s all part of the ritual.
Which is not to say they weren’t significant. They certainly were. And, as most every news outlet has noticed, they brought bad news to the country’s madcap president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian electoral ritual doesn’t tell us what the people want; it tells us what the tyrants have decided. This time, the decision had to do with the very intense power struggle going on inside the regime, catalyzed by the recent evidence of the worsening health of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In considerable pain from his cancer, for which he consumes a considerable quantity of opium syrup, Khamenei recently was forced to spend 2-3 days in a Tehran hospital after complaining of a loss of feeling in his feet and breaking out in a cold sweat. His doctors told him several months ago that he was unlikely to survive much past the end of March, and he seems to be more or less on schedule.
Ledeen, who always writes with such insight about Iran, makes the case that Ahmadinejad serves a purpose familiar to bloggers: sock puppet. The recent demonstrations have served as a check against the more radical factions of the mullahs in a power struggle that Ahmadinejad's antics help to mask. With Khameini's health failing, Ledeen argues that the US and the UK have to start pressing hard in support of the current student activists if they want to bring an end to Iranian radicals and their dreams of regional hegemony -- and that we are missing the opportunity.
Speaking of missing an opportunity, Alan Dershowitz castigates Jimmy Carter for missing one to conduct a public debate on Israel and the Palestinians. Carter blew off the Harvard professor and Constitutional attorney, and Dershowitz does not much care for the snub:
YOU CAN ALWAYS tell when a public figure has written an indefensible book: when he refuses to debate it in the court of public opinion. And you can always tell when he's a hypocrite to boot: when he says he wrote a book in order to stimulate a debate, and then he refuses to participate in any such debate. I'm talking about former president Jimmy Carter and his new book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid." ...
The fact is that Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz had invited Carter to come to Brandeis to debate me, and Carter refused. The reason Carter gave was this: "There is no need to for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."
As Carter knows, I've been to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, many times -- certainly more times than Carter has been there -- and I've written three books dealing with the subject of Middle Eastern history, politics, and the peace process. The real reason Carter won't debate me is that I would correct his factual errors. It's not that I know too little; it's that I know too much.
I usually disagree with Dershowitz, but have always respected his intellect and his entertaining delivery -- and he doesn't disappoint here. In this case, Dershowitz is obviously correct. He calls Carter a bully, but that doesn't even cover it; Carter is a coward. I'm not sure I blame him -- I'd be nervous debating Dershowitz, especially if I had to defend the book Carter wrote. Unlike Carter, though, I think I'd agree just to see Dershowitz in action.
Be sure to read both worthy essays.Sphere It View blog reactions
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