September 25, 2007

Columbia's Bollinger: Making Matters Worse With Iran

Greetings. Yesterday, as I watched Columbia University's president Lee C. Bollinger's introduction of his invited guest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, I felt increasingly uneasy, and then genuinely concerned.

Bollinger's scathing and impolite public attack in that forum, with Ahmadinejad sitting there quietly waiting to speak, would have been inappropriate with any guest, not to mention a democratically elected head of state.

As a point of fact, calling Ahmadinejad a dictator, as Bollinger did, is a gross simplification of the complex political and religious environment in Iran, a situation that the U.S. helped to create over decades and has continued to mishandle diplomatically in grand fashion.

And frankly, I don't care how much of a dangerous nut case Ahmadinejad may be considered to be or how much one might disagree with him, but damned if he doesn't still deserve to be treated with respect when he's your invited guest. Let his own words illuminate his thinking for the world to hear -- there's no need for the host to play attack dog.

Perhaps Bollinger is ignorant of how important the treatment of guests is in Iran's part of the world. If Bollinger quite understandably felt so uncomfortable with Ahmadinejad's policies and actions, then he shouldn't have been invited to speak at Columbia in the first place unless the appropriate courtesies were to be shown.

To invite the president of a country into your "home" and then launch the sort of tirade that Bollinger presented was nothing less than discourteous grandstanding, of a sort that is likely to do little except further degrade how Americans are viewed by many in the Middle East.

It was a bad lesson for Columbia students and for the world at large. While Bollinger may have earned some brownie points among those itching for a war with Iran, he likely has succeeded in making a bad situation even worse for everyone else.

Bollinger, please do us all a favor and don't invite any more controversial heads of state to campus. Your kind of assistance on the volatile world political stage is something that we can all most assuredly live without.


Posted by Lauren at September 25, 2007 08:53 AM | Permalink
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