September 28, 2007

Bollinger and Hospitality

I know I'm late to the story about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia, and the personal insults Columbia President Lee Bollinger made in his introductory speech, but my question is about Persian culture (or cultures -- it's a big, very old, very complicated place). I don't know much about Persia, but a lot of it is desert, and don't West Asian desert cultures put a very strong emphasis on hospitality?

Winston Churchill wrote about the Pathans who live to the east of Iran:

"Every family cultivates its vendetta; every clan, its feud... For the purposes of social life … a most elaborate code of honour has been established and is on the whole faithfully observed. A man who knew it and observed it faultlessly might pass unarmed from one end of the frontier to another. The slightest technical slip would, however, be fatal. The life of the Pathan is thus full of interest…"

Did Bollinger come across as an ill-bred barbarian to people from that part of the world for accepting the role of host but then failing so badly in his duty to be a polite one?

Bollinger got his Ivy League sinecure because he defended "diversity" (i.e., quotas) so vociferously at the U. of Michigan, but an enthusiasm for multiculturalism often goes along with ignorance about other cultures.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


tommy said...

Did Bollinger come across as an ill-bred barbarian to people from that part of the world for accepting the role of host but then failing so badly in his duty to be a polite one?

The reports the following day from Iran indicated the Iranians were angry that Bollinger had been such a rude host. Whether that was just an embarrassed Iranian government's spin or an honest reflection of Iranian sentiments, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Modern Iranians are more hospitable than westerners, but the difference is not that large. Also Bollinger didn’t bring him into his home, which has more cultural significance.

Iranians are however paranoid and easily hurt, so the insult will anger Ahmadinejad supporters and many other nationalist Iranians more than it would westerners.
Iran is mostly arid mountains less than one fifth desert (population in valleys and the small temperate areas).

The nomadic ways that Sailor is referring to is not the dominant culture of Iran. Reza Shah forcefully settled many of the nomads, since than with oil money the population has become largely urban. The dominant culture is that of the city-dwelling Persians, and to a lesser extent recently urbanized villagers (Ahmadinejad appeals to those people).

Probably the rest of the world would have an easier time dealing with Iran if they had more of the nomad virtues. The corrupt, over-ideological and neurotic traits are those of the urban Persians. Although I guess maybe they would be more belligerent. (Whatever you think about Daniel Pipes read the section in “The Hidden Hand” where he in length quotes some American anthropologist women that lived among the villagers and newly urbanized middle class during the 70s that, very insightful).

If you want mental models for Iranians:

• Extremely nationalist, almost as nationalist as Turks. World Value survey had Iran as 2 in national pride. History looms large.

• High level but also large variation in religiosity. Never forget Shiism is the cult of the dispossessed and oppressed.

• More “civilized” than most other middle easterners, for good and bad.

• Self serving biased, bad tempered, disruptive (maybe slightly less than Arabs).

• Focused on education, (especially medicine and technology),

• Paranoid, everything is a conspiracy. Occam’s razor is laughed at in Iran, instead the smartest guy is the one with the most complicated conspiracy.

• Cultured. (poetry, literature and graphics are main art forms.)

• Generally irrational. Similar to Arabs Iranian men can be tough but are mentally womanlike.

Jams Clavels “Whirlwind” is actually also an excellent description of Iran, covering a lot of the classes. Unfortunately it’s a great portrait of Iran ca 1980, not today.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks. Fascinating stuff. This reminds me of how little I know about Iran, even as influential elements within America push for war with Iran.

The essence of the modern American paradox is that in our current culture it's okay to militarily attack other countries, but it's not okay to say anything bad about them! Thus we ended up occupying Iraq on the theory that they're the kind of people who would react well to us occupying them, and that anybody who says differently is a depicable racist.

Joe Carson said...

"If you want mental models for Iranians:"

Do you have a list of "mental models" for everybody else handy?

"Generally irrational. Similar to Arabs Iranian men can be tough but are mentally womanlike."

Generally irrational? Mentally womanlike!? Gee, anonymous, might you be an Ashkenazi? You sound like a real axe grinder. You of the long neo-conservative postings.

Anonymous said...

I attended a few lectures when I was in college in which the speaker and the bulk of the audience were Middle Eastern. During the Q&A sessions at the end of these lectures, the person asking the question would usually go on and on with praise for the speaker for several minutes before finally asking the question, in contrast to the American custom of making the question as short as possible in order to avoid "wasting time". Some Middle Eastern friends of mine told me that this was a cultural difference - to them you show respect to important with lots of direct praise, whereas we show respect by not taking up a lot of the speaker's time unnecessarily, I guess showing that their time is obviously very important.

So, yeah, I imagine that being deliberately insulting didn't go over so well in Iran. And I think it also says something about our society that we can't introduce or interview (the 60 Minutes interview comes to mind) a foreign head of state like Ahmadinejad without going out of the way to be rude and insulting.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked seeing video clips of Bollinger. I couldn't believe he was the President of a JC much less Columbia. His "diversity" and "multiculti" creds explain his educated but selective racism and ignorance.

I took Bollinger's over-the-top Ahole attacks as a calculated stratgy to undermine the famous Persion pride. If Ahmadinejad got emotional hopefully he'd make some angry outburst. This would've made a good "see Iran is crazy and we need to attack them now" sound bite for the evening news. No such thing happened which is why there was no vid or transcript of Ahmadinejad's talk in any major media outlet.

As is, Ahmadinejad made Bollinger look like a rude jerk reading the transcript (although I sense some emotional distress in his words). He continued on to make the expected logical case for Iran. His reasoning was logical and expected, even though a weaker Iran would be better for US interests.

The transcript of Bollinger's comments and Ahmadinejad's talk is here:

dearieme said...

"an enthusiasm for multiculturalism often goes along with ignorance about other cultures"
"we ended up occupying Iraq on the theory that they're the kind of people who would react well to us occupying them, and that anybody who says differently is a depicable racist."
My golly, you are in form at the moment, Mr S.

SKT said...

"Did Bollinger come across as an ill-bred barbarian to people from that part of the world for accepting the role of host but then failing so badly in his duty to be a polite one?"

He came across as an ill-bred barbarian in this part of the world. I've been to a lot of political speeches and debates in college. I've even organized some myself. I have never, ever seen the host/moderator berate the speaker at the start of the event. That automatically creates a biased and hostile environment. I was amazed at the President's stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I would assume Bollinger was playing to Columbia's wealthy Jewish benefactors. Isn't this obvious?

bjdouble said...

People have always underestimated the power of the Eastern European example.
Eastern Europe - communism = democracy,

ergo Iraq - Saddam = democracy.

Kristol thought the worst case scenario for Iraq was Romania. The assumption is that everyone in the world is just like Europeans.

TabooTruth said...

“It's much easier to justify an invasion by claiming that you are deposing a dangerous dictator and bringing democracy to the oppresed Iraqi masses. When challanged on that point, you accuse your opponents of anti-Arab racism. It's a crude tactic, but it muted fully-legitimate questions about whether or not the Iraqis would even WANT to practice anything that the West would consider to be a legitimate form of representative government. In other words, the accusation of racism kept this line of questioning quiet for a time, and that's what they were after.”

TCO said...

If nhe's going to invite, him just give him a neutral invitation. His whole point is that the students are big girls and boys and that the Academy can hear all points. So then, let it hapen.

Ross F said...

Given that Ahmadinejad was part of the group which held America diplomats hostage for over a year he can hardly complain about inhospitable treatment.

Bollinger's remarks were justified although they were probably motivated by a desire to get himself off the hook for inviting the Iranian president in the first place.

Anonymous said...

The Iranian sound like the French (except for the Religiousness). Maybe that's why our Anglo-Saxon culture don't mesh well.

Anonymous said...

Dear Joe,

No, I am not Ashkenazi, I am Iranian (part Kurd part Persian). I do have mental models for a few other cultures where I have spent some time, but for obvious reasons not as well developed as for Iran.

The claim that Iranians compared to westerners are irrational and womenlike (emotional rather than logical, prone to hysteria rather than cool headed, concerned with personal relations rather than abstract facts) is based on my lifetime of comparing hundreds Iranians with Americans and Europeans, especially when it comes to politics.

Of course all truths are statistical truths. Your post with the jew and neocon refrens suggests not all Americans are non-conspiratorial either.

Recognizing that Iranians and other mid-easterners are irrational and conspiratorial is NOT automatically a neocon position. It helps explain a lot from the realist or even paleocon perspective:

• Why everything Saddam did logically suggested he had WMD:s, if he was a rational guy (which he wasn’t).
• Interpreting Iranian aggression and rhetoric as more calculated than it is (which would suggest they want war)
• Thinking that a benignly indented American liberation, which of course it was, would be greeted with if not gratitude than at least neutrality.
• Thinking that the Iraqis (or Iranians, if it ever comes to that) will take the chance to improve their own country, rather than spend their resources fighting each other and you.

Of the American elites Polack kind of sort of gets Iranians. I also think Pipes understand middle easterners, although he supported the war (but was the first right winter to reverse himself). A lot of what Sailor writes about Arabs applies to Iranians as well. One difference is that while Arabs have an inferiority complex towards the west Iranians feel superior to everybody (I guess based on history).

The two biggest mistakes Americans make about Iran is claiming that the population, even the westernized elite, is pro-American. They are not. They like America-ns, and America-n products, and they would to move to the US, but they ideologically hate America.

The second mistake is thinking their grievances must be based on something. I mean an American or a Swiss would not passionately hate you, if you never did anything wrong? This is also wrong, Iranians hate the US based on something similar to the Noam-Chomsky version of history, where everything bad that happened to anyone was caused by American hidden hand (the British for the older generation of Iranians).

One or two actual American involvements justify that they think everything that has happened was done behind the curtain by the all-powerful Americans.

Next time you are in a cab with an Arab or Iranian and talk politics let them tell you their world view, than judge yourself if they are rational or conspiratorial. You should also recognize that they have very little understanding about how the west operates (look at the Bin Ladin tapes, or the Ahmadinejad speech. They just don’t know what buttons not to push)

2. Anonymous your friend is wrong. The long rants before they ask the question is not a sign of respect. It’s just a reflection of two cultural traits: Norms for cooperation are not developed (this can be observed in low trust, in how middle eastern cut in front of lines, and even in how often Arab crowd that are in or think they are in a fire stampede and kill hundreds).
Secondly the speaker gets prestige (or thinks that he gets it) by telling others what they think. They also think their endless theories and gripe is insightful, as I pointed out.
I guess this is also true for westerners, kind of the immature college student behavior. Although I guess it’s moderated by the fact that American college students know that others become annoyed at them.

If you want to contrast cultures you should observe Scandinavian audiences. A lot of times no one asks anything, in order not to stand out, and to respect others.
To speculate a little western intellectual status is based on Greek and enlightenment fact-logic. The most parsimonious explanation with highest explanatory power wins. Middle easterners are more influenced by Sufism and mysticism, where more complicated, “poetic” and artistic arguments are considered better.

People who rant endlessly and in circles in an Iranian dinner party get respect.

Having said that it’s not hopeless. They are receptive to logic, if you put enough effort into it. Iranians that are exposed to a lot of western culture often become less irrational. That’s why I think an ideological battle can be fought. But you have to start from the ground, their entire world-view and theory of history is wrong. It’s no where near enough to just tell them Americans are nice and make good movies.

3. Bollinger was justified. The other concept middle easterners tend not to understand is reciprocity. Ahmainejad want to base an entire political career spewing hatred towards the US, but if you say something unkind (but true) about him he is suddenly outraged? Who could imagine!
Bollinger said he was inviting Ahmadinejad because of freedom of speech, not an endorsement. Well by pointing out he was a dictator but still within his right to speak he was being intellectually coherent.

Ahmadinejad KNEW the basis of the invitation, and that it wasn’t an endorsement from Columbia. What the hell justification does he have to be outraged? Do American elite institutions owe him something?

After seeing how Iraq went I sympathies with the paleocon view that America should just disentangle with the Middle East. But this leftist idea that you accept the anger of fanatics as justified, or delude yourself in thinking Iran is a rational and essentially benign operator is no better than Krisol or Wolfowitz delusions.

This also goes within the US. If you want to have a relationship with middle easterners you must communicate the concept of reciprocity to middle-easterners. They think the objectively fair solution is whatever benefits them (for example they have the right to forbid Christian religious symbols in their country, you have the obligation to pay for lavish Mosques for their refugees). All western retreats are interpreted as a sign that they were right.
And no, I don’t mean go to war. Just verbally put down some boundaries.

Anonymous said...

The clip of Bollinger's introducing his guest speaker was merely the money shot in a long inquisition of and tirade against Iran and Ahmadinejad.

In his lengthy introduction, Bollinger said:

"It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas or our weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naivety about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas... we do not honor the dishonorable when we open our public forum to their voices"

"We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers... it is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil"

"Let me close with a comment... frankly and in all candor, Mr. President. I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions... I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do... this only further undermines your position in Iran,.. I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country, as at one of the meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations, so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party's defeat in the December mayoral elections. May this do that and more. (Applause.) I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better. Thank you. (Cheers, extended applause.)"

To which Ahmadinejad opened with the following response:

"(Religious mumbo-jumbo blessing then)
Distinguished Dean, dear professors and students, ladies and gentlemen. At the outset, I would like to extend my greetings to all of you. I am grateful to the Almighty God for providing me with the opportunity to be in an academic environment, those seeking truth and striving for the promotion of science and knowledge.
At the outset, I want to complain a bit on the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran, tradition requires that when we demand a person to invite us as a -- to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment, and we don't think it's necessary before the speech is even given to come in -- (applause) -- with a series of claims and to attempt in a so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty.
I think the text read by the (dear ?) gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here, present here. In a university environment, we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the truth is eventually revealed by all. Most certainly he took more than all the time I was allocated to speak. And that's fine with me. We'll just leave that to add up with the claims of respect for freedom and the freedom of speech that is given to us in this country.
In many parts of his speech, there were many insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully. Of course, I think that he was affected by the press, the media and the political sort of mainstream line that you read here, that goes against the very grain of the need for peace and stability in the world around us.
Nonetheless, I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment."

Ron Guhname said...

The stupidity we see with the fashionable idea that all people are basically Europeans is another example of how we should avoid grand theorizing. People with sweeping ideas are not smart; they're just lazy. It takes hard work and a lot of time to actually know something about Iranians, for example. These easy theories are just substitutes for real thinking.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was very insulting. Given that most places already take exception to foreigners insulting their leaders, it makes things much worse in a culture where you're never supposed to accost a guest.

It's a society that's very indirect. Even if you despise the person you are talking to, you're still supposed to go through a long procedure of pretending to get along. It can be incredibly annoying and wastes a great deal of time.

Also, it's not really possible to get honest accounts from Iranians living in the west. Most of them are so hostile to the current regime that they will almost never say anything that helps the government.

RKU said...

Wasn't there that Al Capone movie some years back in which one of the main characters keeps saying "Follow the money!".

Seems like a pretty good rule to also follow in understanding the behavior of the East Coast academic/media/political elite these days...

Anonymous said...

Iran is a dangerous enemy of the United States that has engaged in various acts of War against the US with no response. Ahmadnutjob personally tortured the Embassy Hostages (they know him well) and the proper response would have been to throw him in prison.

Iran has killed our soldiers and marines in Iraq with impunity. Iran has blown up our airmen at Khobar Towers with impunity. Iran has blown up Argentinian citizens (yes they were mostly Jews, doubtless a plus for many commenters here) in violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Iran blew up the Marine Barracks in Beirut.

Being "nice" to Iran or "rude" is irrelevant. What matters is showing concrete consequences to Iran for nearly 30 years of acts of War against the US. Being weak and unresponsive to acts of war only encourages more aggression.

As far as Iranian culture, it is of course manifestly inferior to that of Western culture. The "hospitality" shown visitors is part and parcel of the tribalism, dominance of clan/tribe/family, low-trust networks, and lack of civil life and organizations. Iran is a failure as a nation (and the Iranian people a massive failure as a culture) because of these faults. Israelis may be "rude" but they get things done: genetic treatments for various auto-immune diseases, key cellular phone technology, human genome mapping, basic physics research, various computer technology (both hardware and software). Most Westerners romanticize deeply tribal/inferior cultures and don't understand the advantages of the rule of law, civic life.

Women in Iran are oppressed and unable to determine their own lives: who they will marry, how they will dress, and have inferior legal rights to men. Judicial murders of "adulterous" women including 16 year old girls hanged in public squares are common occurrences. Treatment of religious minorities including Jews, Bahais, and others is horrific. So too treatment of ethnic minorities particularly the Azeris and Baluchis.

Corruption is rampant, Mullahs and the IRGC run most enterprises, with most money being raked off the top to support what is essentially a cross between the Papacy and Tony Soprano. The WSJ had an article detailing the business ventures of most religious organizations and shrines. Imagine if the Catholic Church ran say, Google and Ford. This is why production of gas and oil despite Chinese and Russian and German investment is falling, and why Iran has to import gasoline (they have one failing refinery). Only their nuclear program, aided by China, Russia, North Korea, Germany, and Sweden (pacifist Sweden is a major nuclear supplier) seems to make progress given the high priority from Khomeni onwards of the program in Iran's governing circles. These reasons are why Iran is a massive failure (Ahmadnutjob plans to move most of Iran's rural poor into massive new villages, as Iran's population collapses). Iran's internal weakness of course invites even more dangerous adventures -- See Saddam circa 1991.

Ahmadnutjob "won" by going to America and doing what he wanted. He "won" not by Bollinger "being rude" but by showing the weakness of America -- weakness of being able to torture our diplomats with impunity, weakness of killing Americans in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, with impunity. With Americans DEFENDING an enemy of the United States.

At this point, it seems inevitable that Iran will get their nukes, and will use them (likely with deniable Hezbollah cutouts) against the US. Why would Iran think they'd have any consequences since it's been nearly 30 years and they had none.

James Kabala said...

Surely it would have been much easier to "play to Columbia's wealthy Jewish benefactors" by not inviting Ahmadinejad at all.

Joe Carson: There are so many anonymouses here that it is all but impossible to know if any two are the same guy.

Terry Conklin said...

Would Bush (certainly at least as much a horrid character as Ahmadinejad) receive a warm welcome at Islamic Azad University? I personally doubt it. So much for Iranian hospitality.

Anonymous said...

Tell us more about ill-bred barbarians, Steve. I'm all ears.

I never thought there'd be a drawback when the hierarchy of elites in this country was determined more by status than class. Evidently, I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm 100% American and Bollinger came off as inexcusably rude to me. As for differences in Iranian culture -- they are certainly there, but Iran has reacted pretty rationally to a ton of provocation from us. They haven't shown any signs of national craziness since the embassy hostage-taking, which was pretty normal revolutionary turmoil. I think elaborate theories about foreigners' cultural differences risk overlooking more obvious and universal human motivations. I find U.S. government motivations harder to understand right now than the motives of the mysterious East.

Speaking of elaborate, unsourced theories about foreigners -- I wonder if Anon 9:28 was the same dude who predicted a speedboat invasion of Spain by Morocco. That remains one of the silliest posts I have ever seen in any forum on the net. This post doesn't have quite the same I'm crazy! sort of tone, though, so it's probably by a more rational person.


Robbie said...

I'm an American Jew and, for whatever it's worth, a graduate of Columbia University (BA 76). I thought Bollinger's behavior was not only insulting but ignoble and dishonorable. Old-fashioned words, I know, but I can't think of any others.

SFG said...

Well, even in America it's considered rude to insult people. ;) I think Steve's point is that Bollinger looks extra rude.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about it - it's not much of a story, and your talents are better used on other things. Nice Churchill quote though.


SKT said...

What I find to be comically hysterical is all these people who think it's their purpose on Earth to convince Ahmadinejad and others about the Holocaust. You think anyone outside Europe, N. America, and Israel gives a damn? Everyone's had their own holocausts in their countries. Nobody cares about some Western historical event.

The reason why Ahmadinejad likes to pick at this scab is to get a rise out of Westerners, and to lampoon the fact that there's many freedoms Westerners don't have. In Europe, they will send you to jail for denying the Holocaust. And in America, you might as well go to jail. You think anyone in Asia cares about investigating the Holocaust? Ahmadinejad hosted the Holocaust deniers conference as a joke, to annoy people.

Personally, I'm not really annoyed by Ahmadinejad. My ancestors had no involvement with Germans, Jews, or even Americans. I don't care if some man on the other side of the world doesn't believe in the Holocaust. But I think many American elites are obsessed over this issue, and they are unable to distinguish between merely annoying and actually dangerous. They see his Holocaust denying antics as a sign of pure evil, and will use the character assassination as an excuse to invade Iran because no genuine national security reasons exist to do so.

Rob-ot said...

I think it is a good sign that the "The difference between Iran and Iraq is that we were lying about Iraq" are posting anonymously.

Edward said...

Anonymous 9/29/2007 11:46 AM

The clip of Bollinger's introducing his guest speaker was merely the money shot in a long inquisition of and tirade against Iran and Ahmadinejad.

To which Ahmadinejad opened with the following response:

"(Religious mumbo-jumbo blessing then)
Distinguished Dean, dear professors and students, ladies and gentlemen.


Wow. That's not very scientific, is it? Blanking out a whole section of text because you think it's "mumbo jumbo."

Here's that mumbo jumbo

Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those to attest to his rightfulness.

Full speech

Of course, Ahmadinejad's call for our speedy destruction is really the epitome of politeness, right?

Ahmadinejad regularly uses the line in speeches to friendly audiences at the UN, usually at the end of them. So you cannot say this "prayer" is a reaction to Bollinger's speech.

Seriously, it couldn't be funnier that he revealed his hand to you right at the beginning and you ignored it.

What we witnessed was punch for punch, but in your attempt to become #1 Persian Fan Boy you saw only one of them.

Anonymous said...

I don't even like the Iranians, their culture, or their cuisine very much (it's a matter of taste and cultural rivalry--I'm Lebanese), but anonymous 3:16 is spouting ignorant, racist claptrap. Far from being a bunch of illiterate, feuding tribesman (a description that would better fit their neighbors the Iraqis, pre-oil), the Iranians are the heirs to a sophisticated 2500 year old civilization-- urbanized, literate, and technically capable. Alone among its neighbors, Iran maintains a fairly advanced homegrown arms industry (which were used to good effect by Hezbollah to whoop Israel's ass last year), and even produces its own turboprop passenger aircraft. And despite the stultifying hand of the mullahs, Iran is still one of the most politically open societies in the Middle East (a low bar to clear, certainly) and home to 40,000 Jews, the largest population in the Middle East outside Israel. And like most neocons, 3:16 lovingly details every Iranian attack against US interests, real and alleged, while completely ignoring America's very real history of aggression against Iran, from the overthrow of the Mossadeq government to the support of Iraq's invasion and bloody eight year war to the shooting down of a passenger airliner. Iran has done some nasty things to us, but they're as sinned against as they are sinning in the relationship.

Metin said...

I do strongly agree that Bollinger was out of line. He was trying to get himself out of the situation he himself created in the first place. If it wasn't Ahmad's own idiotic self, most would be calling for Bollinger's head. But he 'redeemed' himslef by playing into the 'pressurists.'

Great comeback by Ahmad though in the ad-lib portion of his opening remarks calling on Bollinger to show a little respect for the people and the nation of which Ahmad represents!

And I don't think by the way he has a problem with the Jews , or Israel. He keeps insisting it's Zionism that he has an issue with.

Anonymous said...

MQ --

What's silly about it? Spain is weak. Spain is close. Spain has lots of things: money, people, that poor/tribal/violent people in Morocco would like to have. And the only way to have them is to take them. No one is going to get middle class let alone rich in Morocco. Newsflash -- most of the world is not a comfortable middle class suburb. It's a violent place where winners use violence to take from the losers; and that has been the sum of human existence for most of civilization.

You presumably don't live near a violent inner city for the same reason (even though I'd bet your PC-religion would make you deny WHY you don't live next to say, South Central). Spaniards live in denial that somehow human nature changed and their neighbors to the south are radically different from their ancestors who conquered them and ruled them for about 700 years.

Absent US defense protection (which isolationist forces on the left and right are eroding) Spain, Italy, and Portugal are defenseless from their neighbors as they were before. They have no real military forces much less will to use them.

History shows that nothing is "stable" -- Sicily was the site of a three sided battle between Muslims, Vikings !! and Italians for control of that Island in the 11th Century. Muslims as late as the 1200's ruled parts of Southern Italy and France. Muslim raiders took more than 3 million European slaves in coastal raiding from approximately 1500-1830. When the US got involved (after decades of paying off the Barbary Pirates) and shelled Tripoli, the French and Spanish finally occupied North Africa.

As for "hospitality," Ahmadinejad was not a very good host to the hostages of our Embassy he "hosted." Mock executions, torture, beatings, starvation, and the like were all detailed by the former hostages. Who were taken captive on sovereign US soil. Which was the US Embassy.

Ahmadinejad should have been tossed into Gitmo. Because NOT to respond to provocations is weakness.

[There is no innate "hospitality" -- merely tribal custom that can be (and often is, see 1979-80, violated at will when it's convenient).]

Most of the comments here seem that of fools. Iran's regime has been a dangerous enemy of the US for nearly 30 years. Being "nice" or "rude" is irrelevant. Iran's leaders don't care one way or another. Any more than Ahmadnutjob cared if the hostages he tortured were rude or nice to him.

Much of the thought seems to be: "if we are just nice to the bad men they will go away." Delusional. We will have SOME sort of conflict with Iran.

Jacques Chirac AND Sarkozy both threatened Iran with nukes. Why? Chirac is the most anti-American Frenchman since De Gaulle. Sarkozy while conservative for France is very liberal to most Americans. Answer: Iran has openly stated it is the "protector" of Europe's Muslims, and very likely threatened Chirac (and later Sarkozy) on what it's response would be to the Car-B-Q or even (France's greatest fear) the declaration of an "independent" Islamic Republic inside France.

France has more than 10 million Muslims. Who want to live in an Islamic Republic and have stated this goal repeatedly. France has been the site of repeated terror attacks in the 80's-90's by the GIA and later the GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat).

WHY all the French fuss over Lebanon and Syria? When France could have cared less since the Beirut Barracks Bombings (courtesy of Iran)? Duh.

Because Syria is controlled by Iran and even the current crop of NoDong North Korean modified Scuds can hit Paris from Syria. The North Korean (scud missiles modifications, nuclear weapons), Iranian, and Syrian axis presents a huge risk for France specifically. Even chemical weapons on Scuds represents a huge risk and there is no practical way to shoot them down once launched.

Syria is like Iran's unsinkable aircraft carrier. Also a deniable proxy (maybe it's Hezbollah that runs missile bases). Allowing it once it has nukes (perhaps from it's own program or maybe from outsourced North Korea) on Scuds it can use very credible threat of force to control great parts of Europe.

[This was Kruschev's gambit in Cuba. He found Kennedy weak (which he was) and thus planted nuclear missiles in Cuba. Kennedy had to respond to his weakness by bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. Lesson: weakness is dangerous.]

The US went to war twice to prevent Germany from controlling Europe. Because the US cannot long survive with all of Europe in hostile hands. Iran's gambit guarantees war unless action, not words, convince them that the US leadership class is united and serious about stopping them. "Nice" or "rude" is irrelevant.

tommy said...

Some on the left at Columbia who defended Bollinger stated they would have been willing to invite Hitler back in the 1930s. After all, this would have provided them with an opportunity to show the world the evils of Nazism, so they argue.

Well, I don't know if they would have shown the world the evils of Nazism, but that they would have invited Hitler to speak at Columbia is something nobody should doubt:

..In 1933, Nazi Germany's ambassador to the United States, Hans Luther, was invited to speak on the Columbia campus.

[Then Columbia president Nicholas Murray] Butler hosted a reception for the Nazi ambassador, whose remarks were devoted to defending Hitler's "peaceful intentions" toward the rest of Europe. Butler said that as a representative of "the government of a friendly people," Luther was "entitled to be received with the greatest courtesy and respect."

Columbia, like many American universities, continued its program of student exchanges with Germany even after the Nazis came to power.

In 1936, President Butler sent a delegate to take part in anniversary celebrations at the Nazi-controlled University of Heidelberg. He did so even though the university had already fired all of its Jewish instructors, implemented a curriculum based on Nazi ideology, and even was host to a mass book-burning.

Butler defended his decision on the grounds that "academic relationships have no political implications." But Columbia students disputing that claim at the time held a mock book-burning on campus and a peaceful rally in front of Butler's residence...

Some things never change - especially not the weasel-like behavior of so many university presidents.

Vic said...

Bollinger has balls. We need need more guys like that. He put that iranian in his place. In this pc world we're living in, its hard to find a guy like that.

David said...

Anon. the Iranian(?)-
who-doesn't-like-Iranians wrote:

"you must communicate the concept of reciprocity to middle-easterners"

I'd say they already have a pretty good grasp on this concept. Remember 9/11?

Anonymous said...

Bollinger has balls.

You must be kidding. What would have taken balls was standing up against his big contributors and giving Ahmadinejad a polite intro. Coming out with the conformist politically correct Iran-is-evil line took no courage whatsoever. Quite the opposite, it was a sign that he was knuckling under to criticism on the issue.

What's silly about it? Spain is weak. Spain is close.

Ah, it was you! Welcome back. I'm not going to repeat everything I said in the previous thread, but Spain is not weak. Morocco is weak. I'd encourage you to check out the size of Spain's army and the size of NATO's army against the size of the Moroccan military. Hint: two of those are several orders of magnitude the size of the other.

And I do in fact live close to very bad inner city neighborhoods (though never inside them, I'm not crazy). Always have, since I like urban living but am not wealthy enough to live in the fanciest neighborhoods.

I have not observed any speedboat invasions yet. Muggings are the only violence perpetrated by the poor, disorganized, chaotic peoples of the inner city. These are akin to terrorism -- very bad if you are caught in such an attack, but no more than a tiny pinprick to the wealthy mainstream Western society I live in.


Let's! said...

They've been labeling us "the Great Satan" for 30 years and then they act all hurt about our lack of "hospitality"? What a joke.

And then Sailer actually tries to criticize Bollinger from the right! Since when is it conservative to adopt the culture of invited foreign guests? (Replace "Iran" with "Mexico" and Sailer would change his tune faster than you can say "the enemies of the neo-cons are my friends!")

Anonymous said...

David 9/11 was reciprocity? Really? What exactly did the US did to Saudi Arabia? Develop the technology that makes their almost uninhabitle desert valuable? Make them rich? Protect them, after they asked, against Saddam?
Bin Laden justified 9/11 because infidel Americans were in the holy places. You think that insane reaction to soldiers that are protecting your country against other Arabs is reciprocity?
Self-Loathing westerners like you are worth 10 jihadists.
Of course, we all know the failures of the Muslim world is because America is somehow secretly sabotaging them. Otherwise they would be doing great. Look how well they do well left alone.

To the conspiracy idiots who call me Jewish:
Get a tinfoil hat, and in the meantime focus on the issues.

Lebenese guy:
First of all the most advanced part of the Persian empire (also lather empires, such as Parthian and Sassanid) was the Iraqi part, Babylonia. The point is that having an empire 2500 or even 1100 years ago doesn’t make you advanced.
The Persians WERE illiterate feuding tribesmen (they adopted the writen language of the Elimite after they conquered them). I don’t have a point with that, other than tribes people can be noble as well as insane. Iranians would have been better of if they had retained more of the tribal virtues Sailor was initially referring to.
There are 12000-15000 Jews in Iran. The rest live in Beverly Hills.

“even produces its own turboprop passenger aircraft.”
Iran does make Airplanes. The simple reason is that they are under a boycott, and have put MASSIVE amounts of resources in reverse engineering American technology. It’s still pretty crappy. They do better in more organically grown industry such as software.
Of course Iran and Turkey are more developed than any Arabs. But that is an extremely low bar. We are also more developed than bushmen, if you are looking for straws.

Mossadeq was:
1. 50 years ago, and of no significance expect as an excuse that Americans SOMEHOW can be blamed for everything.
2. A corrupt Nationalist without internal support (at the time)
3. Not deposed by the US. The American supported coup failed. He was deposed later through a domestic coup.

The period following this coup was the golden age of Iran, until 1978, where Iran developed at a similar speed as Japan (albeit from much lower levels, and with oil). This happened with a lot of direct American aid (for a long period as important source of funds as oil): Most of the industries you refer to was founded in this period. At the peak Iran had a GDP per capita of 9000 dollars, at the time close to Southern Europe.

All of this was a DIRECT result of American benign involvement in Iran, and the preferred status they gave us, and the technologies they transferred to us (by the way, while Iranians remember 1953 they oddly forget post 1945, where the US intervened to save northwestern Iran from being annexed by the Soviet).

Once we threw out the Americans everything collapsed. Which I guess was Americas fault.

This anti-American ideology is a form of pathology. Except Taiwan, Israel, South Korea and maybe one or two other countries no one got as much benefit from their relationship with the US. The fact that the result was blind hatred does not speak well of the Iranian ethos, neither the nationalist part or the religious.

Iran was a strong American alley and a regional superpoewr before they attacked the US in 1979. The idea that you take someone’s ambassadors hostage, and than act surprised that thye oppose you in the war and bable about hospitality is absurd.

At any case the US actually helped Iran more during the war with Iraq than they helped Iraq. They sold us weapons (through Israel), wheras the Iraqis only got some info. Iranian claims that American support tilted the war is just more insane propaganda.

The passenger tragedy was OBVIOUSLY an accident, and due to Iranians not following protocol.
But if that’s you criteria, we have one Iranian airliner shot down by error and several terrorist hundred civilians murdered by Iran. Do you think that the west therefore has a pass to hate Iran forever? Argentina? France and Germany? The British? How about Kurds? If building up Iran and an airline shot down by accident is excuse for permanent hatred, how do Persians and Arabs want to be seen by people they have pushed around? Will you demand introspection and understanding if Kurds, Baluchi or Turkemen blow up downtown Tehran and Istanbul?

The Iranian leaderships (sadly many middle easterners, like you) are outraged based on a false reading of history, combined with asymmetric moral demands on others. This is what I call self serving bias.
In the end of the day Europeans and Americans have given my gene line a lot of things, like indoor plumbing, democracy, penicillin and the ability to chat with people I can’t see, whereas we have not given them anything for the past 2-3 millennia.

tommy said...

All you really need to know about Iranian culture: the men are insane (in particular, they really enjoy hitting and whipping themselves in the name of bizarre Shiite rituals) and their women are hot.

One of my school friends is a half-Iranian, half-English girl who's estranged from her strict Muslim father. She's a looker.

You can even ask male Arab bloggers and they will almost consistently tell you the two countries with best looking women in the Middle East are Iran and Lebanon. (I know, Iran isn't part of the Mideast according to more strict geographers, but you get my point.)

The secular elite in exile remind me very much of Lebanese Christians in that they are somewhat clannish and ethnocentric but seem much less contemptuous of the West than many well-to-do Muslim Arabs. More religious Iranians, who are generally poorer, seem more similar to Sunni Arabs even though they don't necessarily like Sunni Arabs.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous claiming to be Iranian has all the distinguishing features of the self-loathing ethnic - "[m]entally womanlike" indeed. Before I descend to that level, I'll continue.

The fact of the matter is that the current regime in Iran is rational - at the minimum, much moreso than the overlords in Washington who seem to want to run the U.S. into bankruptcy and at the mercy of lenders in Asia and Europe.

Any culture would take offense to the treatment received by Ahmadinejad. It is a matter of decency and a sad illustration of the state of the U.S.'s foreign policy discourse and media culture. When it comes to Iran, these institutions resemble little more than hysteria. Hence my concerns about the future of Iran-U.S. relations. Except this time there's a sizable minority in the U.S. that is skeptical of these institutions' portrayal of the new "threat" du jour.

As for the Iranians, as I mentioned above, figures close to the decision-making levers in Iran are adept at statecraft. The problem is, that modern Iran is an ideological creation, the result of an over-reaction (a double entendre on the "reaction" term) to the Westernization in the Pahlavi era.

Any semblance of rapprochement with the West and the Islamic regime loses its raison d'etre. It is within these bounds the statesmen in the Islamic regime must operate. There are similar parallels in Washington, as in Tehran.

Anonymous said...


That vid was hilarious. However, with the sound off (at work), it didn’t look much crazier than what I’ve seen from fundamental Christians (healing/casting out devils, speaking in tongues and the like).

I’ve known both Lebanese Christians and Persian Jews. The Lebanese Christians were an attractive mulatto mix, primarily due to a lot of European blood. I didn’t get the Persian look; they dressed like high-class escorts with too much make-up, perfume and over-the-top fashion with a Beverly Hills Za-Za Gabor attitude. That said, having the reputation for the most beautiful in the ME is not much better than saying Jarkartan women are the hottest Indonesians.

They don’t hate us for “our freedoms” Mr. Bush, they hate us because our women make their women look like spent draft animals (thus the cultural adoption of the Burka).

Anonymous said...

"Great Satan", "Evil Empire", "Axis of Evil" - what's the difference?

Besides, Iran calls us names while we embargo them, sell poison gas technology, helicopters and intel to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, put our navy off their coast to periodically put them in their place and create a widespread disinformation campaign to morally justify a "pre-emtive" war (formerly known as just "undeclared war" or a "sneak attack", see Attack on Taranto, Operation Barbarossa, or Pearl Harbor).

If you're advocating for attacking Iran, don't try to sell it as something it's not. Man up and be honest with the facts and justifications instead of using silly fairytales.

The justification I see is that we don't want to let Iran become a regional power or have nuclear weapons. If there were no consequence to the US engaging in such state-on-state terrorism against Iran, it wouldn't be simply a difficult moral decision.

tommy said...

That vid was hilarious. However, with the sound off (at work), it didn’t look much crazier than what I’ve seen from fundamental Christians (healing/casting out devils, speaking in tongues and the like).

I wouldn't hesitate to call Pentecostals insane. It gets even worse with the Shiites. Many engage in quite bloody self-flagellation rituals that remind me of medieval penitents during the time of the Black Death.

Anonymous said...

Mossadeq was:
1. 50 years ago, and of no significance expect as an excuse that Americans SOMEHOW can be blamed for everything.

So things that happen 50 years ago have no impact on today?

2. 2. A corrupt Nationalist without internal support (at the time)

As opposed to the corrupt monarch with no internal support at any time that followed him? Mossadeq was elected by his people. When did the Shah ever hold an election. OH, that's right, NEVER.

3. Not deposed by the US. The American supported coup failed. He was deposed later through a domestic coup.

Lies, lies, lies. The CIA itself admitted its role in the coup. (
And even if it were true that a "domestic" coup overthrew Mossadeq's elected government, the only reason it suceeded was because the coup-plotters were encouraged by the tacit support of the U.S.

"The period following this coup was the golden age of Iran"

Tell that to the victims of the U.S./Israeli trained Iranian Gestapo, the SAVAK.
From (a conservative, pro-American website):
"Over the years, SAVAK became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest and detain suspected persons indefinitely. SAVAK operated its own prisons in Tehran (the Komiteh and Evin facilities) and, many suspected, throughout the country as well. SAVAK's torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting brokon glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails. Many of these activities were carried out without any institutional checks."
"Inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum." Golden age indeed!

If Ahmadinejad really did participate in the kidnapping of CIA agents at the American "embassy," then good for him! Those imperialist scum had no business in a sovereign country like Iran.

"At any case the US actually helped Iran more during the war with Iraq than they helped Iraq. They sold us weapons (through Israel), wheras the Iraqis only got some info."
The U.S. was being completely hypocritical at that point in time (surprise!). They weren't supporting one side or the other. They were supporting both sides so that the conflict could be prolonged for as long as possible and more people would die.

I have one more question:
How do you say "Uncle Tom" in Persian?

David said...

Hi, Anonymous. You said:

Bin Laden justified 9/11 because infidel Americans were in the holy places. You think that insane reaction to soldiers that are protecting [their] country against other Arabs is reciprocity? [The US developed] the technology that makes their almost uninhabitle [sic] desert valuable

Then you won't mind if, tonight, I break into your home, do away with some of your family members, and camp out in your living room for the next 50 years? After all, you asked me to protect you from your big bad neighbors, didn't you? Didn't you? (Better say yes.) And I'll give you some cool technology.

What do you mean, you object to this? Why are you complaining? I'm going to unstop your toilet and give you a dishwasher, you ingrate.

You inferior beings are so ungrateful for all that your lords and masters do for those of you whom we don't murder.

Why do you persist in telling me that I can't come in? I can't understand why you keep trying to make me go. After all, I am your moral superior. If you continue in your irrational objections, I'll burn your entire house down.

(Golly, why does everyone hate me? They must be very wicked and uneducated. I'll simply have to redouble my efforts and triple the number of people I kill. They're all insane anyway.)

James Kabala said...

David: I'm not a neocon by any means, but that's a pretty poor analogy.

Anonymous said...

how is it not a proper analogy?

David said...

James probably means I left out oil. Part of the peril of writing in the first-person perspective. So add this:

The reason I'm occupying and partly destroying your uninhabitable home, is so that I can have access to the gold under your non-property. Your uncle is mining it with the help of my friends. Don't dare to interfere with our property rights, you savage! Besides, it isn't all about greed - we're also helping the forces of goodness and light in your neighborhood: the Section 8 people we moved in were innocent victims of (Hitler's) oppression and deserve Lebensraum, specifically your living room. Since you don't agree, you're a racist and we will kill you. (Golly, I still don't understand why I'm hated.)

The analogy is immaculately strong; I simply don't have the time to elaborate it indefinitely. I'm sure others can. :-)