Now that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinijad is safely back in Iran and the excitement (and not in a good way!) surrounding his visit has subsided, it's worth considering one little detail that has been routinely ignored by the press, and even an academic such as the President of Columbia University. Read this line ....
Mr Ahmedinijad is not a dictator
That's right - despite all the brouhaha over Mr Ahmedinijad, he is many things but not a dictator. Rather, he's been elected in relatively free and fair elections. That's the little detail everyone seems to be ignoring - Iran is a democracy. Now, I have no love lost for Mr Ahmedinijad, and I do think his rhetoric is unfortunate, but I think the hype's getting ahead of him. He actually doesn't really have that much power, and certainly there's enough reason to believe his sabre-rattling is to boost his popularity that's taking a beating thanks to an economy that's tanking despite soaring gas prices.
But this presents a dilemna for our idealist leaders. We'd like to believe democracy goes hand in hand with all we hold good, but this is hardly the case. Remember Adolf Hilter was a democratically elected leader. Ditto Russian President Vladimir Putin, who despite his oppressive rule seems to have record-breaking popularity. It just doesn't fit. In fact, a failing democracy is more likely to have leaders whip up sentiments to distract the electorate.
That's not to say we should not support the installation of democracy globally. Let's just not be so idealistic to believe that democracies are good for us in the absence of taking other steps to deal with real issues. Oh yeah, and dial down that rhetoric - we don't need a war with Iran!