April 16, 2006

Hitler, Munich, Ahmadinejad, Iran.

Over at the Whiskey Bar, Billmon ties them all together. And no, not the way you think.

[While] the by-now stock comparison between {Iranian president] Ahmadinejad and Hitler is absurd militarily, politically it's not nearly as far fetched as the normal run of Orwellian newspeak.

I don't say this because of Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denials or his public fantasies about Israel being wiped off the map. I certainly don't dismiss those remarks. I'm keenly aware that all too many "sensible" observers (most of them on the political right) dismissed Hitler's Mein Kampf ravings as merely a carny act to bring in the rubes. But I also know that firebreathing rhetoric about destroying the "Zionist entity" has been a staple of Middle Eastern political hate speech since Nasser's time if not before — just as talk about nuking Mecca has become an occasional feature of American political hate speech. I take such talk seriously, and I think everybody should, but I don't automatically assume that those who say such things are actually planning to commit genocide.

No, Ahmadinejad's resemblance to Hitler — and the reason why I find him a legitimately scary guy — is more a function of his role in the decay of the Iranian revolution, which is starting to take on some definite Weimer overtones....

A Marxist would probably say Ahmadinejad is playing the classic Bonapartist role: taking advantage of a political stalemate between social classes [the ayatollahs and the reformers] to forge a personal dictatorship. Or maybe he's just the inevitable product of an authoritarian system in terminal decline, like Milosevic in Yugoslavia. Or maybe he's really only explicable in Iranian terms.

I don't know. But Ahmadinejad's combination of demogogic appeal, ideological zealotry and end-times eschatology does make him a much more plausible stand-in for Hitler than an apparachik like Milosevic or a thug like Saddam. Even Juan Cole &151; hardly a neocon sympathizer — has called Ahmadinejad "essentially fascist."

What Ahmadinejad is not, however, is the absolute dictator of an advanced industrial state with a first-rate military. To pretend that he currently poses the same kind of threat to the world (or even to the Jewish people) that Hitler did in 1938 — or that he will pose such a threat any time within the next decade — is ridiculous. It also discredits the very legitimate concerns that the world should have about Iran and the future of the Iranian revolution.

Billmon has lots more to say in one of the best pieces of writing about the current standoff between Iran and the US I've read anywhere. Go read.

Posted by Magpie at April 16, 2006 02:19 PM | Iran | Technorati links |

Thanks for bringing this to everyones' attention. I read Billmon religiously and I do think this is one of the most carefully thought out analysis I've read. It deserves a wide audience. Thanks again.

Posted by: SME in Seattle at April 17, 2006 06:25 PM

Mr Bellmon's analysis is flawed because he assumes that one must have "an advanced industrial state with a first rate military" to be a threat. Ahmadinejad only needs enough technology to create and deliver a single bomb to be a major regional threat. Iran has long practiced the art of using unconventional military operations (read terrorism) as a means of politics either directly or through proxies. See Hamas, Hezbollah, et al. As Iranian sponsored (and other) operations in Iraq show, one need not have a "first -rate military" to cause problems for a first-rate conventional force. For a better analysis of Iranian-US relations I recommend Amir Teheri's "MidEast's Undeclared War", Arab News 22Apr2006.

Posted by: tom at April 24, 2006 07:06 AM