Bret Stephens, a smart guy himself, wrote in today’s Wall Street Journal about a press meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad, he said, was the “smartest guy in the room,” successfully manipulating reporters and correspondents.
So, with this in mind, let’s see what he did at the UN General Assembly today. Here’s a piece of an account by the Jerusalem Post:
Ahmadinejad said there were “three viewpoints” in identifying those responsible for the September 11th attacks. The main viewpoint, he said, “advocated by American statesmen,” is that “a very powerful and complex terrorist group, able to successfully cross all layers of the American intelligence and security, carried out the attack.”
The second viewpoint – which Ahmadinejad called the viewpoint of “the majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians” – was “that some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack in order to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.”
Finally, he said, some believe September 11th “was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation.” He conceded that “this viewpoint has fewer proponents.”
Ahmadinejad announced that, in light of this professed ambiguity as to the culpable parties, Iran will host a conference “to study terrorism and the means to confront it.” He also suggested that the UN set up a fact-finding group for September 11th.
Unsurprisingly, the US delegation and several others walked out.
Stephens is right. This was a carefully planned performance which undoubtedly achieved its aim. The idea that the US or the ‘Zionists’ perpetrated 9/11 is — in a certain sense — believed by most of the Muslim world. Of course, at the same time and without cognitive dissonance, Islamists believe that 9/11 was a successful ‘martyrdom operation’, a magnificent piece of jihad.
You are probably wondering how this can be. The answer is that there are different kinds of truth. There is the simple truth that 9/11 was a successful terrorist operation carried out by radical Islamists.
And at the same time, behind Ahmadinejad’s smirk, is the other truth, demonstrated by the act itself of standing in the UN building in New York, the same New York that was struck on 9/11, and humiliating Western dignitaries by accusing them of being the agents of their own punishment. By forcing them to submit to his reality, he places himself — and Islam — above them. The ‘truth’ embodied in this act of dominance is that Islam is superior and will be victorious in the long-term struggle.
Every radical Islamist in the world will immediately grasp both of these truths, and will swell with pride as they watch Ahmadinejad strike a psychic blow, just like the physical blow of 9/11.
The idea of the psychic blow is unintelligible to many Westerners, who will see Ahmadinejad as just a boor (incidentally, these are the same people who don’t get the point of the Ground Zero mosque). But Stephens was right. He is a lot more dangerous than a simple boor.
How should we react? He could have been dragged from the stage and beaten viciously, then thrown into a filthy cell and held hostage until they surrender their uranium (and incidentally release the two young hostages they are holding).
This would have sent the message that we refuse to submit to humiliation, we refuse to accept the dominance of Islam. Of course we would never do that, because we don’t behave like that.
Right there you have the paradox of the asymmetric conflict that we find ourselves in.