Friday, November 07, 2003

OVER TO YOU, BILL. I ought to read Whiskey Bar more often. Billmon makes an excellent point about Bush's NED speech -- which, like all Bush orations, has already received gushing fanboy treatment from Sullivan and those guys.

Of course, Billmon and Sullivan seem to be talking about different speeches. The one Sullivan heard reveals that "The fundamental lesson of 9/11" is that "it [is] no longer possible for the West to ignore or enable the poisonous and dangerous trends in the Middle East." But Billmon points out that Bush's speech was actually quite sanguine about freedom's hopes in that region, and rang with praises of allegedly incipient democracies in the Middle East -- including, rather hilariously, Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, Bush criticized Iran's government, which he commanded to "heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people." Here's what Billmon made of that:
Even for Shrub, this is hutzpah. For all its obvious flaws, Iran is a hell of a lot more democratic than any of the feudal oil kingdoms Bush cited in his speech. It has a real parliament, with substantive budgetary and oversight powers, holds real elections, and has a president who can stake a stronger claim to a popular mandate than having the votes of five Supreme Court justices.

The problem with Iranian democracy, of course, is the theocratic veto given to the Shi'a religious establishment, which has managed to frustrate most, but not all, efforts at popular reform. But does Bush really propose to argue that the Ayatollah Khamenei is less legitimate than the semi-comatose side of beef currently sitting on the Saudi throne? Bush cites the example of Shirin Ebadi, Iran's Nobel Peace Prize winner. In Saudi Arabia, she'd be horsewhipped by the religious police for even showing her face in public.

I mention all this not just to flog a blog, or even to draw your attention to a neat peiece of rational analysis of the sort I am usually too bile-choked to attempt. It's also an experiment in blogging efficiency. I am tired this week, and believe me, it is easier to find smart stuff on the web, link to it, and add a few words of set-up, than it is the delve into the psychological rat's-nests of this world's Kim Du Toits, Ralph Peterses, et alia, as I normally do. In fact, if I stopped devoting such craft and style as I have on the set-up here, I could easily do this all day long, and maintain a tenured position at the University of Tennessee.

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