Monday, September 24, 2007

Is It A Duck?

It is popular these days to call Ahmadinejad a "dictator." See
here, here, and here. But he is not a dictator. Ahmadinejad has only as much power as the mullahs in Iran give him. He is the President of a theocracy, not a dictator. I am not alone in this analysis. Ezra Klein, MSNBC, and even the CIA agree.

I bring this up only because "dictator" is the misused word of the year. Hugo Chavez, for example, is commonly called a dictator. See this and this. Granted, he has been taking on powers and taken actions that seem to be leading to a dictatorship, but I don't think he's there yet. The CIA labels Venuzuela a "federal republic." I find it odd when people skewer Chavez and Ahmadinejad with the "dictator" label, but let Pervez Musharref off the hook - although the CIA also calls Pakistan a "federal republic." I guess we are back to the Realism of the 70s and 80s - at least he's our dictator.
Why does it matter? As I just wrote to Andrew, who continues to call Ahmadinejad a dictator,

Why do you persist on calling Ahmadinejad a dictator? It gives the American people a faulty conception of the power structure in the Middle East. It gives the impression that if we take out Ahmadinejad that the Iranian government will fall, like in Iraq. But it is fundamentally wrong and dangerous to think so. If Ahmadinejad had a heart attack tomorrow, another nutjob would take his place. I think you are unintentionally aiding the Cheney’s of the world by giving that impression. If Ahmadinejad is a dictator like Saddam, we can invade and just do the post-war planning better. Iraq becomes our lesson. But, in reality, if we oust Ahmadinejad, there is still a very organized (and not completely unopopular) structure that will fight us. Cheney does not need your help.

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