Ahmednejad Urges “Purge” of Liberal and Secular Intellectuals

President Ahmadnejad of Iran is calling for a purge of liberal and secular university professors.

Iran’s hard-line president urged students Tuesday to push for a purge of liberal and secular university teachers, another sign of his determination to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism in the country.

With his call echoing the rhetoric of the nation’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ahmadinejad appears determined to remake Iran by reviving the fundamentalist goals pursued under the republic’s late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Ahmadinejad’s call was not a surprise — since taking office a year ago, he also has moved to replace pragmatic veterans in the government and diplomatic corps with former military commanders and inexperienced religious hard-liners.

This sounds bad, but there’s actually a silver lining in this bit of news. Much as I hate using World War II analogies to analyze the present day, there is actually an interesting analogy to be found here.

During and after Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany, there was also a crackdown on scientists and intellectuals. Schools began teaching “Aryan science” and anything with a hint of “Jewishness” was purged. Several prominent nuclear scientists fled Germany for the United States and Britain. The result? Despite early technological leads gained simply because Germany was the only country really purusing them, during the course of the war the Allies caught up to and surpassed Germany’s lead. Why? Because American and British minds were free to think and speak freely. Additionally, many of the Jewish scientists who fled Germany became active supporters of the war effort, especially the Manhattan Project. (And Germany’s own nuclear program suffered as a consequence.)

Germany’s decline didn’t stop with just the purging of intellectuals. Military leaders who weren’t sycophantic to the Nazi cause were also purged, and Hitler was notorious for ignoring the advice of his generals. Again, this led to catastrophe for the Germans.

The totalitarian inclination to censorship and “purging” of its intellectuals is, in almost all cases, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse. Without free thought and free expression; when people live in fear of being punished for what they say, then innovation is curbed and mistakes go unnoted. Errors creep into every aspect of life–especially in government.

If Ahmadnejad and the religious leaders of Iran are truly beginning the stage of “purging” intellectuals, then the United States can sit back and relax–the battle is already over half over. Purging intellectualism also means purging competence and purging error correction. I guarantee that their nuclear program will be thrown into disarray as some nuclear scientists are kicked out of the program (if not killed) while the others shut their mouths.

This could the beginning of the end of the Iranian threat.

(cross-posted at Heretical Ideas)

FILED UNDER: Middle East, National Security, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Steven Poole says:

    It’s a nice point. Still, the USSR did manage to survive for many decades after it first started “purging” intellectuals, so Iran may be able to stick around for a while.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    The USSR survived, but after the end of the Cold War, we learned that even the most optimistic scenarios of the CIA vastly overstated the threat that the Soviet Union actually posed to the United States. And remember–the Soviets only got the bomb because they stole it from us.

  3. LaurenceB says:

    In reference to this phenomenon, I think it was FDR who said “Hitler shakes the tree, we gather the apples” – or something to that effect, you get the gist.

  4. JKB says:

    Perhaps we ought to remind Iran that a multitude of Jewish scientist contributed to nuclear science and that by allowing the study of nuclear physics they are creating a pool of people who can’t help but develop an appreciation for Jewish intellect.

    They should go through their books and papers on nuclear science and expunge all reference to work contributed by Jewish scientists. No effort should be spared to keep the Republic pure.

  5. madmatt says:

    Yet nary a peep from any of your trolls when rightwing scum in the US makes similar suggestions!

  6. Anderson says:

    Meanwhile, Dinesh D’Souza has some purging in mind for The Enemy at Home:

    It is only by curtailing the left’s attacks on religion, family, and traditional values that we can persuade moderate Muslims and others around the world to cooperate with us and begin to shun the extremists in their own countries.

    Because, as the subtitle of his book tells us, the “cultural left” was responsible for 9/11. We just haven’t hewed closely enough to sharia law to keep our jets and skyscrapers, with accompanying civilians, from being annihilated.

    No, really, go read his publisher’s description. It sounds like the cultural left’s parody of a D’Souza book.

  7. Of course Alex, there were several million dead that occurred between the “purge” and the downfall of the Nazis.

  8. LJD says:

    From the book excerpt:

    He argues that it is not our exercise of freedom that enrages our enemies, but our abuse of that freedom—from the sexual liberty of women to the support of gay marriage, birth control, and no-fault divorce, to the aggressive exportation of our vulgar, licentious popular culture.

    Where is he wrong Andersen? It seems to me a tad hypocritical to want to allow the most voiciferous advocates for issues like gay marriage, all the while chipping away at the religious institutions that founded this country. Because you disgree is no reason to silence them.

    We have many examples here, from the likes of maddmatt and company, where free speech is abused. There used to be a time when people could get their point across without being nasty or confrontational. The left is typified by in-your-face, accept-me-or-else rhetoric.

    It’s not about silencing their viewpoint, just their lack or respect and tact.

  9. LJD says:

    Let me add, to juxtaposition in any way the amount of individual rights in Iran and that in the U.S. is truly laughable.

  10. Anderson says:

    LJD, if you think that the “cultural left,” as opposed to al-Qaeda, were “responsible” for the murders on 9/11, then I have no response to you that can be posted on this blog.

  11. LJD says:

    Again my point is proven. Here we see the open-mindedness of the left, whereby if you disagree with any part of a statement or philosphy, then that entire text is bunk.

    This all or nothing approach discounts the potential truth in understanding that ‘liberals are responsible for fostering a culture that angers and repulses not just Muslim countries but also traditional and religious societies around the world.’ Note how Andersen transfers responsibility for ‘fostering a culture’ to responsibility for 9-11. Irresponsible.

    But no, don’t think. Don’t discuss or self-reflect. Make accusations and attempt to discredit others by stretching their words. For free-thinkers and open-minded individuals, you liberals sure don’t like to hear things you disagree with, and certainly not any reflections on yourselves.

  12. legion says:

    Wow, LJD. Your hypocrisy is astounding. This, from the guy fronting for the President, Vice-President, and Sec of State that within the past _week_ have accused everyone who disagrees with even one aspect of the GWOT (specifically, Iraq) of being a:
    -terrorist appeaser,
    -and a wannabe slave-owner.

    That’s pretty impressive.

  13. LJD says:

    Based on your assumption that I am ‘fronting for the President’ and your perspective on his speeches this week.

    That’s impressive.

    Amazing that you can ignore any invitation to reflect on yourself, and continue to project your special kind of liberal nastiness onto others.

  14. RE: secularism

    Dominionism, The Other Autocratic Regime