The primary difference between enemies and opponents is that the latter need to be given a fair hearing, reasoned with, and respected, whereas the former simply need to be defeated. Failing to treat Iranian President Ahmadinejad as their enemy demonstrates that Columbia University is either delusional, misguided, or itself an enemy of America rather than just an opponent.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted an offer to speak next week at Columbia’s World Leaders Forum, the University announced Wednesday.

The appearance of Ahmadinejad—widely criticized for espousing anti-Semitic views and condemned for apparent human rights abuses—will mark the head of state’s first-ever public engagement at a U.S. university and seems certain to fuel heated protest on and beyond Columbia’s campus.

University President Lee Bollinger announced the decision to invite the leader in a statement Wednesday evening.

“It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas, or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas,” Bollinger said. “It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.”

There's no doubt that Columbia doesn't "endorse" Ahmadinejad's views, but by giving him a forum they elevate him from enemy to mere opponent, which is either a grave mistake or an inadvertent revelation of Columbia's own relationship with America.

It's a serious thing to label someone or some group an enemy rather than just an opponent. I'm very much against active or passive efforts to stifle free speech by one's opponents, be they political, ideological, religious, or economic, but enemies are a different matter entirely.

Update:

Indian Chris points out that Columbia University welcomes Ahmadinejad to its campus but only begrudgingly allows American military recruiters access because of the "punitive financial coercion" of the Solomon Amendment.

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