In which I studiously ignore a ludicrous and offensive attempt to analogise the anti-war Left to anti-abolitionists
1. "Islamist cultures" should not be a plural. There is only one country in the world that can be fairly called "Islamist", Iran. Even Iran is quite an unusual "Islamist" state because it is certainly not based on the Muslim Brotherhood. In all other countries of the Islamic world, including the "Islamic Republics" like Saudi Arabia (Edit: literal; meant to write "Islamic Rebublics and places like Saudi Arabia, of course SA isn't a republic!) Islamists are in general a persecuted minority.
Of course, this falls into the category of "blessed errors". Aaro made this mistake because he hasn't read Paul Berman on Qutb, and therefore uses "Islamist" as a synonym for "Islamic". This is however a good thing, because Nick has read Berman and usually gets his use of "Islamist" pretty precise, as does Michael Gove and Melanie Phillips. And I don't think anyone would argue that these three have, as a result of their precise knowledge, developed more sensible and/or sane ideas about the Muslim world than Aaro. So my advice is to keep on keeping on Dave; this one isn't worth learning.
2. What is Dave babbling on about in the paragraph about women in "Islamist cultures"? In context it looks like he means Iran, but women in Iran are 63% of university students and have the vote (they have the normal sharia discrimination and Amnesty doesn't like theway that protestors against it are treated, but it's ludicrous to suggest that women aren't treated by male doctors in Iran). Since this paragraph appears to be talking about Saudi Arabia, a country where John Humphries has specifically said (in one of his books) that he opposes the current system of government and Tony Blair has specifically said that he doesn't (including, quite recently, calling off a corruption investigation there), I think this is too bad.
I think Dave has treated John Humphries quite badly here. In the context of that Today programme, it is clear that the differences in the "form of democracy" that he was talking about include such things as a) still having sharia law, b) having nuclear weapons and c) maintaining an aggressive foreign policy with respect to the state of Israel. If we have an invasion of Iran, it will be about these things, particularly the middle one, not about the criterion for recognising candidates in elections. Visibly, our entire diplomatic effort is aimed at trying to support a policy in Iran (unilateral nuclear disarmament) which is unlikely to be any more popular there than it was in the UK in 1983 when Tony Blair stood for election on a manifesto containing it and lost (Update "lost" in the sense of "won", of course, thanks Matthew, although I am pretty sure he has never tried to claim that this represented an endorsement of unilateralism by the voters of Sedgefield.)
The trouble is that Dave has presumably been sitting too close to Michael Gove in the canteen and has tried on his relativism-coloured glasses. He's trying to convince himself that everyone's practical objections to the bombs-for-democracy foreign policy are based on the assumption that Iran (in its guise as Saudi Arabia) isn't really all that bad. The knot of the problem here is a confusion between three points of view:
1. Iran's system of government is right. (ie, while we don't want it for itself, it is appropriate for Iran)
2. We have no right to change Iran's government (ie, while it is wrong, there is no justification for interfering in other countries' governments)
3. It would not be right to change Iran's government (ie, we might or might not have the right to interfere in Iran's system of government, but the practical consequences of doing so would make things worse rather than better).
Clearly the Decent argument on 3) has gone down in flames. 1) is the reason why they have such a bug up their arses about Foucault, but 2) is quite irritating for them, because in order to get round it, they have to get over the fact that the Nuremberg conventions and the founding law of the United Nations say what they say and say it for a reason. This is why they are so keen on finding hitherto undiscovered passages in the Genocide Convention, or discovering "duties to protect". It's also why they more or less discount the possibility of domestic revolutionary movements, except when they can be wheeled on stage as backdrop for an oration against "liberals" for being insufficiently supportive. The slavery analogy is instructive here; for Dave, it appears that the Iranians are dumb chattels, sitting around in leg irons and only capable of being liberated by a passing dashing British warship. It is a shame indeed that they didn't teach the slave trade in Gospel Oak in the 1970s, but perhaps a greater one that they didn't teach Toussaint L'Ouverture.
PS: Further to the above, the "Iranian John Humphreys" would probably be Akbar Ganji, an "Iranian democrat" with whom I hereby on behalf of Aaronovitch Watch (incorporating "World of Decency"), express solidarity. He has been in and out of jail and has not been treated well by the regime, but he is still out there plugging away and I am not sure that it is actually all that supportive to pretend that he doesn't exist and that Iran doesn't have an active dissident movement. He does not appear to be all that keen on the idea of a "moral foreign policy" in the sense of the Euston Manifesto.