Day By Day

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ignoring the Elephant

Tom Friedman wrote another of his supremely silly columns the other day in which he listed what he considered to be the non-obvious factors that underlay the revolutionary impulse in the Arab world. They included:
The fact that Obama is now President of the United States has inspired Muslim youth to think that they can achieve anything.

Google Earth has revealed to urban proles the vast inequalities in land distribution throughout much of the Arab world.

Israel has shown that democracies can punish politicians who violate the public trust.

China's success stands in sharp contrast to Egypt's failure to compete in the modern world.

The new Palestinian leadership has promised to be more accountable than in the past.
I'll say! They really are non-obvious, even to the point of being totally implausible. He does make passing mention to the obvious, and far more plausible, factors underlying Arab discontent: tyranny, youth unemployment, rising food prices, and social media. What I find interesting, though, is the fact that he did not see fit to include President Bush's liberation of Iraq which created a functioning Arab democracy. But then, that's not surprising. He works for the New York Times.

Read the article here.

As a counterpoint to Friedman's nonsense, Charles Krauthammer notes the immense importance of Bush's accomplishments in Iraq:

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq's democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what's unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect - last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services - but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.
Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? In fact, notes Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, the United States has been "conspicuously absent from the sloganeering." 

It's Yemen's president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. They are not chanting the antiwar slogans - remember "No blood for oil"? - of the American left. Why would they? America is leaving Iraq having taken no oil, having established no permanent bases, having left behind not a puppet regime but a functioning democracy. This, after Iraq's purple-fingered exercises in free elections seen on television everywhere set an example for the entire region. 
 Read the column here.

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