NYT’s columnist Thomas Friedman gives advice to US President George Bush concerning the ME, Tundra Tabloid reader TINSC can’t resist and does likewise for Thomas Friedman. [For obvious reasons, I make the exception and include the entire article.] *L* KGS
For a long time, I let my hopes for a decent outcome in Iraq triumph over what I had learned reporting from Lebanon during its civil war. Those hopes vanished last summer. So, I’d like to offer President Bush my updated rules of Middle East reporting, which also apply to diplomacy, in hopes they’ll help him figure out what to do next in Iraq.
Rule 1: What people tell you in private in the Middle East is irrelevant. All that matters is what they will defend in public in their own language. Anything said to you in English, in private, doesn’t count. In Washington, officials lie in public and tell the truth off the record. In the Mideast, officials say what they really believe in public and tell you what you want to hear in private.
TINSC says: Don’t forget what they say in Arabic!
Rule 2: Any reporter or U.S. Army officer wanting to serve in I raq should have to take a test, consisting of one question: “Do you think the shortest distance between two points is a straight line?” If you answer yes, you can’t go to Iraq. You can serve in Japan, Korea or Germany – not Iraq.
TINSC says: This is just one example of why Friedman is a ninkompoop. If the Japanese Koreans and Germans understand the basic laws of physics and nature while the Iraqis don’t, then that tells us a lot about why Iraq is failing.
Rule 3: If you can’t explain something to Middle Easterners with a conspiracy theory, then don’t try to explain it at all – they won’t believe it.
TINSC says: TITTB. This one is good.
Rule 4: In the Middle East, never take a concession, except out of the mouth of the person doing the conceding. If I had a dollar for every time someone agreed to recognize Israel on behalf of Yasir Arafat, I could paper my walls.
TINSC says: Nice of Friedman to acknowledge this NOW. For years he has publicly insisted that Israel make concessions to Arafat and his successors.
Rule 5: Never lead your story out of Lebanon, Gaza or Iraq with a cease-fire; it will always be over before the next morning’s paper.
TINSC says: That much seems obvious. So why do the reporters keep doing this?
Rule 6: In the Middle East, the extremists go all the way, and the moderates tend to just go away.
TINSC says: That’s the trend, but it’s not an absolute.
Rule 7: The most oft-used expression by moderate Arab pols is: “We were just about to stand up to the bad guys when you stupid Americans did that stupid thing. Had you stupid Americans not done that stupid thing, we would have stood up, but now it’s too late. It’s all your fault for being so stupid.”
TINSC says: This is a sub-rule under the conspiracy theory which blames the United States for everything.
Rule 8: Civil wars in the Arab world are rarely about ideas – like liberalism vs. communism. They are about which tribe gets to rule. So, yes, Iraq is having a civil war as we once did. But there is no Abe Lincoln in this war. It’s the South vs. the South.
TINSC says: Of all the things American understand, I think it is this rule.
Rule 9: In Middle East t ribal politics there is rarely a happy medium. When one side is weak, it will tell you, “I’m weak, how can I compromise?” And when it’s strong, it will tell you, “I’m strong, why should I compromise?”
TINSC says: It would have been nice had Friedman acknowledged that the Jewish State is an exception to rule 9. What an arse!
Rule 10: Mideast civil wars end in one of three ways: a) like the U.S. civil war, with one side vanquishing the other; b) like the Cyprus civil war, with a hard partition and a wall dividing the parties; or c) like the Lebanon civil war, with a soft partition under an iron fist (Syria) that keeps everyone in line. Saddam used to be the iron fist in Iraq. Now it is us. If we don’t want to play that role, Iraq’s civil war will end with A or B.
TINSC says: It doesn’t have to be that way. We can let it progress toward A and then mop up and bring about C in the end. Then we can plunder the oil like we planned all along. Nobody can say this publicly, so I can understand why Friedman doesn’t say that.
Rule 11: The most underestimated emotion in Arab politics is humiliation. The Israeli-Arab conflict, for instance, is not just about borders. Israel’s mere existence is a daily humiliation to Muslims, who can’t understand how, if they have the superior religion, Israel can be so powerful. Al Jazeera’s editor, Ahmed Sheikh, said it best when he recently told the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche: “It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about seven million i nhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West’s problem is that it does not understand this.”
TINSC says: I understand this. It would be nice had Tom Friedman explained somewhere that 6 million Jews are determined to live regardless of the Arabs’ iddy-biddy feelings.
Rule 12: Thus, the Israelis will always win, and the Palestinians will always make sure they never enjoy it. Everything else is just commentary.
TINSC says: That assumes the Israelis will never take the harsh measures necessary to vanquish the Palestinians.
Rule 13: Our first priority is democracy, but the Arabs’ first priority is “justice.” The oft-warring Arab tribes are all wounded souls, who really have been hurt by colonial powers, by Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, by Arab kings and dictators, and, most of all, by each other in endless tribal wars. For Iraq’s long-abused Shiite majority, democracy is first and foremost a vehicle to get justice. Ditto the Kurds. For the minority Sunnis, democracy in Iraq is a vehicle of injustice. For us, democracy is all about protecting minority rights. For them, democracy is first about consolidating majority rights and getting justice.
TINSC says: This is classical Tom Friedman gobbel-dee-gook.
Rule 14: The Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi had it right: “Great powers should never get involved in the politics of small tribes.”
TINSC says: It’s always the stinkin’ money. If there’s money getting involved in the politics of small tribes, you can count on the Great powers getting involved. I’ll let the arrogant Tom Friedman make the “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” statements.
Rule 15: Whether it is Arab-Israeli peace or democracy in Iraq, you can’t want it more than they do.
TINSC says: Sure you can! It might not help, but you can want it more than they do. Yet here is another classic Tom Friedman Israel-bashing statement. It implies that the Israelis are as guilty of perpetuating the conflict as the Arabs. That’s a lie. Friedman holds on to the biggest lie of all: The idea that the War Against Israel is susceptible to being ended by Jewish goodwill and compromise. And it IS a lie because Tom Friedman hints that he actually knows better in his Rule 11.