Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The latest from Tom Friedman:

Iraq is a multiethnic society that had to be held together by a dictator's iron fist. What Iraqis are struggling with today is whether they can forge their own social contract in which Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis can live together - without an iron fist. That is critical because virtually every Arab state today is a mix of religions and ethnicities held together by a hard or soft fist. If Iraqis can find a way to live together, any people out here can, and democracy has a future. If the Iraqis can't, probably no one can, and we can look forward to dictatorships and monarchies in the Arab world --- with all the pathologies they bring - forever.

So, if "democratizing" fails in Iraq, then we have nothing to blame ourselves for, because there was no saving it anyway. And so, the people who invaded without a rebuilding plan; who tried to use an undermanned army, untrained for the purpose, to keep civil order; who cut over-generous deals with extremists and separatists (SCIRI, the Kurdish parties) when that didn't work; who dissolved the major multiethnic institution (the Army); who gutted civil society by over-aggressive de-Baathification; who took the Shiite and Kurdish side against the Sunnis in inter-ethnic feuding; and --- oh, yes --- who bungled the the economy terribly: the people who did all that take no share of the blame. Whatever happens, it's not our fault.

I obtain these insights courtesy of "Times Select". But wait, there's more! Times Select also offers a forum page in which Friedman answers readers' questions. He tells one reader today that if Gaza turns out like Singapore, there's more hope for peace than if it turns out like Mogadishu. Who else in the world would tell you that?

I signed up for the Times Select trial mainly for the business and sports columns. If there were an a la carte option, I'd be rather more likely to continue. (Likewise if Krugman started writing more on his own forum page --- if he decides to put anything worth reading inside the Times's walled and sparsely populated garden, which he hasn't yet). But as for Friedman, I'm with The Editors:

Times Select needs to work harder to hide this shit from me. Can't you make them write in Esperanto or something?

More: I didn't include links in this post originally, because Times Select actually does work quite hard to hide this stuff from non-subscribers. But for those who are, well, indulging themselves, Friedman's column itself is here, and his wise words about Gaza are at the end of this. None of which, I'll wager, will be much help to most of the people whining in Atrios's comments...


Blogger Njorl said...

Yugoslavia was held together by an iron fist. The tensions were too much for a more tolerant government to handle. The temptation to exploit racial intolerance for political gain was too much to resist. It fragmented. The small pieces may actually be able to excercise decent government. Fragmentation in Iraq, and throughout the middle east, might be the best course. It might have been the best course to go right to fragmentation, and skip the civil war that might lead to it anyway.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Alan said...

Well, I'm not as "wise" as Tom Friedman (and in fact, probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about), but I've thought from the beginning that we should have just partitioned the country into Kurdistan, Shiastan and Sunnistan and then camped down in Kurdistan and dared the Turks to complain about it.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure, but what happens after fragmentation? Does everyone stay in their nice little boundaries or does a three sided civil war keep going for decades? Will the leaders of each faction be content with (relative) political autonomy or will the issue be ruled by the distribution of wealth?
-John Gillnitz

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Friedman calling for a new Sadam?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Tinfoil Hat Boy said...

A new and improved Saddam.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Doctor Biobrain said...

I think Friedman's offering to be the new Saddam. And I second that motion. Anything to get him to stop writing.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mogadishu? I love Mogadishu. Fuck Friedman.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this discussion of iron fists, hard fists and soft fists reminds me Dean Vernon Wermer:

"The time has come for someone to put his foot down, and that foot is me."

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, the respective populations in Iraq are not all in neatly segmented areas. Partition would induce massive and horrifically bloody ethnic cleansing.


11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friedman makes no sense. he says, "If Iraqis can find a way to live together, any people out here can, and democracy has a future. If the Iraqis can't, probably no one can."

This is a contradiction. On the one hand the Iraqis are such a hard case that if they succeed than anyone else, being not such hard cases, can succeed too. Then in the next sentence, he says precisely the opposite. Now if the Iraqis can't do it, no one can, which only makes sense if they are a relatively easy case.

Friedman is a blithering idiot.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Niky Ring said...

you're forgetting that friedman's column never, ever, ever contains new information or original ideas. he just blows with the wind. this is the new line. expect to hear it more often from now on.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous blowback said...

Bollocks - Yugoslavia was not held together by an iron fist. President Tito (a Croat) knew that if the Serbs (the majority) had all the power, then Yugoslavia would split because the others would not tolerate it. That is why he created a Federal Republic where the power of the Serbs was curtailed.
The Germans must take a large part of the responsibility for the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia, they always wanted revenge for being kicked out by the communist partisans (with Russian help) at the end of WW2.

12:27 PM  
Blogger charles said...

Fragmentation isn't an easy solution either. Most of the big cities are thoroughly mixed. A particularly nasty case is Kirkuk, which the Kurds are claiming because it has been historically --- if you ignore recent history, where a lot of Arabs have come in. That's in turn because Saddam was trying deliberately to "Arabize" the city, apparently kicking out prior Kurdish residents --- who have lately, it is widely reported, been evicting the Arabs right back. The city is valued on all sides not just for the value it possesses in its own right, but because it sits smack dab in the middle of some of the country's biggest oil fields.

And I haven't even mentioned the Turkomen.

If you think partition is a simple way out, you think it's simple to paint a dividing line down the middle of that.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Is Friedman calling for a new Sadam?

Bartkid sez,
No need for that; the original is still around.

And, he's helped by the fact that he was such good friends of George's Dad, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

Altough, just like OBL, they all have to keep quiet 'bout it.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Outlandish Josh said...

Fragmeting is more complex than just partitioning the country. The resources (yes oil, but don't forget water too) are not really equally distributed equally, and as Charles pointed out, the multi-ethnic nature of the cities would be problematic.

See, in that situation, you can't just "skip the civil war." It would be nice if you could, but it's not something we have any control over, and there's no other apparatus (like a functioning political system) by which to hash out the details, so it will get sorted through violence most likely.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By all means, let's arm the Shiites and remove that burden from their closest ally, the Shiite nation of Iran.

2:43 PM  
Blogger admin said...

well said who cares what the friedman bashers have to say. god bless

Anonymous said...
By all means, let's arm the Shiites and remove that burden from their closest ally, the Shiite nation of Iran.

2:43 PM

anonymous we don't have to arm the iranians, they can do that themselves and if you think they are allies with iraq you have another thing coming

2:00 AM  

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