- 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...