Chewing Qat makes Thomas Friedman ‘dreamy’
Just when I thought I could take a few extra days hiatus from Middle Eastern Politics blogging to focus on launching my new Melbourne food, coffee & booze blog (It’s called The MSG and you should all totally check it out, that was a rather surreptitious plug now wasn’t it?) Along comes Thomas Friedman with more of his amusing, this time qat-induced, hallucinations. I swear I could blog about Friedman’s columns every day (I could probably wring an extra post out of him even on days he doesn’t write) and it would be so much fun that it wouldn’t even matter if anyone read it.
So what pearls of wisdom does Friedman have for us today? I’d be tempted to say he’s gone off his rocker but then he always seems to be off his rocker, probably in a golf caddy somewhere (I’m not sure which five star hotel he’s staying at in Yemen but presumably the lack of golf is making him feel funny, hence all the qat). Well his latest column is built on the usual Friedman premise, a dramatic oversimplification of complex historical events to make everything seem lollywater easy and everyone else seem simple for not figuring it out first… until of course you actually think about the bloody thing:
Visiting Yemen and watching the small band of young reformers there struggle against the forces of separatism, Islamism, autocracy and terrorism, reminded me that the key forces shaping this region today were really set in motion between 1977 and 1979 — and nothing much has changed since. Indeed, one could say Middle East politics today is a struggle between 1977 and 1979 — and 1979 is still winning.
So the ‘small band of young reformers’ are ‘struggling’ against bad things, as usual Friedman gives us a handy hero to root for from high on top of his big white man castle, aren’t we lucky? And isn’t it interesting that 1977 and 1979 are apparently the axial years that created the Modern Middle East? Friedman goes onto mention that in 1977 Sadat made peace with Israel (this was therefore a good year) and in 1979 the Islamic Revolution occurred, the Saudis got all Wahhabi on everyone’s ass and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan (a bad bad year clearly). He then goes onto contend that this is totally the reason why everything is messed up in the Middle East, all because of that one year and its still lingering sinister ‘forces’. Right.
So you know, no mention of say, 1916 and the Sykes-Picot agreement or say, 1917 and the Balfour declaration or say, 1921 and the installation of Hashemite King Faisal as the ruler of Iraq (which arguably led to Ba’athist Iraq and all the other bad stuff after that) or, given that he mentions the Iranian Revolution, how about 1953 and the US/UK orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh government which led to the much hated Shah being reinstated and then deposed by the revolution Friedman so seems to scapegoat. How about those things Tommy? Did your favourite CEO of last month neglect to tell you about those on the golf course? Or were they missing from your Marriott napkin notes?
Or is it more that these facts don’t fit into Friedman’s simplistic and crudely applied meta-narrative that he uses to write all of his columns on this region which roughly goes like this: “terrorism, Islamism, sectarianism – BAD! democracy, USA – GOOD!” yeah its around about that complex. Speaking of meta-narratives and democracy, Friedman rejects the prevalent ‘meta-narrative’ that:
The Arabs and Muslims are victims of an imperialist-Zionist conspiracy aided by reactionary regimes in the Arab world. It has as its goal keeping the Arabs and Muslims backward in order to exploit their oil riches and prevent them from becoming as strong as they used to be in the Middle Ages — because that is dangerous for Israel and Western interests.’
He rejects it because it’s stupid guys. Come on! What clearly makes much more rational sense to Friedman is the following piece of unedited crap that’s been churned out using copy and paste from previous writings of his:
Deconstructing that story, and rebuilding a post-1979 alternative story based on responsibility, modernization, Islamic reformation and cross-cultural dialogue, is this generation’s challenge. I think it can happen, but it will require the success of the democratizing self-government movements in Iran and Iraq. That would spawn a whole new story.
That’s right, Friedman once again is stupid enough to somehow try to prove that democratisation will solve the problems of the Middle East despite himself earlier admitting in the same article that his treasured Sadat peace deal in 77 failed to translate to the way the people actually feel. Ie. The meta-narratives in the Middle East against Israel and the West are popular and will obviously remain in spite of any democratisation. In fact, it may well be that if Egypt, a country he seems to neglect to mention, for example was actually democratised, the very same peace deal could well collapse. But why am I spelling this out for you people? You know! It’s only Friedman and his dreadfully irresponsible editor that don’t seem to, maybe they’ve been drinking rubbing alcohol like Matt Taibbi suggested, or maybe Friedman should stay off the qat.