21 May 2005

BAD Muslims, now go sit in time out and think about what you've done (CS)

Thomas Friedman drives me friggen nuts (reg. req. of course.... good ol' Times). Here's a guy that regularly writes editorials for the Times, has a somewhat popular book out, and you would think is at least moderately intelligent. And yet, he can't see how ridiculous it is in his first paragraph to think that our poor image in the Muslim world has solely to do with words and not, say.... dropping bombs. Have no fear though, Friedman does give us a way toward improving our image. No, it has absolutely nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of policy and how we treat the rest of the world. What we should do, according to Friedman, is just give them a stern talking to.
I'll admit, I'm not incredibly familiar with Friedman's style. Perhaps he was trying to be a bit tongue in cheek when he suggested that Bush, of all people, tell Muslims about a reverence for life. I mean, clearly a fancy pants journalist like Friedman must realize how tainted such an attitude must be coming from our current administration. Obviously, Mr. Friedman must know that the words of Mr. President are easily drowned out by the chaos and trying times these countries (particularly the two we just spent a couple years shelling) are experiencing. As the Vietnamese explained to Robert McNamara, "blood speaks with a terrible voice."

In the end, the thing that frustrates me most is that Friedman falls into the same trap that apparantly every policy maker, journalist, talking head, etc etc has fallen into time and time again ever since we started setting up ideas of "us" vs. "them" in international policy (which would go back, i dunno, about 100 or so years?). The "trap" i speak of is in thinking that by simply making "them" see things from our point of view, everything will be ok. This is of course to ignore how someone else's history, culture, conditions of life, current gov't (or lack there of), etc etc influences the way they think, the way they see the world. This is of course to ignore taking the step of trying to see things from the receiving end. I think it foolish to think, in a country where we cannot even agree amongst each other about our own rhetoric and "good intentions", much less the "value of life" and whatever the hell that means, that we can convince someone on the other side of the world to see things our way with just a simple fucking speech. You learn in grammar school that actions speak louder than words (even if the pen might be mightier than the sword...) Friedman seems to think a simple talking to (or more specifically, a talking down to) will make everybody see the light.
Friedman is trying to promote what he thinks of as "straight talk" here. Well, what does he expect the response to our explanations of our good intentions to be? I'd be willing to wager money on "That may be so, but we still want you out and we certainly want you to stop killing us" If Mr. Friedman were to read Robert McNamara's Argument Without End maybe he'd see that it was the same case with Vietnam, where good intentions, even vocalized, were simply not enough, especially in light of aggresive and violent action.

Friedman ends his column by saying that Muslims must answer for their "lies, hypocrisy and profane behavior, just as much as we must answer for ours." True.... But who goes first? So far, it certainly hasn't been us, the ones claiming the moral high ground, the ones with all the power.

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