Thomas Friedman, Goodwill Ambassador

Thomas Friedman writes:

Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam. We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things -- namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.

Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims -- "infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority -- but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

Bryan Alexander counters:

That's a fun explanation of the Civil War, as a kind of kindergarten lesson. But note the exhortation to the Muslim world to, um, have a giant, bloody, sustained civil war: "Islam needs the same civil war." How appealing! "Thanks, Tom," murmur grateful Muslims around the world.

In the same column Friedman writes ruefully that "we infantilize" the Muslim world. Ordinarily when a pundit says "we" he means "everyone but me," but in this case the word fits, given that it's been less than a month since Friedman compared Afghanistan to "a special needs baby."

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  • ||

    But note the exhortation to the Muslim world to, um, have a giant, bloody, sustained civil war: "Islam needs the same civil war."

    Yes, and I'm confused as to what they've been doing up until now.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    They've been fighting war the old fashioned way, back before the advent of large centralized nation-states.

    Conflicts drag on for generations, even centuries, because the actors cannot afford to field and sustain large armies long enough to bring it to a decisive conclusion. So it just keeps pissing along, for ever and ever amen.

    Islam will not achieve resolution until it's able to produce strong nation-states that are able to have it out. Or until they're utterly conquered by someone else and forced (by whatever means) to abandon their current faith.

    Bitch if you will, that you don't like how the real world works. But this is how it works. Christianity resolved its problems through a long series of horrendous wars and that was with reasonably strong nation-states. It would even be close to done and over if the nation-states hadn't existed.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    "wouldn't", not "would" in that last paragraph

  • ed||

    "Islam needs the same civil war."

    Maybe he meant a "reformation."
    Or, he's retarded.

  • Eric||

    The "Protestant Reformation" for Islam idea is just as retarded and only propagated by people that know nothing about Islam.

    There is no universal Islamic hierarchy or church structure. It already resembles protestant decentralization.

  • ||

    What about an Islamic equivalent of the renaissance or the enlightenment?

  • Marc||

    It happened. It just didn't stick.

  • ed||

    The "Protestant Reformation" for Islam idea

    Who said anything about the Protestants? Muslims can start with bacon and beer and work their way up from there.

  • Ska||

    because we had a lot of people who believed bad things

    I thought the NYT is the newspaper all the sophiscated folks read. What a fucking joke.

  • JB||

    It's a rag for the people who like to think themselves 'sophisticated', but are actually some of the most ignorant people in America.

  • ||

    What Friedman says is true- Islam needs to get its act together. But that has been true for the last 200 years.

    I think his hope that the process will start within the Islamic world is a vain one.

  • NomDeWeb||

    Thomas Friedman and Cliff Claven; have they ever been seen together?

  • Clff Claven||

    Aw ma...

  • ||

    Cliff Claven has more commen sense than Friedman.

  • ||

    Not to mention the gentle postman was easier to listen to.

  • ||

    Not in my kitchen

  • Dave||

    The problem is that the Union and the Confederacy were almost evenly matched geographically. There is no real secular Muslim power base, let alone a secular Muslim country.

  • ||

    Turkey?

  • marlok||

    No, thanks. I'll just have some mashed potatoes.

  • Dave||

    Ok, no secular Arab Muslim countries. Thats what the real problem is, isn't it? Not like we are that plagued by Turkish and Indonesian Muslims.

  • Rhywun||

    Perhaps "we" aren't, but Turkey and especially Indonesia are.

  • Rhywun||

    By radicalism, that is.

  • Fluffy||

    In 1950, much of the Arab world was ruled by secular nationalist one-party states. Observers in 1950 would have guessed that Islam would be secularized by now.

    It's easy to look at recent events and get hysterical about the eternal evil nature of big bad Islam, but your historical memory has to stop at about 1979 to have that make any sense. I guess if you never heard of any event prior to 1979, this post and nonsense like Ebeneezer Scrooge's post make sense.

  • Jennifer||

    Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam.

    That leaves the Persians and Pashtuns off the hook, then.

  • ||

    I think he meant the union of the sets, not the intersection.

    Although that does beg the question of why he thinks Ralph Nader and John Sununu would be particularly useful in a war within Islam.

  • ||

    Because if we handcuffed them together and para-dropped them into the war zone then we'd surely rid ourselves of two problems?

  • ||

    Would they have switchblades in their free hands? Because I would pay to see that.

  • ||

    And the Pakistanis, Indonesians, and Malaysians. And others.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Bill Maher was similarly flippant about the virtues of bloody civil war when he interviewed Ron Paul in 2007.

    Let's try to remember the irony of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, being the first president to authorize the draft, another form of slavery.

  • ||

    Lincoln drafted at the national level, but the draft existed for many state armies long before then.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    That doesn't mean the draft isn't slavery. If your city forced you to go to boot camp, you would be just as oppressed as if Washington did it.

  • Limp Node||

    CARPETBAGGER!!!

  • Jennifer||

    But wait! There's more!

    We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things -- namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.

    Does Friedman realize that the Civil War started not because "people believed they could own slaves" but "people believed they could secede from the Union," and Lincoln never said anything about ending slavery until he was afraid other nations might join the fray on the side of the Confederacy, and wisely calculated that making the war "about slavery" rather than "about secession" would keep France and England out of it?

    Nah. That would require the same wisdom necessary to figure out that not all Muslims are Arabs.

    My next year's New Year's resolution: just once I would like to read this-here blog without getting the urge to punch something.

  • ed||

    That's a fantasy, not a resolution.

  • Chrispy||

    Don't be too hard on him, he was probably taught that popular misconception in a public government-run school.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    In 1862 Lincoln urged and won freedom for the slaves in Washington, DC, through Congressional action and paid reparations to the slave owners. It is known as emancipation day there.

    He believed wholesale freeing of slaves was a violation of the Constitution. Note the limited freeing of slaves in the Emancipation Proclaimation only to areas in rebellion.

  • Very, Very Old Man||

    So if the US has already paid repairations, why do I still keep hearing about them?

  • wayne||

    JT,

    IIRC, in 1862, freeing of slaves WAS a violation of the constitution. That's why the 13th amendment to the constitution was passed in 1865.

  • marlok||

    I swear Friedman is the living embodiment of the brainless middlebrow, soft-left conventional wisdom. Anyone who carried their education beyond the 4th grade knows that the Civil War was more than a parable about the wrongness of slavery.

    Maybe Southern resentment might also have something to do with the use of total war (crop and building decimation- see Sherman, Atlanta, etc...)

  • ||

    It amazing the casual ignorance he shows about the civil war. History buffs have been at each other's throats since conflict ended over whether it was about slavery, succession, or economic dominance. It is kind of a big deal incase Friedman hasn't noticed.

    Also, Lincoln went after slavery in the South not just for moral high ground but as a way of waging economic war on the South. It made no sense to give Southerners back their escaped slaves. It made a lot of sense and did a lot of economic damage to the South by telling southern slaves they were free if they made it to Nothern lines.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    It's amazing that people have not yet come to grips with the fact that the Civil War was in fact about all of the things you listed.

    Wars rarely boil down to one simple "root cause" that renders all other points moot. Ideological conflicts cover much broader grounds than that.

  • ||

    Yes they do. And there is never one simple answer for something as big as a war.

  • Very, Very Old Man||

    The next time you feel that way let me know. I'll give you a little smooch. You'll feel better. I guarantee.

  • wayne||

    Jen,

    Southern states tried to secede BECAUSE of the slavery issue, so I think Friedman's interpretation is correct on the issue.

    South Carolina voted to secede from the United States as a result of Abraham Lincoln's election to the Presidency. Lincoln had, over time, voiced strong objections to slavery, and his incoming administration was viewed as a threat to the right of the states to keep their institutions, particularly that of slavery, the business of the states.

    http://www.usconstitution.net/constamnotes.html#Am14

  • Morris||

    For all his faults, Friedman is not trying to make reality conform to a simplistic right-wing ideology by engaging in massive confirmation bias (nothing personal).

  • Brian Sorgatz||

  • ||

    I couldn't see where you were going with this, and then BAM!

    Bravo!

  • ||

    Shut your gorilla mask, special edward.

  • ||

    It must be hard for you at this time of year, Morris. It really hits home at Christmas just how alone you've been your whole life. No one has ever loved you. Oh, sure... a few might have pretended to, but the light of true love never sparked in their eyes and deep down you knew it. But now it's Christmas, almost a new year. A new year that you will spend alone like all the others, lashing out because you want us to feel just as bad as you do. Wanting the world to be as ugly and twisted as you are. And it's not just the new year. Another year has passed when no one cares about you or loves you. It makes you think that no one will ever love you, and the chances get slimmer and slimmer every year. Like the dead trees and frozen ground, nothing will ever take seed in you to grow, to blossom, to live.

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Morris or Lefiti or Edward or whatever you are going to call yourself next. Try to hang in there, buddy. Especially since you have nothing to live for whatsoever.

  • Ska||

    **wipes tear from eye**

    Touching, in a mildly inappropriate in public sort of way.

  • ||

    (Don't forget to remind him of how cheap shotguns are)

  • Very, Very Old Man||

    +12

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Well said, SugarFree.

  • hmm||

    Just think. This tard has a Masters in Philosophy specializing in the ME, from Oxford, with a 1st generation Lebanese mentor.

    This guy optimizes stupid.

  • ¢||

    That is the most serious "I don't remember what dressing the waitress said at the beginning of the list" expression I've ever seen.

  • Rhywun||

    Ha ha ha ha!

  • ||

    What a dick, Friedman that is.

  • MNG||

    I didn't know Goodwill had an ambassador, but that might explain the suit.

  • ||

    It accentuates his haunches (sp?). Which is good in case mama cat comes to carry him away.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    LOL Thread winner!

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    (MNG, specifically.)

  • ||

    I have a small question for Mr. Friedmand:

    Just what part of the civil wars in Iraq, Afganistan and Pakistan does he think is going well?

  • ||

    Tom Friedman: The civil parts. At least they're being polite to one another.

  • Attorney||

    because we had a lot of people who believed bad things

    The beauty of that "explanation" is that you could use it for a whole host of things:

    "The Stonewall riots occurred because ..."

    "The Iron Curtain went up because ..."

    "The Nazis and Soviets invaded Poland because ..."

    "Wanda Sykes keeps getting television gigs because ..."

  • ||

    Caption

    "Oh, man. I really hope that was just a fart. It's way too warm."

  • Jennifer||

    I was thinking more along the lines of "Eric Dondero trying to remember how you say 'I'll pay double if you don't make me wear a condom' in Thai."

  • ||

    But... why would Eric have to use a condom with a lady boy? She can't get pregnant.

  • ||

    Hey, now! That's not fair. As I recall, Eric deals strictly with Mexican prostitutes.

  • ||

    I thought he had to switch because Mexican pimps charged too much for corpse disposal when he was done.

  • ||

    I can't say such things about him, not since he praised Urkobold on his web site after highnumber interviewed him: "Urkobold [is] a widely-read [sic] libertarian culture site. . . ."

  • BakedPenguin||

    Don't forget, he speaks 15 languages and wrote a book. All those reviews praising it are surely not sockpuppets.

    Also, he was in the Navy when another ship got attacked by Islamofascists, which is more than you can say for me, as I was never in the Armed services.

  • Kolohe||

    One cannot categorize the Urkobold.

    (at least webfilters can't)

  • Jennifer||

    He bragged about all the hookers he fucked in the Navy; I don't think they made too many ports of call in Cancun.

  • Morris||

    Such a high-level intellectual discussion. I think I'll take Friedman.

  • Anomalous||

    I curse Friedman's '70s porn mustache.

  • Fluffy||

    Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims -- "infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority -- but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

    Now, the other day we had an argument here about whether or not the Fort Hood shooter was a jihadist, and people seemed to think I was being a dick for saying he wasn't. But Friedman's comment here should show exactly how critical these definitions are.

    Friedman is basically arguing that the reasons we are having difficulty in the Middle East are due to two types of Muslims:

    1. Those who believe "that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims -- "infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority"

    2. Those who believe "to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate."

    Friedman completely ignores, as if they do not exist, Muslims who don't believe either #1 or #2 but who do believe they can employ violence against foreign armies that come to their lands.

    According to this cocksucker, every last Muslim who has committed an act of terrorism against the West or who has fought against western armies of occupation in the Middle East and South Asia has done so on the basis of #1 and #2. And that is absolute nonsense, but it's nonsense that has to be pushed by cocksuckers like Friedman for a continuation of their policies to make any sense.

  • ||

    Maybe the "resisistence in places like Iraq is full of secular minded Muslims who just want the US to go away. That is certainly possible. However, everytime the insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan has controled any territory they have implimented some pretty hainous religous based laws.

    It makes for good liberal revenge fantasy to think that people blowing themselves up in marketplaces are freedom fighters dying for the cause of a secular, free Middle East free from foreign influences. But there doesn't seem to be too much evidence of that.

  • Fluffy||

    You see? Even when I point out to you how the categories are deliberately limited in a deceptive way, you still can't see it.

    Who said anything about my #3 group being secularists? Not me.

    To be a member of #1 you have to have as your goal the conquest of the west and the subjection of its non-Muslims to Muslim rule.

    To be a member of #2 you have to wish to unite all Muslims under a single theocratic caliphate.

    That means that anyone in Iraq who did not want to conquer the West, and did not want Iraq to be ruled as part of a pan-Islamic state ruled by a single caliphate, is not in either of Friedman's groups.

    Friedman has to define his groups that way, in order to make Islam a threat to people who don't live in Islamic countries, or in countries with Muslim populations that aren't currently facing large-scale insurgent violence. If Islam doesn't want to conquer the West, there's no reason for me to give a shit. If the Islamists, such as they are, in Iraq and Afghanistan don't want to conquer their Muslim neighbors, there's no reason for those Muslim neighbors to give a shit.

    Friedman, and you, have to pretend that these two groups make up the sum total of Muslim "extremism" and violence, because if the Iraq insurgency and the current Afghani insurgency were and are made up largely of people who want the west out of their countries [whether for secular reasons, or culturo-religious reasons] but who have no desire to conquer anyone, then every other word in Friedman's column makes no sense.

  • wayne||

    Fluffy,

    Would you agree that those muslims who fall into group #1 represent a threat to non-muslims?

    Would you agree that those muslims who fall into group #2 represent a threat to secular-minded muslims?

    You seem to be implying that most muslims don't fit the stereotype painted by Friedman, and I heartily agree. What you miss is that it does not take very many type 1 and 2 muslims to make the middle east a complete shit-hole (I have been there, it is). The diffences between the muslim majority and the "type 1/2's" can only be resolved by the muslims themselves; that was, I think, Friedman's point.

  • wayne||

    Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims -- "infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority -- but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

    Actually, Fluffy, I think a more correct interpretation of Friedman's comment is that there is a single group of muslims who embrace both notions, not that there are two distinct groups.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I curse Friedman's '70s porn mustache.

    Maybe he wishes he was a cop, policing the badness out of the world.

  • ||

    It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims -- "infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority -- but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate."

    Maybe I am being too pedantic here. But, if you read that statement literally, Friedman seems to be saying that the problem with the radicals is that they think it is okay to kill other muslims. The use of the not only but also sentence structure implies that the radicals wouldn't be so bad if they just beilieved the first clause and not the second. If only they just believed in murdering the infidel, things would be a ok.

  • Xeones||

    I didn't know Goodwill had an ambassador, but that might explain the suit.

    Ok, MNG, i forgive you for being so tiresome on the Krugman thread this morning.

  • Mike M.||

    There's never going to be any reformation of Islam. Islam has been largely predicated on violence and murder since day one when Mohammed ambushed his first caravan on the road to Mecca.

    Mohammed was the 6th century version of Jim Jones, only with a frighteningly higher level of success.

  • ||

    That is not true. There have been Muslim countries that have not been like that. The problem is that we have fed them a bunch of mulicultural bullshit. We have spent 40 years telling the Muslim world that all values are relative, that any non-western culture no matter how severe is an authentic, superior culture to the West, and that all of their problems are the result of Western Imperialism. You take that and add a dash of Saudi funded wahabism and you get a breeding ground for extremism.

  • ||

    What "we" should have been telling them is that they need to practice democracy. Democratic countries are hardly ever violent.

  • Very, Very Old Man||

    Mohammed was more L Ron Hubbard than Jim Jones. He made up a religion from bits and pieces of other religions and sold it to the rubes.

  • Fluffy||

    In exactly the same way that the Apostle Paul did.

  • Mike M.||

    L. Ron Hubbard was definitely a whack job, but as far as I know he never actually killed anyone.

  • Rhywun||

    No, but his followers did.

  • ||

    Nah, Mohammed was a 6th century Joseph Smith. Right down to getting prophetic texts from angels, the polygamy, and the no alcohol rule.

  • Peter Griffin||

    It was just like that time when the Prophet Mohammed gave me a salmon helmet.

  • ||

    Okay, Obama has made me agree with the CHICOMS

    Thank Goodness We Don't Have An Arrogant Cowboy in Charge Any More [Iain Murray]

    "The Times reports from Hopenchangen:

    1730 (From Sam Coates, Chief Political Correspondent) UK diplomatic sources confirmed there had been a major setback after China took huge offence at remarks by President Obama over the need to independently monitor every country carbon emissions.

    In his speech President Obama said: "Without any accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page" - remarks the Chinese interpreted as an attempt to humiliate them, prompting Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to return to his hotel.

    President Obama will now hold a second round of talks with Mr Wen in an attempt to patch up the disagreement."

    Talk about Yankee imperialism. Who the hell are we to tell anyone that we can "independently monitor their carbon emmissions".

  • Very, Very Old Man||

    But that's what this is all about. Global control.

    Obama is not the Messiah; he is the anti-Christ.

  • Prime Minister Wen Jiabao||

    I'll be in my bunk.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    'batin?

  • Prime Minister Wen Jiabao||

    Well, Obama may have angered me, but he is so hot!

  • Sean Healy||

    Can we please get back to the tiresome canard that slavery was neither a root or proximate cause of the Civil War? I don't want to lose my hard on for 'libertarian' Confederacy by talking about Friedman's porn tache.

  • Jennifer||

    Slavery was indeed a root case of the Civil War but, despite what Friedman is implying, the Civil War wasn't started by a bunch of righteous Northerners saying "Let's fight to set the slaves free!"

  • Gilbert Martin||

    How is that a birdbrain like Freidman has a job doing anything other than picking up trash with one of those pointy sticks?

  • T||

    He would hurt himself or others with the pointy stick.

  • G Mc||

    Badger, Badger, Badger!

  • MNG||

    What if Friedman's mustache battled Stossel's?

  • Ska||

    Look at Friedman's droopy, sad sack of a 'stache. Stossel's moustache is beast, it would totally pwn that noob.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Stossel's 'stache is the heir to the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Mark Spitz's 'staches of yesteryear.

  • Rhywun||

    That reminds me Stossel is on now. And... am I crazy or has he not aged in 20 years...? (flipping pages) He's 62!! WTF.

  • T. Friedman||

    Whatever you think about my Civil War analogy, I think we can all agree, at least, that the next six months in Iraq are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time.

  • ||

    "We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things -- namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas.... blah blah blah" What absolute nonsense. The so-called Civil War was fought primarily to "preserve the union" i.e., to force the southern states (undemocratically) through bloodshed to remain in the union against their will, primarily for economic reasons. Hence any residual resentment in the south... The protectionist northern ports would not be able to compete with the free-trade southern ports and Washington would not receive any tariff revenue... This the mercantilist republicans and Lincoln could not abide, slavery, they could. Believe it or not, Lincoln was actually negotiating with the south very late in the war, for southern states TO REJOIN THE UNION AND KEEP SLAVERY!! Further, Lincoln, hardly the libertarian respectful of human rights, advocated returning blacks to Africa, and freed the slaves not because it was the right thing to do, but as a strategy to undermine and sew chaos in the south. Ending slavery was sold to the public as the reason for justifying the war, just as "spreading democracy" and "WMDs" were propagated to justify aggression against Iraq. Notwithstanding the clear evils of slavery, the war (which killed 500,000+) was an act of coercion and murder, counter to the principles of the declaration of independence and was unnecessary considering that every other civilized western nation was able to somehow end slavery peacefully. The states voluntarily, and peacefully joined "the union", and should have been allowed to leave in the same manner. Just as a spouse seeking divorce should not be forced to remain in marriage through violence, neither should states. What was defeated was not involuntary servitude, in fact the southern states were forced at gunpoint into servitude to Washington DC; as ultimately were the rest of us. Thomas Friedman should be ashamed for spewing such statist Lincolnista propaganda. Moreover, I am thoroughly unimpressed with his childish analysis. It is strikingly akin to the simpleton Bush-speak mantra about "evil-doers".

  • Kolohe||

    For a bunch of people that cared about tarriffs, but didn't care about slavery, their secession speeches, proclamations, constitutions, etc had a whole bunch about the latter but very little about the former.

  • ||

    Is it too obviously un-PC for me to point out that the "Islamic world" is probably going to react badly to lectures by Jews public telling them what they have to do within their religion? The Jews in question may be perfectly sensible and correct in their assessments, but it seems counterproductive all the same. Hasn't that a problem with the neo-cons as well? "Yes, Mr. Neo-con, you're right--Islam needs a reformation. That would help things greatly." OK, does public hectoring by Jews (and more-than-nominal Christians, for that matter) help or hurt the cause of the Reformists (whomever they may be) in Islam? Doesn't it further empower extremists when they can claim that Islamic moderates are "sell outs" who are taking their marching orders form their "Zionist and Christian" masters?

    I am not saying Mr. Friedman should not continue to mouth his usual banal platitudes. Hey, speak your mind if you want to, Mr. Friedman. But if you think you are helping to bring about that which you claim to desire, I think you have your head up your ass.

  • MattXIV||

    If what Islam needs is civil war, then Afghanistan should be awesome right now since it's had about 30 years of it.

  • JB||

    I don't know why anyone takes Friedman seriously.

    Until he lives in China for 5 years to back up his assertions, everyone should ignore him.

  • ||

    This is the same asshole who once declared that "the world is flat," correct?

  • ||

    Tom is a delusional twisted person who is a shill for Saudi Arabia.

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