I realize this is not a statement anyone can make lightly, but: this morning’s column by Thomas Friedman, "Syria is Iraq," is the single most incoherent thing he has ever written. It’s… well, breathtaking is the only word.
Others, like Glenn Greenwald, have already pointed out the column's most obvious contradictions. But for those who missed it, here are two passages that were written, not as a joke, by the same human being in the same opinion column. Start with passage #1:
And, for me, the lesson of Iraq is quite simple: You can’t go from Saddam to Switzerland without getting stuck in Hobbes — a war of all against all — unless you have a well-armed external midwife, whom everyone on the ground both fears and trusts to manage the transition. In Iraq, that was America.
Got that? Here’s the second passage:
Because of both U.S. incompetence and the nature of Iraq, this U.S. intervention triggered a civil war in which all the parties in Iraq – Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds – tested the new balance of power, inflicting enormous casualties on each other and leading, tragically, to ethnic cleansing that rearranged the country into more homogeneous blocks of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
This pair of passages can be summed up in a Friedman-syllogism:
1. Syria will not become Switzerland unless it has the kind of help America gave to Iraq.
2. When America helped Iraq, it triggered a terrifying four-sided civil war that left the country reeling in blood-soaked, genocidal chaos and hopelessly partitioned along ethnic and religious lines – very much like Switzerland, where a diverse collection of ethnic groups speaking different languages live peacefully under democratic rule.
3. Therefore, when your wife needs help giving birth, she should hire a midwife who stands outside the door and carries an automatic weapon.
This column today is so crazy I have to think Friedman is kidding. The line about how everyone on the ground in Iraq trusts America is especially awesome. Of course! True, you can’t even open a Humvee door there to dump a pebble out of your shoe without getting your face shot off, but still, they trust us!
And yet the best thing of all is the rhetorical flourish at the end – a rare triple-figurative dismount, which he sticks with Nadia Comăneci-esque confidence:
Without an external midwife or a Syrian Mandela, the fires of conflict could burn for a long time.
God bless this man. There’s never been another like him!
Editor's note: Thanks to Justin Elliott at TwitLonger, who notes that this is at least the ninth time that Friedman has written a column calling for an Arab Mandela -- and at least the third time he has used the winning Arab-Mandela/midwife imagery combination.
FP: And for this the NYT and audiences pay him big bucks. So he is not the biggest problem.
Bill Katz: BRAIN BUILDING
Former Governor Arnold Schwarznegger of California has co-founded a think tank at the University of Southern California and will become a professor at the school. I suspect that this development will raise the general intellectual level of American higher education, and possibly lead to greater physical fitness in the academic world as well.
FP: I rest my case. And the problem is not the sausage governor, it’s USC.
A MAJOR WORLD EVENT, NOT – The United Nations General Assembly has denounced Syria's crackdown on its own citizens, and it did this before going to dinner. Both Russia and China voted no. There is no word that the Syrian government even took note of the vote, which is expected to have no effect.
INCREDIBLE – The Obama campaign and several Democratic organizations are suing the state of Ohio to strike down a law that makes it easier for those in the military to vote. A May Gallup poll showed Romney ahead of Obama among veterans, 58-34 percent. Presumably, Democrats believe active-duty military personnel will vote the way veterans vote. During the tense recount following the 2000 presidential election, Democrats tried to challenge a number of military votes cast.
RUSSIA IN SYRIA – Russia is sending three large ships with marines aboard to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Moscow has a naval base. It is another proof of Russia's active support for the Assad regime. The presence of Russian troops also makes other outside intervention more complicated. Russia is determined to hold Tartus, which services Russian naval vessels in the Mediterranean.
IT WAS RAHM – Newly released e-mails show that Rahm Emanuel, when he was Obama's chief of staff in the White House, was the key figure behind the failed Solyndra loan, which has become the symbol of Obama's bad investments of tax dollars. Solyndra made solar panels, and was supported by some heavy-hitting Obama contributors. Emanuel is now the mayor of Chicago. If he wants a really good investment for his city, may I suggest bulletproof vests.
FP: The world we live in.
Iftikar and Farzana Ahmed, strict Muslims who are first cousins from the same village in Pakistan, were jailed for life after being found guilty of the 2003 honour killing of their “determined” and “ambitious” daughter Shafilea. They were told they would serve at least 25 years.
They suffocated the 17 year-old in front of their four other children at their home in Warrington, Cheshire after she rejected a forced marriage in Pakistan.
The couple escaped justice for almost nine years, accusing officers of victimisation and stereotyping for suspecting them after her body was found months later in a river in Cumbria.
FP: They’re just like us, no?