. . . Thursday June 17, 2004

Or Maybe Not

In what now seems like at least a hundred different columns, Thomas Friedman has been arguing that if we can just make it clear to the Arab world that their way isn’t proving to be as effective as compared to say, everywhere else on planet earth, then their populations and leadership will finally rise to the occasion of real reform.

Here’s an excerpt from the Friedman’s latest column (which also seems to contradict his support for the war in that he argues that these reforms will not come from America and that it is imperative that we lower our profile in the region):

“The other way for us to promote reform is to get out of the way so people in the Middle East can see clearly that many of their maids’ children – from India, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines – are excelling at math, science and engineering, leaving Arab children, not to mention many American children, in the dust.

“Only when the Arabs focus on how their maids’ children are doing in the world, not what the Americans are doing in their region, will they revisit one of the most famous sayings of the Prophet Muhammad: “Seek knowledge, even unto China. That is the duty for every Muslim.” …

“Now we need to lower our profile so people in that Arab-Muslim world can see clearly something we’ve been obstructing and they’ve been deliberately ignoring: that the world today wants to invest more in their maids’ children than in their own children. Once that reality sinks in, so, too, will reform.”

I never knew that tyrannical leaders who are propped up by a gusher of oil money and who use the pens and swords of an oppressive and overwhelming set of religious laws to keep their citizens under a fist of poverty, despair and hopelessness could be so altered by the common sense argument that countries that are more free are doing better.

These leaders travel the world. They’ve got plasma TV’s, Dell laptops and satellite phones. We don’t need to get out of the way for them to see how poorly they are performing. But the powerful stay in power and the rich are getting richer. And tyrants like it that way.

Concentration is important!