Friday, July 08, 2005

Friedman Gets it Right...Sorta

Thomas Friedman often leaves me with a lukewarm feeling. While he is much more even-keel than the demented lot who write for the New York Times, he often hits wrong notes, even when playing a good tune.

Case in point is this article, the crux of which is that Islamic terrorism needs to be addressed by Muslims, for everyone's sake, but especially theirs. Good point but Thomas goes a bit off track...

"But maybe the most important aspect of the London bombings is this: When jihadist-style bombings happen in Riyadh, that is a Muslim-Muslim problem. That is a police problem for Saudi Arabia. But when Al-Qaeda-like bombings come to the London Underground, that becomes a civilizational problem."

This is not the most grievous example, but Friedman misses a step here. What about Israel? Israel is a western nation, even if it is in the Middle-East. Jihadist-style bombings have been occurring in Israel for years now. Why does it need to wait to come to London to become a "civilization" problem? I think the omission is telling.

"What do I mean? I mean that the greatest restraint on human behavior is never a policeman or a border guard. The greatest restraint on human behavior is what a culture and a religion deem shameful. It is what the village and its religious and political elders say is wrong or not allowed. Many people said Palestinian suicide bombing was the spontaneous reaction of frustrated Palestinian youth. But when Palestinians decided that it was in their interest to have a cease-fire with Israel, those bombings stopped cold. The village said enough was enough."

Sorry, this part is misguided and naive. The suicide bombings stopped because the terrorist organizations running them ordered them stopped for political/tactical reasons. The average Palestinian does not have to power, even in the collective, to influence such matters. Trying to do so within Palestinian society makes you a collaborator, and bad things happen to you. What this argument boils down to is the same "can't we all get along" kind of thinking that permeates idealistic but deluded left (as opposed the rabid, neo-marxist type).

The following is true enough, but is incomplete:

"The double-decker buses of London and the subways of Paris, as well as the covered markets of Riyadh, Bali and Cairo, will never be secure as long as the Muslim village and elders do not take on, delegitimize, condemn and isolate the extremists in their midst."

There are other ways this will stop as well, and they are filled with blood and horror. That is why I agree overall with Friedman's sentiment; The Muslim community and faith must heal itself and put a stop to this, or the consequences will be dire...

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