EMAIL PAGE FIVE
COLUMN SEVENTY-EIGHT, NOVEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
IRAQ, UPSIDE DOWN
Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Iraq, Upside Down
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 08:36:55 -0400 (EDT)
This article from NYTimes.com has been sent to you by firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 18, 2002
Iraq, Upside Down
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Recently, I've had the chance to travel around the country
and do some call-in radio shows, during which the question of Iraq
has come up often. And here's what I can report from a totally unscientific
sample: Don't believe the polls that a majority of Americans favor a military
strike against Iraq. It's just not true.
It's also not true that the public is solidly against
taking on Saddam Hussein. What is true is that most Americans are perplexed. The
most oft-asked question I heard was some variation of: "How come all of a
sudden we have to launch a war against Saddam? I realize that he's thumbed his
nose at the U.N., and he has dangerous weapons, but he's never threatened us,
and, if he does, couldn't we just vaporize him? What worries me are Osama and
the terrorists still out there."
That's where I think most Americans are at. Deep down they
believe that Saddam is "deterrable." That is, he does not threaten the
U.S. and he never has, because he has been deterred the way Russia, China and
North Korea have been. He knows that if he even hints at threatening us, we will
destroy him. Saddam has always been homicidal, not suicidal. Indeed, he has
spent a lifetime perfecting the art of survival " because he loves life more
than he hates us.
No, what worries Americans are not the deterrables like
Saddam. What worries them are the "undeterrables" " the kind of
young Arab-Muslim men who hit us on 9/11, and are still lurking. Americans would
pay virtually any price to eliminate the threat from the undeterrables " the
terrorists who hate us more than they love their own lives, and therefore cannot
I share this view, which is why I think the Iraq debate is
upside down. Most strategists insist that the reason we must go into Iraq? and
the only reason " is to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction, not regime
change and democracy building. I disagree.
I think the chances of Saddam being willing, or able, to
use a weapon of mass destruction against us are being exaggerated. What
terrifies me is the prospect of another 9/11 " in my mall, in my airport or in
my downtown " triggered by angry young Muslims, motivated by some
pseudo-religious radicalism cooked up in a mosque in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or
Pakistan. And I believe that the only way to begin defusing that threat is by
changing the context in which these young men grow up " namely all the
Arab-Muslim states that are failing at modernity and have become an engine for
So I am for invading Iraq only if we think that doing so
can bring about regime change and democratization. Because what the Arab world
desperately needs is a model that works " a progressive Arab regime that by
its sheer existence would create pressure and inspiration for gradual
democratization and modernization around the region.
I have no illusions about how difficult it would be to
democratize a fractious Iraq. It would be a huge, long, costly task " if it is
doable at all, and I am not embarrassed to say that I don't know if it is. All I
know is that it's the most important task worth doing and worth debating.
Because only by helping the Arabs gradually change their context " a context
now dominated by anti-democratic regimes and anti-modernist religious leaders
and educators " are we going to break the engine that is producing one
generation after another of undeterrables.
These undeterrables are young men who are full of rage,
because they are raised with a view of Islam as the most perfect form of
monotheism, but they look around their home countries and see widespread
poverty, ignorance and repression. And they are humiliated by it, humiliated by
the contrast with the West and how it makes them feel, and it is this
humiliation " this poverty of dignity " that drives them to suicidal
revenge. The quest for dignity is a powerful force in human relations.
Closing that dignity gap is a decades-long project. We can
help, but it can succeed only if people there have the will. But maybe that's
what we're starting to see. Look at how Palestinian legislators just voted no
confidence in Arafat; look at how some courageous Arab thinkers produced an Arab
Human Development Report, which declared that the Arab-Muslim world was backward
because of its deficits of freedom, modern education and women's empowerment.
If we don't find some way to help these countries reverse these deficits now " while access to smaller and smaller nuclear weapons is still limited " their young, angry undeterrables will blow us up long before Saddam ever does.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company ##
* * *
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN SEVENTY-EIGHT
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS
Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address:
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ