Thanks to Yoram Ettinger who reads Tom Friedman so the rest of us don’t have to. Personally, I’d rather watch the twelfth rerun of Desperate Housewives. Ettinger:
In January and June, 2000, on the eve of Bashar Assad’s ascension to power, Tom Friedman (T.F.) was charmed by Bashar Assad’s background: a British-trained ophthalmologist; married to a British citizen of Syrian origin; fluent in English and French; President of the Syrian Internet Association. He compared the eventual Butcher from Damascus, potentially, to Deng Xiaoping, who led China’s economic reforms, modernization and rapprochement with the USA. Swept by wishful-thinking, T.F. assumed that Bashar could liberalize Syria, attract international investors, normalize relations with Israel, end the Arab rejection of the Jewish State, thus demolishing the Iran-Syria axis and ending Iran’s involvement in Lebanon. The prerequisite for such an enterprising scenario was an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. However, as expected, Bashar chose to follow in the footsteps of his ruthless father, Hafiz Assad, slaughtering T.F.’s assumptions and Syria’s domestic opposition, irrespective of the Golan Heights, Israel’s policies or existence.
In August, 2006, T.F. told NPR Radio that Bashar Assad’s Syria was not a natural ally of Iran. He maintained that Syria could resume its traditional role as an ally of the pro-US Arab camp of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Thus, he rewrote Syria’s recent history, which has been consistently anti-US since 1946, as well as pro-Iran since 1979.
In June, 2009, T.F. stated that “for the first time, in a long time, [Middle East] forces for decency, democracy and pluralism have a little wind at their backs.” He identified a tailwind to pro-American elements, and a setback to Iran’s fortunes, in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran itself. According to T.F., “the diffusion of technology – the Internet, blogs, YouTube and text messaging via cellphones” – tilted the Middle East in favor of the US. He was determined not to allow the real Middle East to stand in the way of his vision of a Middle East consumed by globalization, modernity, democratization and the Internet. Unfortunately, the increasingly boiling seismic Arab Street from Morocco to the Persian Gulf has repudiated T.F.’s vision.
In February, 2011, T.F. determined that “the Muslim Brotherhood is not running the [anti-Mubarak] show…Any ideological group that tries to hijack these young people will lose…. This uprising feels post-ideological…. The emerging spokesman for this uprising is Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing executive.”
Enthralled by the Arab Spring delusion, T.F. concluded that the Egyptian Street “tried [radical] Nasserism, tried Islamism and is now trying democracy.” He was convinced that “the democracy movement came out of Tahrir Square like a tiger…. Anyone who tries to put the tiger back in the cage will get his head bitten off…. Witness one of the great triumphs of the human spirit….. The first pan-Arab movement that is focused on universal values….”
Amazing, isn’t it? And they pay Friedman for this stuff. I guess you could say T. F. is the P. T. Barnum of the pundit world, though not nearly as much fun. (Read the whole thing, by the way.)
h/t: Dan Friedman