Ever since the start of the Syrian uprising/civil war, I’ve cautioned that while Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Tunisia implode, Syria would explode if a political resolution was not found quickly. That is exactly what’s happening …
What to do? I continue to believe that the best way to understand the real options — and they are grim — is by studying Iraq, which, like Syria, is made up largely of Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Kurds. Why didn’t Iraq explode outward like Syria after Saddam was removed? The answer: America.
Friedman’s idea seems to be that ethnically-fractured Middle Eastern countries like Syria would be more stable today, if they’d only been occupied first and had their nation-states built on a foundation of political compromises brokered by a strong military power like the United States. Veteran Friedman readers know that this line of thinking usually leads to either an “iron fist” column, or a “midwife” column. Today, he went with both.
“Thomas Friedman’s theories on the Middle East have never been relevant. He’s been a guest columnist before for Inanities and we’re lucky enough to have another contribution from him today, an expansion on this.”
Why has the Arab awakening produced so few moustaches? It’s partly because important and complicated stuff is still happening in Egypt and Yemen the nuances of which would ruin my tinpot theory so I won’t get into it here. They are technical explanations, but I find they ruin an opinion piece. There are deeper factors at work based largely on my own ignorance and prejudice. Let’s take a look at them at length.
One is the big hole that was made while these societies were sleeping. A big, deep hole formed under the yoke of dictatorship. I once saw it while reporting from my hotel room in Cairo in 1987. As I looked at it, and looked at Arabs scuttling around it going to smoke their shishas and beat their multiple wives, I thought, who will tell these people how much time has been wasted on the reading and writing of my columns? Who will tell these cretins that for the last 30 years I have peddled a theory that oppression and dictatorships are alright as long as people – ALL people – can buy iPads and everyone has a Thomas Friedman moustache?
The danger of allowing Friedman the position of decipherer of and spokesman for Orientals is further underscored when readers of the New York Times learn that, contrary to reports in the European and Arab media, Afghan civilians obliterated by American B-52s are actually not civilians. According to Friedman, “many of those Afghan ‘civilians’ were praying for another dose of B-52’s to liberate them from the Taliban”, though he explains neither the source of his insights into Afghan prayers nor why opposition to the Taliban would eliminate one’s civilian status. Via maneuvers like these, however, the American public is spared the moral complications that might result were the U.S. media to humanize victims of U.S. violence in the Arab/Muslim world.Why Thomas Friedman is Always Wrong | P U L S E
What [Thomas] Friedman is selling are balms for the exercise of imperialist power. One can never quite tell whether or not it is cant. Probably it is. An older Friedman used to regularly “report instances of murder and persecution.” He knows but does not care. He does not care because not caring is what sells.The Foibles of Thomas Friedman
[…] Friedman’s statements seem like a psychopath’s blueprints for a social engineering project in the Middle East. This is perfect: it has been exactly that for over a half century, as the region has been fitfully organized around American constriction of oil supplies, petrodollar flows, and arms sales […].
But there are certain places where one has to be a little more circumspect about the real reasons for imperial meddling. For those whose job it is to either imbibe or reproduce the imperial culture (that is, Friedman’s audience), policy has to be either coated with a veneer of disinterested righteousness or translated into an agreeable and consensual imperial ideology.
The common thread running through that ideology is that something must be done about the dusky people living atop the petroleum. It is that aptitude for offering endless justifications for imperial intervention and aggression that makes Friedman so eagerly feted. To call him stupid, which many do (Fernández herself does not), misses the point. His job is not to be smart. His job is to explain imperial policy to people who do not want to think about it too much, and at that task his life has been exemplary.
In Sunday’s column Mr. Friedman inadvertently warns us about the potential economic risks this country suffers from being run by incompetent CEOs. Friedman recounted a conversation he had with Chicago’s new mayor, and former Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanual. Emanual reportedly told him:
“I had two young C.E.O.’s in the health care software business in the other day, sitting at this table. I asked them: ‘What can I do to help you?’ They said, ‘We have 50 job openings today, and we can’t find people.’ ”
Friedman then goes on to add:
“Doug Oberhelman, the C.E.O. of Caterpillar, which is based in Illinois, was quoted in Crain’s Chicago Business on Sept. 13 as saying: ‘We cannot find qualified hourly production people, and, for that matter, many technical, engineering service technicians, and even welders, and it is hurting our manufacturing base in the United States. The education system in the United States basically has failed them, and we have to retrain every person we hire.’”
While Friedman favorably quotes Emanual describing this as, “staring right into the whites of the eyes of the skills shortage,” the most obvious shortage of skills in this story is with the CEOs. Competent CEOs know that in a market economy you attract good workers by offering higher wages.
This is known as the principle of “supply and demand.” If the demand exceeds the supply, then the price of the item in question is supposed to rise. In this case the item in question is labor. If these companies were run by competent CEOs then they would be offering higher wages in order to attract the workers that they say they need. If they offered high enough wages people would leave competitors to work for their companies. They would also move from other parts of the country or even other countries to accept their job offers. In the long-run more people would train to get the skills needed to fill the positions these employers are offering.
However, there are no major occupational categories that show large wage gains at present. This means that if employers really are having trouble attracting good workers then it must be due to the fact that they don’t understand the basics of a market economy. Unfortunately nothing in Friedman’s column indicates that Emanual or anyone else is educating CEOs on how they can raise wages in order to attract the workers they need.