Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thomas Friedman's Simple Boxes

There he goes again.  Thomas Friedman reconstructs global politics (for the umpteenth time) with simple boxes.  (OK OK, so he calls them categories.)  This time it's
The first category . . . countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea, whose leaders are focused on building their authority, dignity and influence through powerful states.
The second category, countries focused on building their dignity and influence through prosperous people, includes all the countries in Nafta, the European Union, and the Mercosur trade bloc in Latin America and Asean in Asia.
And of course, he must have an all-the-others third box, lumped as "disorder":
a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” . . . They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions like: Who are we? What are our boundaries? Who owns which olive tree? These countries include Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and other hot spots.
All of this, of course, as an entree for TF to briefly touch upon Ukraine's turmoil, and then conclude by noting that
we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them.
Indeed.  Well said.  Agreed.

But not a word from TF, of course, about how his cheerleading (remember "suck on this?") in 2002 and 2003 helped rip Iraq from box 1 to dump it into box 3.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Roger Cohen's Disappointing Essay on BDS

The NYT's Roger Cohen writes this morning that the BDS movement is simply not to be trusted, even if its goal of ending Israeli occupation in the West Bank is laudable.  The reason?  BDS supporters ultimately wish to see the enforcement of the Palestinians' right to return (in Cohen's words, the "so-called" right to return).  For that reason, Cohen comes perilously close to arguing that BDS supporters are anti-Semites.  Undoubtedly some are, but Cohen ought to know better than to come as close as he does to tarring the entire movement with that brush.  It's not fair, and it doesn't help.
Cohen goes on to say that the UN gave an "unambiguous mandate" to a Jewish state in 1947.  Well, perhaps, although anyone who's read deeply into the history knows how much arm-twisting by the US went into that vote.  But if Cohen is going to cite that vote as the ultimate legitimizer of the creation of a Jewish state, he can't be permitted to dismiss at the same time those provisions of international law that state that the ethnic cleansing that was inflicted on Palestinians from 1946 on was illegal and that forbidding expelled Palestinians from returning was likewise illegal.
As so many commentators have noted, the crux of the issues that continue to separate Israelis and Palestinians is not the events of 1967, but the events of 1947-1948.  For Cohen to dismiss the concerns and claims of those Palestinians who were victimized then, even in the interests of securing a Jewish refuge and homeland, is - again - not fair, and it doesn't help.


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