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Friedman on focusing on the real goal

NYT foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman was on MTP on Sunday in one of the best interviews I have seen with him in some time. Friedman, of course, has spent a lot of time covering the Middle East and if you have never read his first book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem" I would highly recommend it. It is not your typical Middle East book. It almost reads like a novel, but you will learn so much.

Anyway, why I blog about it here is that Friedman spoke about how many Arab countries get "their buzz" by simply taking on Israel as opposed to taking on Israel economically or in some other, more constructive way. I have included the exchange below. I know this is a stretch, but my thoughts went to how often we can lose focus as to what the real goal can be. Our goal at FCW, for example, is putting out a magazine and Web site each and every week that provides people with the information they need to help them do their jobs better. On the path to doing that, we have rules of the road -- deadlines, for example. But we could stay within those rules -- we could meet each and every deadline -- and still not reach the goal.

Anyway, I would recommend both Friedman's book... and his MTP segment on Sunday, which can be downloaded on the MTP site.

Here is the excerpt:

MR. RUSSERT: I remember 16 years ago reading "From Beirut to Jerusalem," still a road map for understanding that area, and you talked extensively about what goes on in the Arab mind, in the Arab heart. And I was reminded of it in your column on Friday you had in The New York Times. You were on a rooftop in Syria talking to young writers, and Tom Friedman wrote this, "There will be no new Middle East - not as long as the New Middle Easterners, like Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, get gunned down; not as long as Old Middle Easterners, like Nasrallah, use all their wits and resources to start a new Arab-Israeli war rather than build a new Arab university; and not as long as Arab media and intellectuals refuse to speak out clearly against those who encourage their youth to embrace martyrdom with religious zeal rather than meld modernity with Arab culture." Talk about that meeting on that rooftop.

MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, it was, it was a dinner with a group of Syrian writers arranged by some friends of mine. Say, you know, one woman was saying how she's just really—believes Israel should be, you know, eliminated, and another Arab journalist was saying how much pride—how much pride he gets by seeing Hezbollah fight the Israelis to a standstill and inflict these casualties. And a third, very interesting, was saying, "This Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, he's a disaster for us."

But there are too many people, Tim, outside of Lebanon, in the Arab world, getting their buzz, frankly, off seeing Hezbollah stand up to Israel while Lebanon gets decimated. Lebanon, the first Arab democracy. And I, I real—I have a real problem with that because it's time for the Arab world to stop getting their buzz, OK, off fighting Israel and to overcome their humiliation that way. It's time to start building something.

You know, you ever ask yourself, Tim, what's the second largest Muslim country in the world? It's India. It's not Pakistan or Iran. What do we see in India? Just a couple of weeks ago, 350 Indians killed in what is widely suspected an attack by Muslim extremists in Mumbai in a train station. But the Indian reaction was incredibly restrained. Why is that? You know, why don't Indian Muslims, you know, get their buzz this way? Could it be because the richest man in India is a Muslim software entrepreneur? Could it be because the president of India is a Muslim? Could it be because there's an Indian Muslim woman on the Indian Supreme Court? Could it be because the leading female movie star in India is a Muslim woman? You know, when people get their dignity from building things rather than confronting other people, it's amazing what politics flows from that. And I think that's something the Arab world also needs to be reflecting on now.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Aug 02, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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