I realize this is not a statement anyone can make lightly, but: this morning’s column by Thomas Friedman, “Syria is Iraq,” is the single most incoherent thing he has ever written. It’s… well, breathtaking is the only word.
Others, like Glenn Greenwald, have already pointed out the column’s most obvious contradictions. But for those who missed it, here are two passages that were written, not as a joke, by the same human being in the same opinion column. Start with passage #1:
And, for me, the lesson of Iraq is quite simple: You can’t go from Saddam to Switzerland without getting stuck in Hobbes — a war of all against all — unless you have a well-armed external midwife, whom everyone on the ground both fears and trusts to manage the transition. In Iraq, that was America.
Got that? Here’s the second passage:
Because of both U.S. incompetence and the nature of Iraq, this U.S. intervention triggered a civil war in which all the parties in Iraq – Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds – tested the new balance of power, inflicting enormous casualties on each other and leading, tragically, to ethnic cleansing that rearranged the country into more homogeneous blocks of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
This pair of passages can be summed up in a Friedman-syllogism:
1. Syria will not become Switzerland unless it has the kind of help America gave to Iraq.
2. When America helped Iraq, it triggered a terrifying four-sided civil war that left the country reeling in blood-soaked, genocidal chaos and hopelessly partitioned along ethnic and religious lines – very much like Switzerland, where a diverse collection of ethnic groups speaking different languages live peacefully under democratic rule.
3. Therefore, when your wife needs help giving birth, she should hire a midwife who stands outside the door and carries an automatic weapon.
This column today is so crazy I have to think Friedman is kidding. The line about how everyone on the ground in Iraq trusts America is especially awesome. Of course! True, you can’t even open a Humvee door there to dump a pebble out of your shoe without getting your face shot off, but still, they trust us!
And yet the best thing of all is the rhetorical flourish at the end – a rare triple-figurative dismount, which he sticks with Nadia Comăneci-esque confidence:
Without an external midwife or a Syrian Mandela, the fires of conflict could burn for a long time.
God bless this man. There’s never been another like him!
Editor’s note: Thanks to Justin Elliott at TwitLonger, who notes that this is at least the ninth time that Friedman has written a column calling for an Arab Mandela — and at least the third time he has used the winning Arab-Mandela/midwife imagery combination.