Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Friedman makes sense of ISIS

Thomas Friedman's 25 February 2015 opinion piece in the New York Times is brief but potently sensible. A lot of it focuses on what's wrong with the Arab nations in which ISIS and its ideological brethren have made inroads, but you can't discuss the region without mentioning the U.S. Friedman's analysis makes more sense than anybody else's I've read:
The U.S. keeps repeating the same mistake in the Middle East: overestimating the power of religious ideology and underappreciating the impact of misgovernance. Sarah Chayes, who long worked in Afghanistan and has written an important book — “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security” — about how government corruption helped turn Afghans away from us and from the pro-U.S. Afghan regime, argues that “nothing feeds extremism more than the in-your-face corruption and injustice” that some of America’s closest Middle East allies administer daily to their people.
The sickness of ISIS can only be combated successfully if the nations susceptible to its primitive ideology become healthy. They need good governments, and populaces who are willing to believe in the possibility of good governance. How will that happen? I don't know. Friedman doesn't know. Maybe nobody knows. But you can't get better until you understand why you're sick. Friedman has made a spot-on diagnosis. Our policy makers in Washington, D.C. would do well to heed it before they commit this nation to any further action against ISIS.

The quoted passage from Friedman's piece is deeply relevant to the U.S. itself, too. I'll tackle that in the next entry.

One last comment: Friedman mentioned that ISIS recently threatened to "conquer Rome", and that Italians tweeted out responses under the hashtag "#We_Are_Coming_O_Rome". I had to quote my favorite: "You’re too late, Italy is already been destroyed by their governments."

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