I readily admit to not taking my daily dose of “New York Times” op-eds since these pages deteriorated to mostly superficial exceptionalism and exemptionalism on international affairs. Take for example this paragon of probity, Paul Krugman. Back in 2011 he was ringing the alarm on Europe’s descent back into the 1930’s due to stupid economic policy and political neglect for the rise of quasi-Fascist forces.
When real Naziism took over most of Ukraine, Krugman remained silent. When Russia decided to act against the unacceptable destabilization of its neighborhood, Dr. Krugman did not respond. Almost a year after the crisis started thanks to a US-incited coup in Kiev, Dr. Krugman invented the collapse of the Russian economy.
It is not a first for Dr. Krugman to state something extremely stupid and later reverse himself. He rarely apologizes, like when he made fun of Lester Thurow for pointing the dangers of the coming crisis of the middle class (a point he actually embraced later) but that’s ok. He is a professor and a NYT columnist. While we are mere mortals. Ah, he is also a Nobel Prize laureate. But this increasingly implies guilt by association.
Anyway, this piece is not about Paul Krugman at all. It is about his colleague Thomas Friedman’s recent expression of true feelings. And, since it is unhealthy to ruminate on NYT’s “journalism” for too long, I’ll defer to digby for an enlightening take.
Objectively pro ISIS
Tom Friedman just outdid himself. And that’s not easy:
O.K., so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb, but shouldn’t we at least bomb the Islamic State to smithereens and help destroy this head-chopping menace? Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?
In 2002, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad.
ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism — mixing old pro-Saddam Baathists with medieval Sunni religious fanatics with a collection of ideologues, misfits and adventure-seekers from around the Sunni Muslim world. Obviously, I abhor ISIS and don’t want to see it spread or take over Iraq. I simply raise this question rhetorically because no one else is: Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really?
He simply raises the question rhetorically, dontcha know. I mean, somebody’s got to ask it, amirite? Why aren’t we arming ISIS? (Well, we are actually, but only because they’ve managed to seize tons of weaponry we left in Iraq after foolishly invading the country to, as Friedman famously said, teach those silly middle easterners that we had to the power to shove a gun in their mouth and tell them to “suck on this.”)
This is the nonsensical point of view that Marco Rubio was throwing out there when he suggested to John Kerry that the administration was making a “bad deal” with Iran because of ISIS. Evidently, it’s simply impossible to walk and even breathe at the same time with these people. Asking them to chew gum at the same time would likely put them into a coma. Like Rubio, Friedman apparently is of the belief that we must take sides and that it probably makes sense to side with the medieval beheaders. (Kerry did patiently explain to Rubio that the nuclear arms deal exists separate and apart from any concerns about ISIS because they are trying to avoid a fucking nuclear war.)
I know it’s hard to believe, but maybe it would be better if we concentrate on not arming anyone in the region for a while — or blowing anything up, or “advising” anyone or putting boots on the ground or anything else. We don’t seem to accomplish anything by doing it except make things worse. In fact, the only intervention at this point that makes any sense at all is a negotiated deal to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We just don’t have a very good history of keeping straight in our heads who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are. (Mujahadeen anyone?) Maybe it’s best we keep a little distance this time.
Maybe some day it will occur to our Very Serious People that invading and/or “arming” people in complicated conflicts halfway across the world isn’t really our strong suit. Unfortunately, it’s just as likely the US is going to continue to believe the fatuous notion that the “exceptional” US is the one “indispensable” nation and therefore must always be right in the middle of everything. It’s always all about us. Perhaps we should consider that a sectarian fight between Shia and Suni Islam is just a tad above our pay grade.