Thomas Friedman Lecture
March 10, 2003 11:54 AM   Subscribe

The lecture Thomas Friedman gave at SAIS a few days ago. A longer form, very interesting and informative explanation of what he's learned post-Sept. 11th about the Middle East. Windows Media video and Real video and audio all available.
posted by turbodog (10 comments total)
Yes, of course, he addresses Iraq eventually (giving his best case and worst case for going into Iraq). But even without the Iraq content, it was (for me at least) highly educational and thought provoking. YMMV.
posted by turbodog at 12:01 PM on March 10, 2003

A transcript of it would be appreciated.
posted by elpapacito at 1:45 PM on March 10, 2003

Yes a transcript would be nice. AFAIK, none is available from SAIS or C-Span, where I first saw the lecture.
posted by turbodog at 2:35 PM on March 10, 2003

That was excellent! I'm really glad I watched the whole thing... I can spew out a partial transcript if you really want, I'll listen to it again and try to get the best parts. Gimme an hour or two.
posted by beth at 5:55 PM on March 10, 2003

Okay, read here for a synopsis. It's the best I could come up with in an hour.
posted by beth at 7:17 PM on March 10, 2003

Thanks for the synopsis, beth. Friedman says, "We need to create a context where people with authentic Arab and Muslim progressive ideas can succeed and flourish." That begs two questions: 1) What is this context supposed to look like? and 2) How are we to influence the creation of such a context? Thought provoking, indeed.
posted by samuelad at 9:26 PM on March 10, 2003

beth: thanks so much for synopsis!

samuelad: IIRC, the context he wanted was (1) freedom for women, (2) democratic elections and (3) economic freedom (?). His positive context example was India.

As to how to influence creation of context, that's the big question. In Iraq's case he hopes its a "Germany" rather a "Yugoslavia".

Another interesting notion is that Iran is currently undergoing a democratic counter-revolution, born of 20 years under the ayatollahs. What Friedman wonders if there is a way for Arab countries to transition to this new context without that 20 year dark period.
posted by turbodog at 10:02 PM on March 10, 2003

Friedman's solutions (1) freedom for women, (2) democratic elections and (3) economic freedom (?). do sound very like "The Western Agenda".

For many Muslims, the West and it's agenda are not that attractive. There's a parallel between the condition of the West and the Quraish (Mohammeds Meccan opponents who had developed a religion of individualism and money). Islam presents itself as the solution for that condition.

David Warren makes similar points to Freidman in a fine (but long) essay. He makes a further interesting point, that Islamic rage may be a sign of precisely the loss of faith - God, prove you are still there! - that presages the needed Enlightenment.
posted by grahamwell at 3:17 AM on March 11, 2003

Yes, you *could* frame it that way, but he explictly says you can't impose democracy from the outside (ie the West). That's part of why he brought up India, not perfect by any stretch, but basically a non-Western proof of concept.

Also, he noted that Judaism and Christianity both adapted to modernity (God 1.0.1 and God 2.0.1 in his terms), while Islam is still at God 3.0, stuck in the 8th century.
posted by turbodog at 10:12 AM on March 11, 2003

India is a non-western proof of a western concept. If democracy had originated in India I would agree with you, but as you know it was imposed by the British. My point was that although, to the west, the Islamic world looks hopelessly stuck in ignorance, from an Islamic point of view the west is in exactly the same condition.

You say Christianity has adapted to modernity - I suppose in 1992 they removed Copernicus from the Index so there is some progress. Collapsing Church attendances, the ongoing conflict with Science and the irrelevance of the Church to most moderns makes me doubt this.

I can't agree with Friedmans main point, that there is a 'right way' of running all societies in the world (with the implication that it's OK to impose this by force if necessary). Islam may have something to teach us. In any case I believe we will be collectively richer if we allow different traditions to flourish.
posted by grahamwell at 7:28 AM on March 12, 2003

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