25 Jul 2012

Syria is Iraq and something about a midwife. By Thomas Friedman.

A slightly different version of this article first appeared in the New York Times earlier.

Kristof with a moustache, not Friedman

Lord knows I am rooting for the opposition forces in Syria because I want you to think of me as a freedom-loving type of guy. But we both know that they won’t prevail, primarily because that means all my arguments of the past thirty years would be proven wrong. Also, because Syria is Iraq. Think of this: if you take out the Q and add an S and a Y, and rearrange the R, I and A, you will see that Syria is indeed Iraq. Also, they are both generic and interchangeable Middle Eastern countries. And this will save me having to do any research about Syria. They were both ruled by men with moustaches. Like me, but let’s not dwell on that.

Now even though I was proven completely wrong about Iraq, that won’t prevent me from making the exact same argument about Syria. But you won’t agree with me just because things didn’t work out last time. I also would like to introduce an irrelevant analogy at this point. As we know, democracy needs a midwife. And like we all know, a midwife has to be armed to the teeth and has to have a black belt in martial arts. Otherwise, this analogy would sound totally absurd.

In this paragraph, I am going to pretend I’m arguing against military intervention in Syria, just to make you feel guilty. But in reality, there’s nothing that I would love more than for the US military to invade Syria and bring democracy with it. But only after people get tired of killing each and they run out of suicide bomb wires. Like Iraq.

But why? In the Middle East, the alternative to bad is not always good. It can be worse. It can also be ugly. Like, the good, the bad and the ugly. They just don’t have the clarity of our western dualisms. Pesky natives. At this point, I will mention something called the ‘Hama Rules’ to suggest that I am knowledgeable about the history of Syria. But in fact, all I know about Syria I garnered from one drinking session with Robert Fisk and a fox. But that’s another story.

Let’s come back to Iraq. What the US did there was replace a minority Sunni-led dictatorship with a majority Shiite-led dictatorship. Don’t worry about the Kurds, they will just cloud my over-simplistic generalizations. The point is, we left Iraq in a complete mess. But that’s ok, because we got out of there and we can just pretend that it’s up to the Iraqis now.

Now I would like to bring back the inappropriate midwife analogy because I sense you’re seeing the logical loopholes in my argument. So this might distract you. Like you’re definitely wondering what the hell does a midwife has to do with this? And that’s what I’m wondering too, but I’m too far into this analogy to abandon it now. So assuming our well-armed, midwife, I picture her dressed in a nurse’s uniform but that’s not a must, assuming she doesn’t enter the fray, then the rebels in Syria will have to do it for themselves. And the US will just have to say, ‘you know what Abdullah or Mohamed or whatever your name is, we’re tired of being your midwife’.   

Anyway, I’m running out of time, I have a moustache-waxing appointment. So let me conclude by the inevitable mention of Mandela. And the midwife. And a bizarre statistic that I pulled out of thin air. Let’s say 20% of Syrians who are pro-Assad. And some platitudes. And I will end with a sentence that makes me sound both humble and cautiously optimistic.


  1. this is priceless. I read this article first then went to the original. Kristof is hilarious and completely right.

  2. Fucking hilarious.

  3. funny! and perspective about Freidman. We featured your post in today's blog roundup: http://www.albawaba.com/blog_roundup/iftar-ramadan-funny-song-435602

  4. Very funny!
    If you have trouble understanding the humor of this perhaps you could read this article:
    it explains very clearly and briefly the US agenda in Syria.

  5. I discovered your web site via Google while looking for a related subject, lucky for me your web site came up, its a great website. I have bookmarked it in my Google bookmarks. You really are a phenomenal person with a brilliant mind!

  6. very funny, but true that is the writing Thomas the Intellect.

  7. OK you guys have fun & laugh your asses off while people in Syria are being shelled, executed, and slaughtered everyday.

  8. also, a hilarious read Karl!

  9. Good stuff again. chuckled a lot reading this. I completely disagree with Friedman and think he talks nonsense, but i chuckled just as much at the Fisk one and i mostly agree with Fisk and admire him, which shows your caricatures are hitting the mark and not just appealing to people who dislike the writer's views.

  10. honestly, i think that in case friedman did not write banalities and non sequitur such as the midwife story, he would not be published and would not win prizes. He's a yes man, such as all journalists in the Murdoch era. Propaganda is poured on people everyday from NYT, WP, etc. I suggest reading flat earth news, on the media industry. great mocking article, kudos!

  11. Good stuff, but Sarah Carr was first

  12. Yes, of course, the Americans are great midwives. I wouldn't want to be born again without a midwife who had studied at Yale [like Prez George Bush II] or Harvard [like Obama].

    At the same time, I endorse your praise of Tom Friedman's intellect, insight and foresight. It's a shame that you didn't show Tom's photo instead of Kristof's. Tom has a strong chin and in the photo that I'm thinking of his hands are folded under his chin and they support. He is looking into the future. His gaze is steady, his hands firm and strong. He has a manly grip on news from the future. How can anyone doubt his foresightful capacity?

  13. Here are two not so very adoring items about Tom --have they no shame?-- from Inside Higher Ed.



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