A slightly different version of this article first appeared in the New York Times earlier.
|Kristof with a moustache, not Friedman|
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.