Tom Friedman’s Geography Disability
Tom Friedman has been getting better on the Middle East lately, though he still has a long way to go before he can be taken seriously, at least in terms of his analytical acuity as opposed to his unfortunate influence. For example, consider today’s column on Obama and Chuck Hagel: not bad at all (though certainly not up to Steve Walt on the same topic, at http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/), with the rather large exception of his remarkable contention that Israel “is surrounded by more implacable enemies than ever.”
Well, let’s see about that. To the west of Israel is Egypt–ok, probably not as “friendly” to Israel as in the Mubarak days, but with no indication that the new regime intends to abandon its peace treaty with Israel. To the north is Lebanon, too weak to threaten anyone but itself and with no intention–that includes Hezbollah–of embarking on an unprovoked attack (maybe not even a provoked one) against Israel. To the northeast lies Syria, which under the Assads, father and son, has not only rigorously prevented any attacks on Israel from its soil but has been willing to sign a peace treaty with it, if only Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights.
To the east is Jordan, if anything a de facto ally of Israel. Finally, close by lies Saudi Arabia–the same Saudi Arabia that for thirty years has been the leader of the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel not only a peace treaty but full normalization of diplomatic and economic relations, provided that Israel ends its occupation and agrees to a two-state settlement with the Palestinians.
Who’s left? Well, Iraq is over 500 miles away, possibly a threat to Israel under Saddam Hussein, at least in theory, but obviously not today. Ok, Iran, the single implacable enemy of Israel, but at 1000 miles away, hardly “surrounding” Israel, and in any case lacking all capability or any apparent intention of attacking Israel–as opposed to the other way around.
Perhaps Friedman was sick during the week when they taught world geography in the third grade. Even so, that hardly explains why the Times would allow such mind-boggling absurdity to be published.
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