I know this question is becoming trite, but what the hell is Friedman talking about?
There will be a lot of trial and error in the months ahead. But this is a hugely important horizontal dialogue because if Iraqis can't forge a social contract, it would suggest that no other Arab country can - since virtually all of them are similar mixtures of tribes, ethnicities and religions. That would mean that they can be ruled only by iron-fisted kings or dictators, with all the negatives that flow from that.
Excuse me? First of all, George W. Bush has repeatedly stated that he disagrees with folks who think the brown people can't have democracies, and you are not going to question the single thing that unites us. But more to the point, if the Iraqi attempt at reform falls through, that'll mean nothing more than that they didn't succeed. Maybe the killing factor wasn't color, but American occupation and the divisions we caused. Maybe it was Saddam's legacy. Maybe it was corruption in Kurdistan. Maybe it was -- gasp! -- multicausal and not necessarily pregnant with meaning for future generations.
Stable, democratic states are weird things that no one's quite been able to blueprint. They don't always work where we think they will, they don't always fail when they should, and we're not quite sure how to move them from one column to the other. Suggesting that their success may be intrinsic to the ethnicities of the groups involved is absurd and, truly, the first time I've ever seen anyone erect the straw man Bush knocked down. Many of us mocked him when he said that, turns out we were wrong. It was a preemptive strike on Tom Friedman.
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