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Friedman on Saddamism

From Thomas Friedman's latest column in the New York Times:

America was not just at war with Saddam, but with Saddamism: an entrenched Arab mind-set, born of years of colonialism and humiliation, that insists that upholding Arab dignity and nationalism by defying the West is more important than freedom, democracy and modernization.

Throughout this war, Saddamism was peddled by Al Jazeera television, Arab intellectuals and the Arab League. You cannot imagine how much distress there is among certain Arab elites that the people of Iraq preferred liberation by America to more defiance under Saddam.

It's a sad thing that so many Arabs would rather see their nations defy the West and remain unfree rather than embrace the West and achieve democracy and modernization.

The problem with Saddamism is that it doesn't work. It took the US-led coalition only three weeks to effectively win the war -- this speed surprising many, including me -- because our economies are not only ahead of those in the Arab world but continue to accelerate away. As long as Arab nations fail to democratize, fail to modernize, fail to take responsibility for their own problems instead of blaming their ills on the West, then Western nations will not only maintain but increase their economic and military superiority over them -- and buying jet fighters from the US or France is not a fix for this.

The attempt to uphold Arab honor by defying Western political and economic systems ensures not only more conflicts between the two worlds but more humiliating defeats for the Arabs. For their sake and ours, I hope the US helps the Iraqis build a stable, prosperous, and democratic nation that serves as an example to the rest of the Arab world.


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