Review: Longitudes and Attitudes–Exploring the World After September 11

5 Star, Atlases & State of the World

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Net Assessment” of 9-11, Arabs, & Prospects for Peace,

December 1, 2002
Thomas L. Friedman
Although the entire book is rife with gems of insight, it is page 300 that richly rewards the reader who accepts some of the inevitable repetition between the columns and the diary to complete the book: “The Israeli army terrorism experts confided…(that) you can have the best intelligence network in the world, but there is no way that Israelis will ever be able to penetrate Palestinian society better than Palestinians. .. Only the host society can penetrate itself enough to effectively restrain or delegitimize its own suicide bombers. Outsiders can’t.”In one paragraph, this thrice-winning Pulitzer Prize winner has marked the third major failure in the Administration’s strategy against global terrorism (the first was the failure to cordon off Tora Bora in Afghanistan with reliable U.S. troops, because the U.S. Army can’t do mountains; the second was to declare war on Iraq against the President’s best instincts but yielding to the Vice President’s obsession, if Bob Woodward’s account in “Bush at War” is correct). Although the U.S. is spending upwards toward $200M to destabilize Iraq, and perhaps another $100M in global bribery of local liaison services (themselves penetrated by terrorists, or supporting terrorism), we have failed to establish the kind of deep credible relations that lead to sustained and effective counter-terrorism by the host countries. Pakistan is an excellent case in point–it consistently gives lip service to US demands, and fails to bring home the Al Qaeda leaders passing in and out of Pakistan at will.

Across many columns, the author hits again and again at the basics: “we have been allowing a double game to go on with our Middle East allies for years, and that has to stop.” Either they cease supporting terrorists in return for a dubious poverty-ridden peace at home, or they join the target list; we must invest heavily in both a Marshall Plan and a Voice of America *in Arabic* that consistently and constantly counters all of the lies about America and against America that the Arab regimes permit as part of their strategy for peace at home; lastly, more subtly, we must get serious about standing up for our values and not allowing rogue governments to abuse our friendship and tolerance while fostering hatred of America among their repressed, using America as the opiate of the down-trodden. The author seems to agree with Ralph Peters, author of “Beyond Terror” and “Fighting for the Future” in focusing on the importance of the Muslim outlands from Pakistan and India down through Malaysia and Indonesia, and he is especially strong at documenting the severe misunderstandings and misimpressions of America that persist across the Muslim world but especially in Arabia–otherwise serious people who really believe that bin Laden is good, 9-11 was justified, and everything will get better if America stops supporting Israel.

This particular book, down to earth and based on very direct observations, is a useful counter-balance to Bernard Lewis, “What Went Wrong.” Both distinguished authors agree that the Arab regimes are their own worst enemies and have brought their poverty on themselves–but where the historian seems to deem this sufficient to permit disengagement, the correspondent takes the other tack and calls for major generational-changing engagement, utilizing all the instruments of national power, from coercive diplomacy backed up by the very real threat of military intervention amongst our pupported allies, to massive economic, educational, and cultural assistance and outreach.

Toward the end of the book, quoting the deputy editor of New Isvestia in Moscow, the author hits the final nail on the head: “It is not East versus West anymore. It is the stable versus unstable worlds…”

China, Russia, Islam, water, disease, crime–terrorism, I conclude, is a very small part of the threat, and our greatest challenge right now is to devise a holistic national security strategy that does not lose sight of the forest for the one burning bush. Overall, the author has provided as fine a net assessment as any President could ask for.

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