Thomas Friedman–bin Laden gone, but what about bin Ladenism?

Yes, the bad guys have been dealt a blow across the Arab world in the last few months ”” not only Al Qaeda, but the whole rogues’ gallery of dictators, whose soft bigotry of low expectations for their people had kept the Arab world behind. The question now, though, is: Can the forces of decency get organized, elected and start building a different Arab future? That is the most important question. Everything else is noise.

To understand that challenge, we need to recall, again, where Bin Ladenism came from. It emerged from a devil’s bargain between oil-consuming countries and Arab dictators. We all ”” Europe, America, India, China ”” treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations, and all of us sent the same basic message to the petro-dictators: Keep the oil flowing, the prices low and don’t bother Israel too much and you can treat your people however you like, out back, where we won’t look. Bin Laden and his followers were a product of all the pathologies that were allowed to grow in the dark out back ”” crippling deficits of freedom, women’s empowerment and education across the Arab world.

These deficits nurtured a profound sense of humiliation among Arabs at how far behind they had fallen, a profound hunger to control their own futures and a pervasive sense of injustice in their daily lives.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Asia, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

3 comments on “Thomas Friedman–bin Laden gone, but what about bin Ladenism?

  1. evan miller says:

    Typical Friedman – it’s all our fault.

  2. Mark Baddeley says:

    On reading the article I was more thinking typical social progressive – the rise of Bin Laden’s take on Islam is because people were frustrated at not being sufficiently socially progressive – not enough freedom for women, education and the like. Does he even read and think about what he writes? How can frustrations at not enough women’s rights lead to a movement to restrict those rights further?

    What is simply amazing is how non-theological his analysis is. It is as though there is no such thing as Islam at all. Surely a key issue here is a debate internal to the Arab world as to what it means to be a Muslim. Political, foreign policy, economic factors are there too, but do you think religion might actually have some potency in these areas? Not from this analysis, that aspect features only at the end by inference – a choice between moderate Arabs with secular progressive aspirations and sectarian Arabs. Religion hasn’t been a factor in how the Arab world got here, but the bad guys from here on are all the religious ones.

    Could the guy simply impose his take on the U.S. cultural war any more on another part of the world? This is almost political analysis as allegory.

  3. MichaelA says:

    Its fair enough for Friedman to ask these questions. I don’t necessarily agree with all his assumptions and answers, but movements like Al Qaidi usually do get traction because of perceived injustice suffered by the general populace.

    Counter-insurgency experts recognise that a part of the response (as well as hunting down and killing or capturing the insurgents) is to identify true grievances and address them.

    And Friedman is right that the various uprising in Arab countries do appear to be a rejection of the assumptions on which Al Qaida was founded.