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Friedman and the Double Price - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Many readers are provoked by the opinions of writer Thomas Friedman. I was not one of them until I read Friedman’s article entitled ‘Democracy’s Root: Diversity’.

Mr Friedman showed enthusiasm towards the Iraq war [at the beginning] because of the overthrow of a “dictator” and the spread of democracy. After that, he began to criticize the American project in Iraq and launched an attack on the American President George Bush. Today, he says let us test out diversity rather than democracy. From this, it is evident that the problem lies in impatience and a lack of knowledge on the nature of the region even if Mr Friedman has visited the area several times.

To know a region has nothing to do with the number of visits to that region; if that was the case, pilots would obviously be the most intelligent with respect to different countries and cultures.

If we want to take Iraq for an example, is it rational to overthrow a Sunni dictator of thirty years who quashed diversity and criminalized rationality and then form an alliance with pro-Iranian forces in the name of democracy only to then go back to the Sunnis and ally with tribes out of fear of Iran? Where are the transformation of societies and the development of the state? What about cultural and cognitive heritage and what about reality?

Lebanon, for example, is a diverse country to the extent of fragmentation. Is there any stability? Is there any democracy? What about Pakistan? Musharraf, who is clean-handed, has been cornered and he survived a number of assassination attempts at the hands of terrorists, created a middle-class, confronted extremists and has been criticized to a degree unlike any other person in the developing world not by the West but by his own people and country.

Today Musharraf is in the gallows. The West demands stability and democracy from him and want him to fight terrorism and [to establish] multiplicity; it wants all of these aspects without recognizing the nature of the country and the reasons behind such disorder.

Stability will bring diversity and diversity will bring democracy and that should happen in stages that take into account the structure of these states. It is not possible to practice the luxury of selection otherwise the situation would end up like that of Iraq or Afghanistan. There is not just one kind of democracy that is suitable for every state; Europe’s long-established democracies are different to the democracy of the United States and yet we have French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanting France to be like America!

Just as impatience will not build countries, nor will haste transform them. A tall building cannot be established in one year let alone building a state like Iraq, especially after the serious mistakes that have been committed.

The Indian experience that Mr Friedman refers to in his editorial did not happen after reading a book or article but rather after much sacrifice and patience. The transformation of societies comes with a heavy price tag and the problem today is that we pay a double price because of American simplification of our region’s issues and problems on the one hand, and because of the loss of our vision and of what we want and what we do not want as well as the lack of political rationality on the other hand. For as long as we have the likes of Hezbollah and its supporters, Hamas and those behind it and the Muslim Brotherhood, without doubt, we deserve to be transformed into a field for experimentation.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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