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Friedman's Bubbles
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Matthew Yglesias points to the latest Tom Friedman editorial, mostly to point out Friedman's incoherence (and he does a decent job).

Here's the primary metaphor of Friedman's article:

Wars are always clarifying, and what this war clarified most was the degree to which there were actually three bubbles that burst at the beginning of the 21st century: a stock market bubble, a corporate ethics bubble and a terrorism bubble.

Friedman says that the terrorism bubble, like the other bubbles, built up during the 90's, and that we fed it. But he suggests that Gulf War II has burst that third "terrorism bubble".

Hmm. As I noted in Matt's comments, I think it's misguided to lump Iraq in as part of any kind of "terrorism bubble". Saddam had ties to terrorist organizations. There's no doubt about that. He openly supported Palestinian terrorist groups, not just vocally, but monetarily. But attempts to link Iraq to Al Qaeda have been flimsy so far, though according to some public opinion polls they seem to have worked. But I think it's wrong-headed to call Iraq a terrorist state. That seems to almost marginalize the danger that Iraq posed and to misclassify them.

Christopher Hitchens has been credited with coining the term "Islamofascist", though he denies it. At the very least he was instrumental in popularizing the term, but it doesn't quite fit with Saddam's former odious regime either. Saddam only used Islam as another weapon in his arsenal. His rule was secular, and he only trotted out faux piety as a form of popular manipulation.

It seems much more accurate to describe any such bubble that Friedman alludes to as the "Arab Fascism Bubble". And it's by no means popped.

In the past couple of years we've lanced two of the worst boils, the rules of the Taliban and of Saddam Hussein, because their infectious rule had far-reaching consequence in our own society. They are both scarred regions now, and whether or not healthy tissue grows in their place remains to be seen. But there are still plenty of boils in the region, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

Hopefully, the democratization of Iraq will be successful, though it will be a long and difficult road. And hopefully this will have an effect on other countries in the region. Time, coupled with our efforts and those of the Iraqis and Afghans, will tell.

But the biggest mistake of Friedman's article is the suggestion that an entire phenomenon has come to an end. Saddam's horrid regime has come to an end, but terrorism hasn't, and more importantly, Arab Fascism has not. There's still a huge amount of work to do, by us within the countries we've liberated, and internally by dissidents and reformers in the remaining totalitarian regimes.

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