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Exploring the World After September 11
In fact, that’s why 9/11 happened in the first place.
About Thomas L. Friedman
Thomas Loren Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer winning American author, and one of the most respected journalists on subjects such as foreign affairs and modern Middle East politics. He has a weekly column in “The New York Times” and has authored seven critically acclaimed bestsellers: “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,” “Longitudes and Attitudes,” “The World is Flat,” “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” “That Used to Be Us,” and “Thank You for Being Late.”
“Longitudes and Attitudes Summary”
“Longitudes and Attitudes,” Thomas Friedman’s third book, is, in fact, a compilation of articles he had previously authored on topics related to 9/11, appended with a diary chronicling his personal experiences around the time.
The prevailing theme of the book is a fairly simple premise: 9/11 shouldn’t have happened. The rest is an elucidation of the premise.
And here’s the summary.
First of all, says Friedman, people should be aware of the fact that 9/11 wasn’t the first attack on the United States after the end of the Cold War. There were many before that, because, well, America is constantly in some kind of a war.
However, it got to 9/11 because the U.S. didn’t really retaliate for these previous attacks on its embassies, ships, or citizens in foreign countries. And because, it really ignored what was happening behind its back in some of the countries America had actually helped in the past.
We’re looking at you, you Middle Eastern quasi-democracies!
You see, the Middle East is a warring ground for centuries. And the fact that Israel, a Jewish country, was established in 1947 between many of the leaders of the Muslim world, didn’t help anyone. Specifically, not Israel’s greatest benefactor, the United States. You know the rest of the story: soon enough, America became Islam’s greatest – if not only – enemy.
However, that’s only one side of the story.
The other is neglected and forgotten by many. And it’s the more important one. Namely, the United States have defended Muslims in many parts around the world. It was on their side in Bosnia, defended Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, and even founded a new Muslim country in the middle of a Christian-dominated Balkan Peninsula: Kosovo.
Moreover, Bill Clinton has discussed with Yasser Arafat more than any other foreign leader and the U.S. gives Egypt $2 billion on a yearly basis. And even stood by Afghanistan’s side for over a decade!
So, why do most of the Muslims hate the United States so profoundly?
The simple answer: they are trained to do that.
You see: most of these Middle Eastern countries are led by dictators and monarchs who are fine with having an all-powerful foreign enemy. They can blame everything on him. And the people forget that they are living in poverty and think that the United States is to blame.
And this is especially true for Saudi Arabia where they treat even fundamentalists nicely – as long as they fit the “America Is the Nemesis” story arc.
Unsurprisingly, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. And almost all of them came from Asir, one of the poorest regions in Saudi Arabia.
Simply put: they didn’t know any better: they confused the real enemy (the Saudi monarchs) with the fictive one (the United States).
Unfortunately, the U.S. allowed this to happen because it didn’t react when it should have. After the 9/11 attacks, Friedman concludes, it has no choice but to be more careful.
Key Lessons from “Longitudes and Attitudes”
1. 9/11 Shouldn’t Have Happened
2. The Muslim World Has a Wrong Idea About the U.S.
3. Saudi Arabia Is the Problem: Israel Is Merely an Afterthought
9/11 Shouldn’t Have Happened
It’s easy to be a general after the war has ended, but it’s difficult not to point out the obvious. Namely, that the September 11 attacks could have been prevented if the United States wasn’t so soft.
Friedman demonstrates that America punished almost nobody for murdering Americans for more than two decades, starting with the suicide bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983. And that merely spurred them on.
The Muslim World Has a Wrong Idea About the U.S.
Many Muslims are raised to believe that the United States is the arch-enemy of Islam. The facts that the U.S. has stood by Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war, and has helped Muslim countries such as Kuwait, Bosnia, and Kosovo are totally and wrongly ignored.
Saudi Arabia Is the Problem: Israel Is Merely an Afterthought
Why? Because the governments in the Middle East countries really want that. They relish the opportunity of ruling autocratically while their people believe that it’s not their fault that they are poor and unhappy. In fact, Osama bin Laden said that the 9/11 attacks were provoked by a desire to drive America out of Saudi Arabia. Israel and Palestine weren’t even mentioned in the initial videos.
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“Longitudes and Attitudes” QuotesAn Arab street that can ask only one question will, in the end, not be a very nice place to raise your kids. Click To Tweet The terrorists who hit the United States are people who pray to the God of Hate. Click To Tweet They only had to destroy. We, by contrast, have to fight in a way that is effective without destroying the very open society we are trying to protect. Click To Tweet These terrorists aren’t out for a new kind of coexistence with us. They are out for our nonexistence. Click To Tweet America today is the Michael Jordan of geopolitics. Click To Tweet