Thursday, July 29, 2004

Must read

Barbara Enrenreich has been a guest columnist on the NYTimes Op-Ed page while Friedman is on a bookwriting leave; can I dare hope that she remains, even after his not-very-anticipated return? Today, she has this to say:

The Dems couldn't be more butch if they took to wearing codpieces. Every daily convention theme contains the words "strength" or "strong," and even Hillary has been relegated to the role of wife. The idea, according to the pundits, is that with more than half of the voters still favoring Bush as the guy to beat bin Laden, Kerry needs to show that he's macho enough to whup the terrorists. Of course, everyone knows that the macho approach is notably less effective than pixie dust - otherwise, we wouldn't be holding our political conventions under total lockdowns.

Well, I've been reading bin Ladin - Carmen, that is, not her brother-in-law Osama (she spells the last name with an "i") - and I'd like to present a brand-new approach to terrorism, one that turns out to be a lot more consistent with traditional Democratic values. First, let's stop calling the enemy "terrorism," which is like saying we're fighting "bombings." Terrorism is only a method; the enemy is an extremist Islamic insurgency whose appeal lies in its claim to represent the Muslim masses against a bullying superpower.

But as Carmen bin Ladin urgently reminds us in "Inside the Kingdom," one glaring moral flaw in this insurgency, quite apart from its methods, is that it aims to push one-half of those masses down to a status only slightly above that of domestic animals. While Osama was getting pumped up for jihad, Carmen was getting up her nerve to walk across the street in a residential neighborhood in Jeddah - fully veiled but unescorted by a male, something that is illegal for a woman in Saudi Arabia. Eventually she left the kingdom and got a divorce because she didn't want her daughters to grow up in a place where women are kept "locked in and breeding."

So here in one word is my new counterterrorism strategy for Kerry: feminism. Or, if that's too incendiary, try the phrase "human rights for women." I don't mean just a few opportunistic references to women, like those that accompanied the war on the Taliban and were quietly dropped by the Bush administration when that war was abandoned and Afghan women were locked back into their burkas. I'm talking about a sustained and serious effort.

Remind me again why Saudi Arabia is our 'friend'? Oh yeah - oil reserves. Several weeks ago I was listening to CSpan radio in my car and caught the end of a talk by a guy (didn't get his name) who claims that the Saudi oil fields are actually only good for another 10-15 years, all oil-company estimates not withstanding. Can I be the first to say that I'm sort of looking forward to the crisis that follows, not only because it will force us to get serious about renewable resources, but because it will lessen the power of this anti-democratic regime?


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