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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Letter From Syria": Like Forrest Gump

As noted in my earlier blog entry (, I love movies, and "Forrest Gump" is one of my favorites. Do you remember how Forrest, who writes a plethora of letters to Jenny, is shipped out to Vietnam and attempts to describe the hometowns of his platoon buddies?:

"Forrest Gump: [voice over] Now, I don't know much about anything, but I think some of America's best young men served in this war. There was Dallas from Phoenix. Cleveland, he was from Detroit.

Cleveland: Hey, Tex. Hey Tex. Man, what the hell's going on?

Forrest Gump: [voice over] And Tex was...well, I don't remember where Tex come from."

Well, as described in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Letter From Syria" (, pudgy Thomas Friedman has taken a rowboat from Turkey into Syria (no, of course he didn't sink the rowboat) to meet with some of the rebels. The conclusion of our would-be Middle East expert:

"Syria is the keystone of the Middle East. If and how it cracks apart could recast this entire region. The borders of Syria have been fixed ever since the British and French colonial powers carved up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. If Assad is toppled and you have state collapse here, Syria’s civil war could go regional and challenge all the old borders — as the Shiites of Lebanon seek to link up more with the Alawite/Shiites of Syria, the Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey try to link up with each other and create an independent Kurdistan, and the Sunnis of Iraq, Jordan and Syria draw closer to oppose the Shiites of Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain."

Not unlike Forrest Gump, Tom appears a bit confused. Several observations:

  • Alawites are not Shiites. The Alawite religion includes elements of Christianity, and they are considered heretics by both Sunnis and Shiites. If Assad falls, there will be no link up between Lebanon's Shiites and Syria's Alawite minority. Assad's ties with Iran and Hezbollah, Iran's Shiite surrogate in Lebanon, amount to a "marriage of convenience."

  • What would be so terrible if the some 30 million Middle East Kurds, long oppressed by Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, were finally to be given their own state? By the way, the Kurds are very favorably disposed to the US.

  • "Sunnis of Iraq, Jordan and Syria draw closer to oppose the Shiites of Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain"? Shiites comprise only some ten percent of the population of Saudi Arabia and suffer severe discrimination at the hands of Saudi's Sunni majority.

But keep the letters coming, Tom. Eventually, you might get something right.

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