Thursday, January 08, 2009

There are experts, and then there are experts

In the blogosphere, in the cyber-version of the alternative press, and occasionally on PBS we have people like Juan Cole, the highly articulate professor of history at the University of Michigan who is actually an expert in Shi'a Islam, speaks Arabic and Persian and Urdu talking about the situation in the Middle East and South Asia. For instance, in Neoconservatism dies in Gaza Salon 01/08/08, Cole starts out by writing:

The Gaza War of 2009 is a final and eloquent testimony to the complete failure of the neoconservative movement in United States foreign policy. For over a decade, the leading figures in this school of thought saw the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the institution of a parliamentary regime in Iraq as the magic solution to all the problems in the Middle East. They envisioned, in the wake of the fall of Baghdad, the moderation of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the overthrow of the Baath Party in Syria and the Khomeinist regime in Iran, the deepening of the alliance with Turkey, the marginalization of Saudi Arabia, a new era of cheap petroleum, and a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on terms favorable to Israel. After eight years in which they strode the globe like colossi, they have left behind a devastated moonscape reminiscent of some post-apocalyptic B movie. As their chief enabler prepares to exit the White House, the only nation they have strengthened is Iran; the only alliance they have deepened is that between Iran and two militant Islamist entities to Israel's north and south, Hezbollah and Hamas.
That's actually quite a bit of information into that one paragraph. Along with some sane analysis packed And that's just the beginning of the article.

In the lurching dinosaur we know as the Establishment press, we have star columnists like Tom "Suck.On.This." Friedman, who appears all over the place and is taken to be an authority on the Middle East, also. As well as the country's most influential columnist (not to be confused with The Dean Of All The Pundits, David Broder) and a general cheerleader for neoliberal (i.e., laissez faire) globalization. His New York Times column The Mideast's Ground Zero 01/06/08 can be briefly summarized as follows:

  • I haven't yet figured out that the Iraq War I cheered for made Iran the predominant power in the Middle East.
  • If Hamas no longer had any significant support or influence among the Palestinians, then it would be okay for Israel to negotiate with them.
  • Hamas in Gaza, Iran, Sunni suicide bombers in Iraq, and wimpy European are all kinda sorta connected.
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