War, what is it good for? Depends on who you ask. Civil war, on the other hand, has a conspicuous promoter in one Thomas Friedman. On Wednesday, The New York Times foreign affairs columnist loosed a torrent of bipartisan condemnation, by offering an unconventional solution to global Islamic extremism:
We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things -- namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.
Islam needs the same civil war.
Friedman's detractors exploded:
- Seriously? Spencer Ackerman writes: "Yes, what problem can't be solved by the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, egged on from the sidelines by a newspaper columnist?"
- Irresponsible, writes Greg Marx at Columbia Journalism Review: "Friedman is obviously not literally calling for an armed conflict that would wipe out 2 percent of the Muslim world. Still, holding the American Civil War up as a model for what 'Islam needs' suggests too much comfort with the clarifying potential of violent conflict (especially conflict that he wouldn't be a part of). Nobody 'needs' a civil war."
- Immensely Flawed Thinking, writes Daniel Larison at The American Conservative: "There are many, many problems with urging on a 'civil war' among Muslims. I don't expect Friedman to be careful in his choice of words, but his use of the phrase 'civil war' shows how confused he is. A civil war is fought between citizens of the same polity for control of its government. By speaking of a "civil war" within Islam, he unwittingly writes as if he accepts a global Islamic polity as a reality and something over which Muslims of various stripes can fight one another to control. Obviously, such a polity does not and never will exist."
- Why Do You Think Muslims Aren't Rising Up? asks Saad Khan at The Huffington Post: "While he has truly described the incompetence and inaction of the Muslims in combating extremism, his premise fall shorts on some core problems of the Islamic World. He has diagnosed the problem but has failed to mention an important aspect of this region. And that is freedom of speech. There is practically no Islamic country where people are allowed to open their minds and hearts in public."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.