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Friedman explains context of Arab spring
Thursday, May 5th, 2011 By Kabir Sawhney NYT columnist Thomas Friedman presented a lecture titled "Democracy and Energy: the View from Tahrir Square" in a packed Dinkelspiel Auditorium. Friedman broached a hodgepodge of topics, including the Egyptian uprising and the struggle for Palestinian statehood. (DAN SCHWARTZ/The Stanford Daily)
In a Wednesday evening discussion at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, New York Times columnist and Middle East expert Thomas Friedman explored the causes and implications of the popular uprisings in the Arab world. The talk, titled “Democracy and Energy: the View from Tahrir Square,” was sponsored by Students for a Sustainable Stanford, the ASSU Speakers’ Bureau, Stanford in Government and Hillel.
Friedman opened his talk by explaining the context of the Middle East’s recent history, especially the fact that nearly all of the region’s governments are autocratic.
“For the last 50 years, we in the West…basically treated and looked upon the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations,” he said. “Our basic message to them all was, ‘Guys — and they were only guys — here’s the deal. Keep your pumps open, your prices low, don’t bother the Israelis too much and you can do whatever you want out back.’”
He went on to describe how the al Qaeda terrorism network and its now deceased leader, Osama bin Laden, were a product of what was going on “out back.” He added that there were three large “human deficits” in the Arab world: freedom, women’s empowerment and education.
“[Arabs] know their own human potential and it was not being in any way developed,” Friedman said. “If I got to write the ‘bill of particulars’ for all these Arab regimes, they would be guilty of the worst crime I can think of: the soft bigotry of low expectations about their own people.”
Ted Rudow III · San Jose State University
Remove troops from danger.
Dear Editor: Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in a stunning decision that honored the first-year U.S. president more for promise than achievement and drew both praise and skepticism around the world. But critics called the Nobel committee's decision premature, given that Obama has achieved few tangible gains as he still grapples with challenges ranging from the war in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea and now the war on Libya.
The raid has further strained ties between the U.S. and Pakistan. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are calling for a review of billions in aid to Pakistan in light of the revelation that bin Laden was living inside a heavily fortified compound in a wealthy Pakistani suburb. Former Pakistani president Pervez... Musharraf criticized the U.S. for attacking the compound without Pakistan's knowledge, calling it a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.
"It's very important to use this defining moment, I think, to rally the American people and to remind the American people that we are spending trillions of dollars, billions every week, on this open-ended longest war in American history and that we have economic priorities, economic recovery, job creation priorities here in our own country that this money can be used for," U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said.
We've got to remove our young men and women from harm's way, and we've got to really make sure that our presence in countries throughout the world do not create more danger and more anger toward the United States, which, you know, diminishes our national security.
Ted Rudow III, MA.