Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Fallout from Krugman's article:

It appears that my comments regarding Mahathir and Krugman's article earlier today were on par with the pundits. As evidenced by the four letters to be printed in tomorrow's Times, as well as other blogs, and the "Best of the Web" [more on that later], it seems pretty clear that Krugman must have been on whatever drugs Rush was on for the past few years when he wrote today's piece. There was no logic in it; he merely attempted to justify the comments of an anti-semite and went on to blame the comments and the underlying sentiments on the Bush administration. Krugman can write about economics and other policies the public may know little about without being questioned or critiqued. But when discussing the age-old problem of anti-semitism, is he naive enough to believe that people will agree that it, in its contemporary form, is the fault of the current adminstration? Apparently he is. But we're not, as evidenced by the loud outpouring of criticism.

Here's a sample, from today's "Best of the Web":

Can former Enron adviser [there is an obvious anti-Times, anti-Krugman bias here, but please look past it for the bigger picture] Paul Krugman get any nuttier? We'd have said no, but then we read today's column. Krugman weighs in on last week's anti-Jewish tirade by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, and the results boggle the mind.

Krugman begins by characterizing Mahathir's comments as "inexcusable," but then goes on to make excuses for them. "Mr. Mahathir is a cagey politician, who is neither ignorant nor foolish," Krugman explains. The anti-Semitism is "rhetorical red meat" for the rabble, "part of a delicate balancing act aimed at domestic politics." And anyway, it wasn't even the central theme of Mahathir's speech:

<< Most of it is criticism directed at other Muslims, clerics in particular. Mr. Mahathir castigates "interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology." Thanks to these interpreters, "the study of science, medicine, etc. was discouraged. Intellectually the Muslims began to regress." A lot of the speech sounds as if it had been written by Bernard Lewis, author of "What Went Wrong," the best-selling book about the Islamic decline. >>

If Krugman is right, this is terrific news. The leader of a Muslim country is confronting his fellow Muslim rulers with hard truths, in the manner of Bernard Lewis, no less. But in the twisted mind of Paul Krugman, this is evidence of "how badly things are going for U.S. foreign policy." And of course it's all President Bush's fault:

<< Not long ago Washington was talking about Malaysia as an important partner in the war on terror. Now Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech mainly about Muslim reform. That tells you, more accurately than any poll, just how strong the rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia has become. Thanks to its war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon, Washington has squandered post-9/11 sympathy and brought relations with the Muslim world to a new low. >>

So, to summarize Krugman's argument: Normally, when a "cagey" Muslim ruler "castigates" theocratic elements of his society, he feels no need to "protect his domestic flank." If only Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq and America opposed Israel's efforts to protect its citizens from terrorism, there would be no anti-Semitism in the Islamic world.

Some letters to the Times editor in response to Krugman's article, and the front page article [posted below]:

<< It is not fair to rationalize the hateful remarks by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia by linking them to the American invasion of Iraq and our support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel.

Mr. Mahathir's comments are anti-Semitic and bigoted and can't be rationalized. >>
Simple and to the point, exactly what I would have written.

<< Much as I would like to believe, as Paul Krugman suggests ("Listening to Mahathir," column, Oct. 21), that Mahathir Mohamad's anti-Semitic speech was merely a result of President Bush's foreign policy, I believe that the blame lies elsewhere.

The standing ovation the Malaysian prime minister received and the subsequent defense of his remarks by almost all the participants at the meeting of Muslim leaders suggests that rather than feeding his Muslim public "rhetorical red meat," the Malaysian leader was simply restating anti-Semitic beliefs that are unfortunately popular throughout the Muslim world, even in so-called moderate states like Malaysia. >>

And finally:
<< As a Jew and a Republican, I felt doubly insulted when Paul Krugman connected Muslim anti-Semitism with the Bush administration's war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon (column, Oct. 21).

Muslim anti-Semitism has been a growing problem for decades. Its roots lie in the cultures of various areas, not in American policy.

Instead of justifying anti-Semitism or blaming others for it, we should directly oppose the anti-Semites, as President Bush did when he criticized the comments of Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian prime minister. >>

Time to get back to studying...wish me luck!


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