Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Middle East for Dummies

Once in a blue moon, I read columnist Rami Khouri in the Daily Star just to keep tabs on the dull and hackneyed writing common to the region. When Rami is not repeating some sickening cliché, he is usually busy giving advice to Arab leaders and to the President of the United States.

Today Rami wrote a human interest people-are-decent-everywhere kind of column.

In a US airport, Rami meets a young military man headed for service in the Middle East for the first time. The two happen to sit next to one another for a bite to eat.

After Rami tells us he went to college in the US during the Vietnam War (i.e. he’s been around and knows war), and after telling the young man he was in Lebanon during the war (i.e. he’s an expert on international affairs and war), he and the young man agree that war is often not the answer (brilliant conclusion based on Rami’s deep knowledge of the subject of war and warfare.)

Khouri then can’t resist taking a gratuitous swipe at America’s great achievements, he cites Chinese chicken dinner for $5.95. Now if he did not mean that as a swipe at US culture then he does not know what he is saying (or writing).

All that is innocuous enough (full piece here). The coup-de-grace for me was when the young reservist asks Rami what is it like “over there”, in the Middle East. Here’s Rami’s answer:

I told him it was just like America - a great land, full of wonderful, warm people, but often disfigured by the stupid decisions of sleazy politicians.

Take two seconds and read Rami’s answer again. Whew! Gosh the Mid-East is so much like America that I now forget why I left the hellhole in the first place.

I thought it impossible to be more condescending toward US troops than US Senator John F. (for Fop) Kerry, but by golly Ram-old-boy, you done it!

On the other hand, if this is Rami’s real view of the Middle East and its problems, a few bad politicians, he is an idiot and a stupid one at that.

Stupidity or condescension? Take your pick. My guess is that it is a lot of both.

Yep, the Middle East and the US exactly the same. "People-good/politicians-bad" says the prominent columnist of a prominent journal. Call it “Middle East for Dummies”, or rather “Middle East by Dummies.”


  • At 11/2/06, 5:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well your post would have more credibility if you actually bestowed us with some of your expertise. What is it like "over there"? Do those Ay-rabs have horns and tails?
    Maybe the point Rami was making was that humanity cuts across the board and the suggestion that people "over there" are somehow a different species is rather insulting.

  • At 11/2/06, 7:53 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    Don't put words in my mouth. I am not saying anything horns or tails.

    I am saying that describing the mess in the ME as the result of a few bad-apple politicians is disingenuous to say the least.

    BTW, I am just a common-sense guy who's very suspicious of the "experts".

  • At 11/2/06, 1:05 PM, Blogger Charles Malik said…

    Thanks for informing me that I'm not missing anything. I stopped reading the Daily Star a long time ago. Every so often some intelligent person references it, and I'm caught off guard. Then I realize that the person has no other sources for Lebanese news, and I redirect them.

  • At 11/2/06, 1:41 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    You're welcome Charles,

    BTW where are you these days and are you going back to Leb any time soon?

  • At 11/2/06, 4:01 PM, Blogger Ms Levantine said…

    Rami Khoury, our very own version of Thomas Friedman. The best thing about the DailyStar is that it allows you to buy the Herald Tribune for 2,000 LP.

    A couple of years ago I was at the Atlanta airport and there was a plane of soldiers headed for the Gulf. I was shocked by how young and green they looked. Just a bunch of kids plucked from the local mall.

    It seems that our whole "intelligentsia" was in the US the past month: W. Jumblatt, N. Moawad, Mosbah Al Ahdab, Antoine Zahra, May Chidiac, Michael Young, Chebli Mallat... Am I missing something?

  • At 11/2/06, 10:49 PM, Anonymous Vox said…

    I've stopped reading the DS as well. Funny post JW.

  • At 11/3/06, 8:34 AM, Anonymous George said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 11/3/06, 8:42 AM, Anonymous Abi Lama said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 11/4/06, 9:29 AM, Anonymous Hamid- Liban said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 11/5/06, 7:55 AM, Blogger Nobody said…

    Good people/bad politicians myth probably dates back to the stone age and I am not surprised that it's cultivated so insanely by the media and politicians themselves. There is nothing more than the so called good people like to hear as that they are innocent victims of bad politicians. Taking responsibilty is one of the few virtues that still elude the otherwise perfectly good ordinary people.

    Every time the good people go to cast their ballots, one is expecting that this time they will finally make a right choice and will elect politicians as good as themselves. But surprisingly it never happens and the good people invariably end up by being controled by the same bad and corrupt politicians, often re-elected for god knows what time. This temporary impairement of judgement that always happens to the good people on the day of elections is one of the greatest mysteries of the universe

  • At 11/12/06, 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love your sense of humour. Love it. brilliant.

  • At 11/12/06, 10:49 PM, Blogger Charles Malik said…

    Check my blog roll.

    I never really updated my blog roll. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I've read your blog for a long time, and very much respect your comments and opinions.

  • At 11/12/06, 11:10 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Anon, Charles,


  • At 11/14/06, 2:36 AM, Blogger :: Katrin said…


    some more flowers from me: I like what you're writing very much.

  • At 11/15/06, 8:33 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Danke Katrin

  • At 11/19/06, 5:39 PM, Blogger Blacksmith Jade said…

    Seems like you went to a lot of effort to bash this guy. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't think theres anything insightful about much of what he writes. But I would have to agree with the first comment on this post, why leave it as a Rami Khoury - bashing post and not add anything more insightful of your own?

    PS - Hehe, I remember the first comment you left on my blog was a Rami Khoury bash as I had referrenced one of his articles for a post ;)

  • At 11/20/06, 12:12 AM, Blogger Solomon2 said…

    We Americans do tend to get snowed rather easily. Thanx 4 snow-blowing us a bit.

  • At 11/20/06, 7:52 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    There are different kind of posts, and not all have to be bashing posts. However, IMO Rami-bashing is necessary BECAUSE he is not insightful.

    Our press people and intellectuals are the ones peddling lousy ideas (gobbled by the masses) from their perch.

    Without disrediting those guys and their crummy ideas don't expect anything good in the ME.


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