The Far Enemy
Amazingly, I used to write primarily about foreign policy! So I thought I’d see if I mentioned Egypt at all in my book and said anything regrettable. This is what I came up with, talking about the idea of fighting terrorism by invading Iraq to promote democracy:
Point being that invading Iraq as a way to promote democracy in Egypt and Saudi Arabia is pretty ridiculous.
That said, the second-order argument being made here (by Tom Friedman) that there would be less anti-American Islamic terrorism if Middle Eastern regimes were more democratic seems quite sound. The al-Qaeda pitch is oriented around the weird idea that the best way to change the nature of Arab world is by first striking at the “far enemy”—i.e., the USA—that stands behind the “near enemy,” i.e. the Arab regimes. This doesn’t really make sense, which is part of the reason the vast majority of Arabs—up to and including violence-prone Islamist Arab nationalists like the gentlemen from Hamas—have’t jointed al-Qaeda. But examples of concrete political change in places like Egypt only further underscore the madness of the al-Qaeda approach. Trying to achieve this by invading Iraq and getting hundreds of thousands of people killed and displaced, rather than just using our financial leverage over Egypt to press for fair elections, was nuts. But here we are.