Tom Friedman on Taiwanese youth

I know some posters here like Tom Friedman’s oped columns and others dislike him, and he’s sometimes good, sometimes off key. Today in the Taiwan News, however, he wrote some really weird stuff. He was talking about Iraq and Muslims and all that, but then he said this:

In talking about anti-Americanism in Europe and among Moslems, Friedman wrote:

“I am sure that young Taiwanese, young South Koreans, young Japanese, young Poles and young Indians have their own views on America, but they are not an obession [like they are among Muslims, he says]. They want our jobs, not our lives. They live in societies that empower their young people to realize their full potential and express any opinion, pro-American, anti-American or neutral…”

…“I want [young Muslims] to have the same luxury to ignore America as young Taiwanese have – because they are too busy focusing on improving their own lives and governance, running for office, studying anything they want or find good jobs in their own countries…”

What ever is he going on about? Comparing Taiwanese youth to Moslem youth?

Nice post, lane119.

I read that article in the paper too. As you mentioned, Friedman can run hot or cold. I’m sure there are some who conistently like him, or consistently dislike him – but I’ve found myself agreeing with some of this articles/points and disagreeing with others.

I thought this article that you are talking about was pretty good. My interpretation (and who knows, I may or may not be correctly understanding his point) was that it would be nice the Muslim world can get to a point where the fundamental questions the young people ask themselves are not “Why do I have no job? Why have my schools not taught me about science, and engineering and foreign cultures? Why do I live in poverty while the royal family spends $100 million on 2 vacations? Why am I beaten for failing to cover my arms or listening to western pop music when the rulers of my country spend millions drinking at escort clubs and bars in Paris? Why do they allow my little sister to burn to death in her school rather than bringing her out of the blaze without proper Muslim attire?”

Asking these questions leads to (understandable) feelings of unfairness and hatred – hatred directed either at their own rulers, or at the scapegoats the rulers give them (Israel and the US) – or both. And of course this hatred and misery often leads to terrible violence.

I think Friedman is saying that it will be nice if the biggest source of jealousy among the were “Who got into Bei Yi Nu/TaiDa/the great Citibank job?” or if the biggest worries on their minds were which KTV to go to on the weekend, or which celebrity is getting married, or which hot springs to go to.

We, of all different political stripes on these boards may have very different ideas about how best to help the Muslim world get to this point (or indeed whether our countries should be helping at all). I’m sure some of us also question whether the relatively materialistic aspirations I describe really represent the ideal world either. But surely most of us can agree that they are preferable to the poverty, intolerance and corrupt police states that dominate much of the Muslim world today.

Anyway that’s what I think he was trying to say. And if it is, then I agree with him.


It might be useful to step outside our echo chamber occasionally and ask some real Muslim youth what they’re thinking and why.

It’s risky but what’s the worst that could really happen?

I think a nice start would be to stop lumping them into “the Muslim world”. Not helping matters by making it a black and white “us and them” thing, and also because not all predominantly Muslim countries are quite that screwed up.

[quote=“spook”]It might be useful to step outside our echo chamber occasionally and ask some real Muslim youth what they’re thinking and why.

It’s risky but what’s the worst that could really happen?[/quote]

Beat up. Kidnapped. Beheaded.


You might be surprised. They don’t all bite, you know.

The muslims I met in Indonesia last year were suprisingly warm and well composed.

A few years back I found myself walking across the African veldt about a hundred yards or so from the rest camp we had set. As I strolled through the knee-high grass, my eye caught a quick motion to my right and I wheeled to face it. My pulse raced, it was a lioness, up from a stalking crouch and now in the first mighty bounds following that first leap. Only seconds away from my first encounter with a lioness, two thoughts flashed through my mind.

First, I imagined un-slinging my rifle and dropping to one knee, as it fell to the ground, while I called out to the lioness,

He brought up Taiwanese youth straight after this…

I think Taiwan, South Korea and Japan were only brought in as examples of free countries, from a region other than Europe. He’d already made some comment about slagging the US being a hobby in Europe. I don’t think he was saying anything in particular about Taiwan, but more about what countries like Taiwan have, that the people in most Middle Eastern countries do not.

Friedman also writes,

I couldn’t agree more. The question is whether any of the regimes that Western governments and companies help prop up in the Middle East (and other places) will ever allow these people to have more control? I think not.

I think Friedman was just looking for another group of insignificant immigrant group that does not take to blowing up the USA, even though, the USA has contradictory foreign policy with them.

But he missed a fundamental point. PRC and USA allows ROC citizens conduct business freely, thus satisfying the material desire. Whereas this “Muslim” world doesn’t have this luxury.

So literary wise I understand his point. However, in a more researched environment I would have to disagree with him on this point.

The ones I lived and worked with in Batam, Indonesia were fine too…until 911. Having 40 people come to my office and threaten to kill me because they “love Osama” is not my idea of friendly. Later when I lived in Klaten (Central Java) my house was only about 75 meters from the Muslim Defenders office. And “No”, they weren’t friendly at all.

This “Muslim youths” bothers me. I think that he would be surprised at how pro-American your average Iranian is. The Iranians are the most pro-Americans of all the Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East. Ditto for those in the Gulf bar Saudis. Ironically, the highest rates of anti-Americanism can be found in our staunch allies, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Turks. You will find far lower rates of anti-Americanism in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Yemen. Then, surprisingly among the people, the Syrians, Libyans also tend to be very pro-American. Go figure.