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October 22, 2003


Jim Glass

Prof. K no doubt will continue to take a lot of (deserved) heat for being so understanding of anti-Semitism as long as it is used politically by a "forward looking" dictator.

But what jumped out at me from the column was that -- as PK tells it -- the thing to judge Dr. Mahathir by is not those mere 28 words in such a long speech but the *Bernard Lewis* lecture that the Dr. gave his fellow Muslims ... while the effect of recent US foreign policy is to be judged not by the *Bernard Lewis* lecture given to fellow Muslims, but those 28 words.

I'm trying to recall how many Bernard Lewis lectures were given by Muslim dictators during Ms. Albright's time on the job.

"Osama bin Laden must be enjoying this".

Enjoying having a Muslim dictator lecture his people and "castigate" (as PK said) the theocratic part of his society as per Bernard Lewis?

I didn't realize Osama was so forward looking.

A separate, and sympathetic, thought regarding PK. His first career was not as a writer and sometimes it shows. Perhaps it would help him avoid kerfuffles like this if the Times assigned him a helpful editor who could explain to him how words might unintentionally (one presumes) come across to readers.

"Paul, if you really want to illustrate the *good* side of a dictator who just indulged himself in a nasty bout of public anti-Semitism it might not be the best idea to start off by showing your respect for his intelligence by saying 'he's a cagey politician, neither ignorant nor foolish, and those remarks were calulated...'. 'Casue it might bring to mind other well-known dictators who were cagey, neither ignorant or foolish, and made good use of public anti-Semitism. So maybe we can find another way to describe this guy's up side..."

I mean, we all need editors from time to time. Hemingway did, so it's nothing to be proud about. And if someone had said to Easterbrook "Do you *really* want to talk about your boss exactly like that?" maybe he'd have refined his thoughts, written a better piece and kept his job too.

Bloggers are on their own, of course, but this is the NY Times for cryin' out loud.

Paul Zrimsek

Time for some second thoughts on Dan Drezner's assessment of Krugman, which I and a lot of others thought was spot-on at the time:

On politics, he’s not moving down the learning curve. Krugman, along with many economists, has some serious blind spots in his political analyses. He’s consistently shocked when politicians engage in strategic or opportunistic behavior. He’s always stunned when leaders take actions that maximize their own power rather than benefiting the greater good.

Oops! We now learn that Prof. K can shrug off politics-as-usual with a casualness that might give even Dick Morris pause. When it suits him.

Bruce Moomaw

"I need to re-read Bernard Lewis, or perhaps Professor Krugman does. This speech certainly endorses the notion that 'knowledge is power', but the objective seems a bit problematic."

Well, no, you need to reread Mahathir's speech:

"We also know that not all non-Muslims are against us. Some are well-disposed towards us. Some even see our enemies as their enemies. Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing. We must not antagonise everyone. We must win their hearts and minds. We must win them to our side not by begging for help from them but by the honourable way that we struggle to help ourselves. We must not strengthen the enemy by pushing everyone into their camps through irresponsible and un-Islamic acts...Remember the considerateness of the Prophet to the enemies of Islam. We must do the same. It is winning the struggle that is important, not angry retaliation, not revenge."

In short, as Drezner says, Mahathir was at least urging a largely non-violent campaign for the triumph of Islam, which goes considerably beyond just talking about the need for Moslems to learn to make Western-style weaponry. But his speech was still dripping with Elders of Zion-style muck, and he showed no sign that he thought Islamic societies should include Western-style political and religious freedoms -- in fact, he announced that the Jews are Homo superior and will thus inevitably rise to dominate any society in which they aren't strongly repressed.

So, contrary to Jim Glass, there's no contradiction in PK saying both that the speech contained some of Bernard Lewis' themes and that, on balance, Bin Laden would have loved it. The billion-dollar question (as Drezner points out) is whether Krugman was aware of Mahathir's decades-long record of periodic anti-Semitic rantings at times OTHER than the 1997 financial crisis or Bush's war on terror, which prove either that Mahathir really is viciously anti-Semitic himself or that he feels the need to appeal to a Malaysian anti-Semitism which is ALWAYS so intense that Bush'actions could only have slightly worsened it. If Krugman was aware of these other comments of Mahathir's, it would prove that he really was dishonestly bashing Bush; if not, it just shows that he researched Mahathir very sloppily.

But it won't be Luskin or Musil who exposes him. As I just pointed out in a long letter to the Man Frequently Without Brains in response to his ravings about Luskin's 'terrific investigation", said investigation consists of literally psychotic distortions by Luskin of what Krugman actually said in the Slate and NY Times magazine articles that Luskin himself links to. (Which is not surprising from a man whose idea of valid criticism is to drool that PK is a "nervous, stammering, shifty-eyed, twitching, ill-tailored, gray homunculus" and that Brad DeLong is a "pudgy dweeb". If I saw a guy who wrote stuff like that approaching me, I'd look for the nearest fire exit too.)

On the subject of Krugman's frequently own frequently weird comments in his recent New Yorker interview, Glass is on much solider ground. The only conceivable excuse I can make for Krugman is that he doesn't repeat any of those in his actual NY Times magazine piece on Bush's "Tax Cut Scam", which suggests that he tends to babble irrationally during interviews without doing nearly as badly when he's actually writing something.


I would encourage folks to read the speech, read Dan Drezner's comments, and judge for themselves who has presented the more useful excerpts.

As a hint, I will pull this soundbite from Drezner:

The scary and pathetic thing is, Hamid Albar is correct -- relative to a lot of Muslims, Mahathir's position is moderate. He's not advocating the use of violence to exterminate the state of Israel. He's advocating the use of brainpower -- to exterminate the state of Israel.

I guess I am seeing this a bit differently from Bruce, and maybe Dan - my take is, Mahathir is saying, suicide bombers today are ineffective; Islam needs to modernize, industrialize, and use modern armies in fifty years.

Do we agree that Mahathir constantly refers to a triumph of Islam? Are we arguing over whether he is advocating the peaceful assimiliation of Jews, rather than their destruction?

I am not sure just how we disagree - meanwhile, I stand by my comment that the point of the speech seems to be 'knowledge is power', but the objectives are problematic. And since Drezner also reads Mahathir's objective to be the destruction of Israel, I suspect he would agree.

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