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October 05, 2006



What do you think of this, Aardvark?

The region welcomes Condi (sort of)!

Could there be a better symbol of American indifference to Arab attitudes or public opinion?

Don't you think indifference is better than the overt hostility the US *should* be demonstrating to the kind of hate the middle-east subjects America to?

I'd rather my country stopped with the indifference, and cranked up the hostility. But nobody asked me.

Gary Farber

Maybe it's a browser problem (I use the latest Firefox), or something, but something seems to be missing here, Marc:

and this spirited exchange took place:

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

Okay, but the content? Not showing up as readable other than as above for me.


Gary - no, that's the point. (In Arabic) is ALL that it says on the transcript.


Well, it's been clear for quite a while that these Blitzkrieg "secret" trips to The Front are purely for domestic consumption, hans't it? The indifference to Arabic-language comments is a function of the high degree of targeting by demographic in the Administration's marketing strategy--it's parallel to the preselected audiences for Bush's soi-disant "town halls" during the 2004 campaign. They'd bother to include the Arabian comments when these press conferences trickle down to their house papers in Baghdad (though granted, the "translation" will have be performed by a 21-year-old Lincoln Group staffer).

In fact, though, the indifference to what people in the Middle East are saying runs quite a bit deeper than the Bush people. A very mundane example is the frequency of Arabic and Persians solecisms in American newspapers. There is (Karl Vick admitted as much to me in private correspondence) not a single editorial room staffer at the Washington Post with facility in any Middle Eastern language, so reporters rely on their translators and fixers to edit names, slogans and so on correctly. Hence, in a recent article, the reactionary group "Ansar al-Hezbollah." Then you have multilingual grammar mayvens like William Safire who, right after 9-11, accused the Taliban of having an ungrammatical name!

Inter arma silent lingua.


You guys are missing the point. We actually are indifferent :P

The answer is a resounding "Yes" - caring about public opinion in the middle east is sooooo 2003. You won the "We hate your guts and here is why" competition. What do you expect the US to do with that information, other than file it in the bit-bucket? There will come a time when you view American indifference as "the good old days" :)


By the way, what is this fetish arabs have with insisting American journalists and government officials have to learn arabic to be taken "seriously"? Is that part of the plan for defeating the west and converting us all to Islam, or what?

We won the Cold War without anybody in the US being able to speak Russian. We beat teh Japanese and the Germans in WWII without anybody being able to speak those languages.

There used to be jokes about the losers of a war having to learn the language of the winners. Are you that confidant that you are going to win that you're trying to make everyone learn arabic in advance, or what?

Our enemies have rarely shown such open contempt for us before. It's going to cost you.

the aardvark

Craig -

Well, yes. You make my point for me - folks like you are the reason why we (the United States) are losing.


The one I love most is:

QUESTION: (In Arabic.) (Laughter.) (In Arabic.)

Craig: I wonder if anybody has done a comparison of the number of Arabic-speaking US officials now to the number of Russian-speaking US officials during the cold war. I imagine (without much evidence) that there were more Russian-speakers. Certainly, the stereotype of a cold warrior involves at least some knowledge of Russian, whereas knowing Arabic doesn't seem to feature anywhere in current stereotypes.

Also, there is more need to know Arabic now than there was to know Russian back then, because we're dealing with states with a large degree of media freedom and democracy - so by talking in the right language, we can seriously influence events.

And now, as a Russian-speaker with no knowledge of Arabic, I'd better crawl back into a cupboard and wait until Moscow becomes target of the month again...


Dan, I actually got my hands on that part with the laughter.

Here's what was said:

انا نفسي مش عارف البينت دي بتقول اى بظبت ... مثلا يعني اي الشرق الاوسط الچديد ... اى الكلام الفاضي دا عيزة الدعم ليسرايل و خلاص


wouldn't it be better if any political news conference question were transcribed that way. e.g.:

Question: (in english)

Bush: (in english)

bush's press conferences would also have more content



Well, yes. You make my point for me - folks like you are the reason why we (the United States) are losing.

I don't think we're losing. I think we've already won in the arab world.

Shouldn't you be advocating that Americans now learn Farsi and Urdu or whetever languages are most common in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan?


Dan, you may be right (about the stereotypes) - I don't know. Subjectively speaking, I think we (the US) had a lot more respect for the Soviet Union than we do for Islamists and their allies.


Let me clarify the statement where I said this:

I don't think we're losing. I think we've already won in the arab world.

There are two open issues for America in the arab world. Iraq, and Lebanon.

Arab public opinion in regards to America isn't going to make a spits worth of difference in Iraq, because the violence in Iraq isn't about the US anymore, it's about who controls Iraq.

The most likely solution to the Hezbollah issue is through Iran, one way or another. Hezbollah is nothing without Iranian support. And even if that weren't the case, when was Hezbollah ever responsive to Arab public opinion? HA isn't even responsive to *Lebanese* public opinion.

The US has no other goals in the arab middle east. Iran is next up on our crisis list, with Pakistan/Afghanistan in the mix someplace too. How would learning arabic to influence arab public opinion help America with that?


Craig - that's a perfectly consistent position, IF you agree that the US has no real interest in democratization, transforming the region, combatting Islamic extremism, and so forth. A defensible position, nicely Realist, but not the current administration's stated policy for better or for worse. I guess I'd respond in two ways - first, that the failure to take Arab opinion seriously doesn't fit with the administration's own stated goals; and second, that it doesn't fit with the alternative policies I'd like to see pursued.

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