Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cultures can change

'Why should we care when we’re leaving? Quite simply, so much of the turmoil in the region was stoked over the years by Saddam’s Iraq and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, both financed by billions in oil revenues. If, over time, a decent democratizing regime could emerge in Iraq and a similar one in Iran — so that oil wealth was funding reasonably decent regimes rather than retrograde ones — the whole Middle East would be different.

The odds, though, remain very long. In the end, it will come back to that nagging question of politics versus culture. Personally, I’m a believer in the argument Lawrence Harrison makes in his book “The Central Liberal Truth” — culture matters, a lot more than we think, but cultures can change, a lot more than we expect. But such change takes time, leadership and often pain. Which is why, I suspect, Iraqis will surprise us — for good and for ill — a lot more before they finally answer the question: Who are we and how do we want to live together?' --Thomas Friedman

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