It’s All About Schools

By rebuilding Yemen’s educational system, the West could prevent the country from becoming an Al Qaeda breeding ground.

Comments: 125

  1. "By rebuilding Yemen’s educational system, the West could prevent the country from becoming an Al Qaeda breeding ground."

    And if we rebuilt America's educational system, we might prevent our country from being a breeding ground for the blights of violence, drugs, poverty, etc.

    Do we really have the expertise to build an educational system that will prevent Al Qaeda's expansion? Our very entrenched and once world-class educational system doesn't effectively prevent drugs, poverty, violence, etc. How do we expect to create a system that will prevent the attraction of Al Qaeda?

  2. Oh yes, yes, yes to Yemeni -- and pan-Muslim -- schools.

    But let's hope they don't get schools such as the biz and law schools in the U.S. where all learn the nefarious chicaneries of self-enrichment. Let's hope the Yemenis don't start graduating "souls" such as the ethical voids atop Wall Street. Let's hope they don't produce anyone such as the average U.S. senator, or anyone else who salivates at war, war, war. And hope they don't produce millions of zombied minds potted in front of their tubes swallowing drivel as fast as cynics can program it.

    In fact, why spend money in Yemen, building their schools, with hopes for a better-educated humanity when Americans themselves are among the dumbest in the world? Why should Americans export education to Yemenis when American education hasn't given America itself anything but homelessness, unemployment, and burgeoning prison populations at home, and abroad war, war, war in ever-descending cylces of insanity?

    You see enlarged market for the standardized testers? For all the privileged and consultants in ed admin now? What is it, really, that you see in American ed, that you would inflict on any traditional culture?

  3. ...."It is the only way Yemen will have a future. So, yes, fire those Predators where we must, but help build schools and fund scholarships to America wherever we can...."

    There is a contradiction in what you say here, Tom. What do you mean: "Fire those Predators where we must?" Where MUST we fire Predators in Yemen, Tom, that will not be terrifying and abusive to the Yemeni people? This is your not very conscious Neo-Con personality emerging, I fear.

    Then--you go on to say: "we must help build schools and fund scholarships to America whenever we can." Sounds good, as long as the schools are carefully picked: not Regent or Bob Jones University, Brigham Young, Patrick Henry College--or several others that would train young minds away from fundamental Islamism into fundamental Christianity or Mormonism! That would be doing them no favor, just likely produce prejudice (and possibly violence) of a different sort than Al Queda.

    Bottom line though is that we must first rehabilitate schools in our own ghettos and poor neighborhoods here in the United States (we have many of these, you know) and fund more scholarships for the kids who live there! With that I am sure you will not disagree! Yemen cannot be our first priority!!!!

  4. My Dear Mr. Friedman, personally, I like your columns. My only problem with most of the leading voices in our country is this: Why are you asking that Americans fund ideas and strategies for other countries when we desperately need those same things in THIS country. I am a nice Christian man who tries to live by every word that proceeds from the Bible, which I believe is the word of God. I am pro-life for me and pro choice for you. I believe that Christianity means everybody gets to make their own decision or choices. I also know that my Bible says--Be charitable to all men but those of the household of faith FIRST! In other words, take care of your own first! We need education for our own children. We need food for our own children. We need jobs for our own people. I am all for helping others and fighting the good fight when a fight needs to happen. I am a honorably discharged Army veteran-so I get all of this national security stuff. That said: it is time that Americans to pull in and regroup and focus on taking care of ourselves. Man, we are in trouble and we need to focus!!!! On another note, stop chewing “qat ”, it makes your brain soft and fuzzy and you end up writing columns like this one. Yeah, I know about that too!

  5. Before we waste any more taxpayer money on countries like Haiti and Yemen, why don't we do something about our own American Indian Reservations. Have you ever been to the Four Corners area? Those people's poverty is as bad as any third world country, and they are not disciples to an irrational violent religion that causes them to want to kill the rest of us for some silly fable about virgins in the afterlife.

    And, besides, we have treaties yet to be upheld with America Indians. There is something in the Consitution about treaties, remember?

  6. "So here is my new rule of thumb: For every Predator missile we fire at an Al Qaeda target here, we should help Yemen build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking — to boys and girls."

    Or--here's a thought: we could do neither, and allow other nations to handle their own affairs! We could return all of our forces to our homeland, remove preemptive "defense" from our international strategy, aggressively guard our borders and enforce immigration laws and policies, and worry about our own country's health (regarding education, culture, healthcare, crime, etc) before we worry about the health of others! I am growing so tired of all of this. I don't want to help Haitians and I don't want to help Yemenis. I don't want to help Israelis and I don't want to help the British. I don't want to help the Congolese or the East Timorese either. I want to help Americans. Let's fix America first and then ask the world if we can be of any assistance. For Pete's sake.

  7. Nonsense. Osama Bin Laden went to a modern *secular* school in Saudi Arabia. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed went to Baptist (!) and state colleges in the US. Mohammed Atta went to university in Hamburg and the would-be Detroit bomber went to UCL. As Robert Pape of the University of Chicago has shown, suicide bombers tend to be affluent and very well educated. To call for schools is naive. As long as Arabs and Muslims around the world perceive the US as the current colonial power in the Middle East (which they do), jihadists will try to blow themselves up and kill as many Americans as they can. Promoting modern secular schools won't change that even a little bit.

  8. Thomas Friedman's analysis and recommendations are right on target for Yemen, but apply with equal force to Afghanistan and to some extent Pakistan. We will be unable not only to win,but not even to neutralize the Madrassis with guns and bombs but could do so with a focused and well financed school building program and a heuristic strategy that would counter the teaching of radical Islamicists.

  9. Our oil comes mostly from the Arctic Circle, not Saudi Arabia.

    Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned in the gulags -- so, not really a great example there either.

    Funny -- when we bomb, occupy, and try to rebuild other countries you call it BAAAAAAADDDDD when a Republican president does it. So, either you like what Bush tried to do in Iraq or...oh yeah, "double standard."

  10. Hooray! Somebody finally hit the nail on the head.

  11. The effects of the Qat are apparently not so mild. The equivalance of one Predator strike to 50 new schools is absurd. I question the statistics: Just 15,000 kids out of school in a country of 23 million would be extraordinary for a developing country. I also question the quotations: They're just a bit too convenient and sound too much like Thomas Friedman to be real. Hint: Look out the window of your hotel, Tom. Yemen's problem is overpopulation. They have one of the highest birthrates in the world and no way to support the kids.

  12. Finally, Friedman has come around.
    Instead of advocating increased war in Iraq and Afghanistan all these years, our tax monies should have built more schools. Incredibly cheap and effective.
    My time spent in the NWFP (Pakistan) in 1999 proved that.

  13. It is equally true for Pakistan, Iraq and even Afganistan Help these countries for education, health but no weapons. These weapons one day will be used against us just like Talibans are using our weapons and help against us.

    It is time for US to be smart and thinking for next 50 years not for 5 months or even 5 years

  14. Tom, what do you think they're chewing in:

    > Thailand, when they're not building disk drive factories.

    > South Korea, when they're not building new DRAM and Hyundai factories - and entire new cities.

    > China, when they're not building several entire new countries, within their borders.

    I can now access all the world's significant (unsequestered) knowledge, on a $150 netbook computer.

    It's only a matter of focus, before Google or its successors morph that into all the world's significant education and educators.

    It's there for the taking.

    Chew on that.

  15. A very fine commentary on the role of education in civilized societies. But when you emphasize math and science, you are perpetuating EE-think. History, philosophy, interpersonal communications, art, music, business administration, agriculture, womens sports... all these open up vistas for people across the intelligence and predilections spectrum.

  16. We have built schools all over the world for many tears - centuries even! We even built public schools in the USA, which are now bastions of Union Marxism and don't work either!

  17. Nicholas Kristoff also repeatedly says that the key to salvaging Afghanistan is to build numerous new schools where their kids can receive a broad education useful to developing their economy. A more effective secular education would also serve to counter the anti-western propaganda indoctrinated by the religious madrassas. Readers of his column always rejoin that America can well use a dose of the same. No one denies that our own system of public education has deteriorated over the decades. Rather than rejuvenate it, our current conservative mindset (epitomised by Obama's Arne Duncan) seems to be that we should scrap it and go to charter schools (taxpayer-supported private schools), vouchers for private schools and home schooling. Nonsense, I say. It's been the tilt away from liberal secularism and toward religious fundamentalism in so many arenas, including education, that has got this country sliding downhill. Our citizens believe much more foolishness, have a much smaller database of learned empirical facts and are much less competitive in the global arena than our parents and grandparents who grew up in simpler times. Science and reason must re-assert themselves if this country aspires to lead the world once again. All well and good to help Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and the rest of humanity, but we need to get our own act together at the same time.

  18. Friedman would have the U.S. "build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking — to boys and girls."

    Tom, do you really think that Yemen would send its boys and girls together to school to learn "critical thinking"? I suggest you first inform your readership about the horrifying practice of "honor killings" against Yemeni women.

    If you really believe these schools would be attended by boys and girls together in Yemen, where women are second class citizens, you have been chewing too much "qat".

    Let's build those new schools in the U.S., where unemployment is also rampant, and provide those scholarships to underprivileged American children.

  19. I put this question to Mr. Friedman, in hopes that he might report or opine further on it: is it yet economically feasible, given the extraordinary sun resource that Yemen has, for us to encourage installation of major solar arrays in its territory, perchance coupled with development of a manufacturing base? If the great preponderance of those 300,000 idle workers were well-employed, even in relatively unskilled manufacturing work, that would likely make for an improvement in their outlook and disposition toward the wider world, and to ourselves in particular.

    Is that a pipe dream, or might there be some potential along such lines? Of course we'd want to have the blessing of the Saudis, among others, with respect to such development, but they might very well be inclined to help finance such development. What do you think, Mr. Friedman?

  20. With population growing at about 3% a year, Yemen's will double every 23 years; that's the effect of exponential growth. That means you have to double every resource (food, energy, water and so forth) just to keep living standards constant. The capital city Sanaa is already running out of water.

    It is too bad that policy-makers in the US don't understand the demographic component that contributes to unrest in the Middle East and elsewhere. High population growth is associated with political instability, a fact that is hidden in plain sight.

    For every suicide bomber, there are a hundred thousand poor who suffer hunger and thirst in silence. It is time to wake up to that unfortunate fact.

  21. It is wonderful how we can speak of the middle east and simply ignore the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

    A closed mind is a powerful thing.

  22. Hate America less. We can not solve world hunger or world peace.

  23. Thanks Thomas. You want to combat Wahhabism? It has now taken over Pakistan -- which used to have moderate Islamic factions, but no longer due to tremendous influx of Saudi Wahhabi dollars. These funds support the Madrassas, which are fostering religious extremism in Pakistan. To the degree that Pakistan may break apart. Yemen needs to wean itself from Wahabbis. As does Pakistan.

  24. I, like many Westerners, do not understand what appeal Jihadist Islam evidently has for a large portion of the world's Muslims.

    That said, neither do I understand what good can come from promoting and propping up regimes in countries such as Yemen, where they have little popular support and whose leaders invite us to obliterate their Islamist rivals with covert U.S. Special Operations or with Predator Drones, resulting inevitably in "collateral damage." Suppose a foreign power, such as China, were to install a pro-Chinese Quisling and "secretly" bomb his political adversaries in our own country. All the consumer goods, restaurants and computer games in the world would not be enough to stem the tide of hatred and resistance that would rise up in our country. By the same token, we cannot win over the people of Yemen --or, for that matter Egypt or Pakistan-- no matter how many schools, shopping centers, technological services and cultural gifts we provide them. The late Shah of Iran could have told you as much.

  25. How many young Muslim boys and girls will Thomas Friedman’s Predator drone “new rule of thumb” permanently expel before “one” new modern US-funded school teaching science and math and “critical thinking” is built. Does he really care much about any devout Muslim? How many innocent Yemeni elders, men, women and children has Obama’s out-of-the-blue executing missiles already extinguished, maimed and terrorized? What will be the final tally? Will there be special schools built for limbless and traumatized widows or blinded and burnt orphans? The vast majority of Muslims believe US-drones are one of al-Qaeda’s best recruiters… is an extremely critical educating estimation.

  26. Salam Alakum,

    I can't believe you chewed Qat! That stuff is responsible for Yemen’s water crisis and disastrous economic health. As mild as it is those who chew it are always dependent on it, making it an addictive narcotic. Yes it gives you broader control of your thoughts but the long term effects on the body can be deadly. On it you tend to talk fast and clear and feel good about yourself, just like any other class A-drug. Also, Yemen is facing a water crisis right now. 50% of the water used in agriculture doesn’t go to food;it goes to Qat. If the price of Qat was federally regulated and sold for the same price as fruits and vegetables the economic situation in Yemen would alleviate.
    The value of coffee, olives, honey and other cash crops should compete with that of Qat. This weed should not be more profitable than other economically beneficial crops. If anything a larger tax should be placed on it that goes straight to education and roads.
    The high price of Qat provokes farmers to switch from coffee and papaya to this weed. If this narcotic was less lucrative farmers would naturally switch to a more profitable "edible" alternative that has the potential to be sold in the open market (like “Yemeni coffee” - known as the best in the world) and in return promote a healthy agricultural and economic infrastructure.
    The only way this can happen is if a government agency dictates the setting of a low price on this drug in concert with Ethiopian and other neighboring Qat chewing countries. A start can be the creation of a national collaboration of Imans vocalizing the anti-Islamic views of Qat (these Islamic schools can come in handy; please do not vilify them as breading grounds of fanatics – their NOT!). The people of Yemen reason that its part of its culture, but it really is not, coffee is part of Yemen’s culture. You should try to persuade government officials to impose a federal tax on this narcotic that goes straight to school construction and educational programs. That would seem more reasonable than your "missile for schools" idea. But this will never happen because of certain corrupt government agents profiting off this drug. These currupt leaders end up using the dirty money bribing everyone with power, from state officers, judges, government officials to tribal leaders (This is one of the many reasons why there are two similar yet distinct major revolutionary movements in the country). Next time, just say NO!


  27. Good job,Friedman. Is somebody following up with your suggestion?

  28. Yes, so much work we have to do with all these Arab countries. Their culture, their education system, their governments, etc. Of course they are different, and the more we try to change it-as we want, it's like a boomerang, the more the blow back. Instead, we need to let them run their own thing until their populations come around to make the changes. We need to stop our meddling, let's show them some respect and patience. Why don't you go to Israel and preach to them about human rights, and civil rights in the terriotries they occupy? Their abuse is what is causing most of the problems there, that we average Americans are paying for in our blind support for their country- and all the hate it generates? Why don't you take a tour of our decimated industrial towns and talk to Americans aout their fate and their hopes and get some balance here? Don't think so, eh?, the way it seems, they are all below estimation!
    Tom, you don't write for Americans. You don't know how to.

  29. "So here is my new rule of thumb: For every Predator missile we fire at an Al Qaeda target here, we should help Yemen build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking — to boys and girls."

    Here is my new rule of thumb: how about NEVER firing a Predator missile at anybody ever again and still help the Yemenis design and build 50 new schools each month that teach math, science, art, and critical and imaginative thinking.

    And while we are on the subject of Saudi Arabia: why don't we remove Iraq from the 'Axis of Evil' and replace them with Saudi Arabia. They are the major financial and philosophical supporters of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.

  30. The final statement is the only one with which I totally agree, namely:
    "........ let’s end our addiction to oil, which is what gives the Saudi religious ministry and charities the money to spread anti-modernist thinking across this region."

    As for the rest, it appears that the damage has been done and the region will have to look to its own salvation and to its own rehabilitation. I think they will just have to get busy and throw off the yoke of Saudi Arabian fanaticism for and by themselves. They dropped their own ball and we have all we can do at this point in time to keep from dropping our own ball. We've got quite a few of them in the air, if you haven't noticed.

    I believe that the task of rebuilding the region in question is beyond our capability both financially and motivationally, given our own problems and internal domestic trials and tribulations. I wonder how many college-educated persons are out of work here in our own country. They may have 300,000 but we may top that number easily. Now there is a study someone should attend to immediately.

    The region might consider easing unemployment and utilizing their own population to build a police force to clear their own "breeding grounds for terrorist". Let us not play that fear card against ourselves any longer. Whoever the God in question is, as I remember He helps those who help themselves. Amen.

  31. Isn't it interesting that the only two Soviets mentioned in the column are dissidents? Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn. Twenty years after the Cold War ended, we're still viewing things through a Cold War lens.

    There were many more nonpolitical Soviet Nobel Prize winners than dissidents. Yet the dissidents are who we remember. who were apolitical. Heck, there were even Soviet Nobel Prize winners who ran into trouble with the authorities, but never ran into *enough* trouble to make them martyrs in the eyes of the West. Boris Pasternak is the prime example of the latter.

    If you want to bring up the Soviet Union, fine. How come whenever we and the Soviets engaged in a proxy fight in the Third World, we usually sided with the group that was *worse* for the people living in that country? We backed the mujahideen religious fanatics against the secular Communist government of Afghanistan. We (and apartheid South Africa) backed the UNITA terrorists against MPLA in Angola. We (and China) sided with the genocidal Khmer Rouge against Vietnam. And, of course, we backed the hated dictators of South Vietnam against the popular Communists of North Vietnam.

    I don't get it. We should've been able to bat five hundred, just by picking randomly.

  32. No, Friedman, it's all about American schools.

  33. There is no better example of what education can do for a population that is hungry for it than the work of the Central Asia Institute.

    Mr Friedman, you are spot on - one missile equals many schools and will have a more lasting and profound impact. Maybe we could also turn to our beloved ally - Saudi Arabia - and ask why there royal family continues to fund wahhabist schools to the tune of billions each year? Wahhabist's who churn out fundamental, islamic fighters armed with the most basic knowledge of their faith - just enough to say it's America's fault.

    I'm a pragmatist - til there is a fundamental change in Washington (i.e. the Dems and Rep's are all the same just different clothes), there will be no change in how we are viewed around the world.


  34. Oh I see: we can have our cake and eat it too.

  35. Friedman proposed: For every Predator missile we fire at an Al Qaeda target here, we should help Yemen build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking — to boys and girls.

    Why not eliminate the missiles and drone attacks all together?

    To educate the enemy's kids in science and math while bombing them at the same time makes no sense. It can only help them produce more deadly improvised bombs.

    Of course it will never happen. The military-industrial complex depends on the US government to keep their shareholders happy.

  36. Western involvement in the Middle East is the impetus for radical Islam, just as western involvement in Iran was the impetus for the Islamic Revolution there.

    If the U.S wants to end radical Islam's attacks against it, the only logical course of action is to get out of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. Radical Islam has nothing to offer the people. With no bogeyman to attack, the movement would collapse. In the meantime, the source of funding for radical Islam would dry up. Study the history of Saudi Arabia, and see what happened to the Ikthwan (sp). Very similar to al Qaeda. The rich royals will cut off funding to the radicals, when the radicals no longer serve the objectives of the royal family. The objective of the royals is to oust the west. Thus the U.S. building more schools is absolutely the wrong way to go. It is Saudi Arabia that needs to provide the schools, rather than funding the madrassas as they currently do. U.S. out of the Muslim world, and let Saudi Arabia stabilize it. It isn't buying Saudi oil that is undermining our objectives, it is our own naivete, in believing that the world can't find its way without our intrusion. Of course our intrusion begins with corporate aims for money making, not any noble objective. It winds up with two full blown wars, and unsurpassed stupidity in not recognizing our own delusional sense of how the rest of the world should live. We cannot win militarily, nor can we win by building schools and such. We must simply leave. In time, when modernity is desirable Islam will once again find it. Look at Vietnam.

  37. I totally agree that instead of bombing and shooting folks in the Middle East, we should be building schools and hospitals. I've heard on NPR for every $1,000,000.00 we could build 34 schools in Afghanistan. For $1,000,000,000.00 we could build 34,000 schools. OK. So we bring home 1000 soldiers (it cost Americans $1,000,000.00 per year, per soldier) and build the schools and educate the kids not to kill their neighbors, or Americans. The remaining soldiers can protect the schools and children.

    Lets try this for a change. I bet the results will be better than what we are currently experiencing.

  38. So the cock-eyed Cold War notion that any opponent of the Soviet Union was a "friend," has led directly to the proliferation of radical Islam.

    After overthrowing a democratically elected secular government in Iran in the 1950s, encouraging Muslim reactionaries in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and giving tacit support to Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of radical madrassas throughout the Muslim world, all to "fight Communism," the U.S. is hardly the innocent aggrieved party here.

    I wonder what kind of blowback our idiotic War on Terror will bring about. It's a wonder the rest of the world doesn't vote us off the planet.

  39. "I took part in a “qat chew” the other day at the home of a Yemeni official. Never done that before."

    That is a daring public admission, Friedman. It is not different than smoking pot. But back to your point. The concept of "Islamization" in the Middle East schools was not a concerted systematic effort, but rather a natural reaction by the population at the US pro-Israel foreign policy and, in the meantime, despair of political reform at home by the dictatorial leaders. When faced with oppression from every direction then only thing you can turn to is spiritual help, or at least what you conceive it to.

    But I would start at home, Friedman.

  40. I am surprised that all Mr.Thomas meetings were with Yemeni officials, and none of the Opposition leaders or the independent journalists who are being harassed, beaten, kidnapped and imprisoned.
    I am not sure if Mr. Friedman had visited the 150 million dollars President's mosque, sitting next to a badly equipped children hospital.That mosque's costs is equivalent to building one thousand schools.. I am not sure of Mr.Friedman saw the luxury private 747 used by the President of this impoverished country.
    Does Mr. Friedman know how many of the President's family relatives are occupying major security and military posts.? Does Mr Friedman know how the President's sons and nephews are accumulating the wealth of that poor country and investing it in Lebanon, Dubai and elsewhere.
    I am afraid Mr Friedman has been exposed to the regime polishers who are not much different than the ones he could meet in any other authoritarian country.
    Even the freedom fighter mentioned in the first article about Yemen (Ms Hugaira), this young and charming lady , had not attended any of the protests against the imprisonment, kidnapping of her old friends..
    Finally, I am sure Mr Friedman was introduced to the President's son own team, the authors of the10 - points scheme set to save Yemen. The least that could be said about the scheme and the authors, is that they didn't dare to tackle the main problem: the President and his family. This team is doing all what it takes to convince donors and the USA in particular, to put more money and save the collapse of the regime under the hammers of hunger, anger and hopelessness caused by CORRUPTION OF THE REGIME RULING SINCE 32 YEARS.

  41. According to the CIA Factbook low literacy afflicts both Yemen and Pakistan. Each has about 50% literacy, age 15 and above. In Yemen only 30% of women are literate vs 36% in Pakistan; male literacy is 70.5% and 63% respectively.

    Other Muslim countries in the wider neighborhood have higher literacy and less difference between males and females. Total literacy in Egypt is 71%, in Iran 77%, and Turkey 87%. And in Turkey, at least, education is public and funded by the government, not religious institutions.

    Greg Mortenson ("Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools") has the right idea.

  42. What's tragic and ironic about all this is that anyone who was paying attention knew at the time that the funding for alQaeda, as well as the bulk of the original attackers on 9/11, came from Saudi Arabia.

    Thanks for acknowledging finally that we have been funding through our oil dependency the very fanatics out to destroy us.

    Interesting that we now also acknowledge that teaching children true science, critical thinking and problem solving is the key to thwart fanaticism.

    While we are out there converting Saudi schools into places of learning, let's not forget that our own schools have declined in the teaching of those same areas, now that standardized testing rules the land.

    We must renew our commitment to teaching not only the Saudis but our own children science and the arts which inspire critical thinking...while ending our oil addiction.

    Who does not know that now???

  43. Come on, Tom. The French have a saying: "Charité bien ordonnée commence par soi-même" Charity begins at home. Please let's not build schools in Yemen. Build them right here! To spread capitalism. Like in China. We forgot about it and need to relearn it.

  44. I totally agree. And I also wonder why we don't do that here in the United States -- where we're also raising generations of superstitious, mathematically illiterate people who fall prey to extreme ideologies. Perhaps not as extreme, but still extant.

  45. How about rebuilding our own schools which are in too many cases the holding facility until students are old enough to commit crimes due to their poor education among other factors and are sent to prison, the biggest booming industry in America and a major employer of many under educated correction officers who ave little education beyond high school. We have more prisoners than any major industrialized nation. These prisoners have preyed upon and terrorized Americans due largely to their lack of a proper education among other social and psychological maladies. The major family structure to too many youth in our own country are gangs.

    We don't have the money to improve our own schools. Let the Saudi Arabia and other oil rich Middle East nations fix schools in Yemen.

    We are in the midst of an economic crisis, in case you haven't heard. Charity begins at home!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  46. I believe the characterization of qat or khat as a "mildly hallucinogenic leaf drug" is incorrect.

    This is from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse website.

    Khat (pronounced “cot”) is a stimulant drug derived from a shrub (Catha edulis) that is native to East Africa and southern Arabia.

    The main psychoactive ingredients in khat are cathine and cathinone, chemicals that are structurally similar to, but less potent than, amphetamine, yet result in similar psychomotor stimulant effects. Chewing khat leaves induces a state of euphoria and elation as well as feelings of increased alertness and arousal. The user also experiences an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. The effects begin to subside after about 90 minutes to 3 hours, but can last 24 hours.

    It is estimated that 10 million people worldwide chew khat. It is commonly found in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula and in East Africa, where it has been used for centuries as part of an established cultural tradition. In one large study in Yemen, 82 percent of men and 43 percent of women reported at least one lifetime episode of khat use.

  47. Instead of trying to fix things in other countries, let's fix OUR schools and economy first.

  48. Great idea. Will anyone in the Administration consider it? I am pretty sure that nobody will. It so much more spectacular to kill some 10 - 20 real bad guys (with some 'collateral damage', of course) than to build or finance building of schools.

    In general, I suspect that better schools can change situation substantially only in fairly civilized places. Yemen (and virtully all Muslim world) is not such a place. Religious schools breeding fanatical jihadists will always exist in sufficient numbers to assure steady supply of underwear or shoe bombers, some of them vastly more competent and better trained the two creeps currently in jail here.

    Friedman, as we have learned from mostly enjoyable years reading his comments, quite often enters a fantasy world where things kind of work rationally, people do not have tendency to kill each other and some such.

    Some enclaves in this country and Europe can be close to that (and, of course, Israel, for the most part) but I know of no single place in the Muslim world where even the concept of tolerance, emphasis on real rather than insane education prevails. The chewing buddies Friedman writes about are as far from their folks as one can imagine, with their western education and values many (by far not all) of them absorbed while living in this part of the world. Almost complete aliens in their native countries, now...

  49. A language is not separated from its culture. And culture is not separted from language. So even if Yemenis come to America to study, they study in English, but at home most of them will teach in 'Arabic. And the 'Arabic language and Islaamic culture are entertwined. You cannot seperate them.

    So what do you propose? To build schools that teach in English? I am sure you know how well tha'ts working out in the Gulf. It's not.

    Islaam is not going anywhere and Americans just need to accept the fact that there will always be people and cultures that will not and do not have to assimilate to their way of thinking and living.

  50. You keep making the connections, sounding the themes (like "money to oil to Wahabi cheap books"). More than a million of us read it ... again, with new coloration ... & look for ways to act. Keep it up!

  51. I'm thinking the way to improve this situation is to stop firing drones that wind up killing innocent people. (Let alone regarding the morality of the issue.)

    That, and>maybe not listening to people like Glenn Reynolds.

    Building schools is always a good idea, but it's more of a humanitarian educational mission, thinking it is a way to prevent terrorism seems to approach the whole indoctrination thing, even if is is not. Like an advanced version of Kiplins White Man's Burden, or something.

    Maybe I'm wrong on that, dunno. But not on how irresponsible if not morally reprehensible it is to keep using drones if there are a high number of innocent civilian causalities(or on Instapundit's wildly hypocritical if not dangerous logic, once again.)

  52. 'we have a chance to prevent Yemen from becoming an Al Qaeda breeding ground'

    With Yemen's population doubling in two decades, 'breeding ground' is the operative concept. How many kindergartens need to be built to keep up? To continue Mr. Friedman's logic, if 50 kindergartens can be built for the price of one missile, then 50 family-planning counsellors can be employed for the cost of one kindergarten.

  53. Move over Greg Mortenson, we have a new champion for children's education in the Muslim world -- Thomas L. Friedman!

    This Hellfire-by-the-night-USAID-by-the-day is currently being tried in Pakistan, Mr. Friedman. And, look at the consequences ... Gallop Pakistan says that 16% Pakistanis have a favorable view of America but I can't find 16 people in Pakistan who would have a favorable view of America.

    It does not work. It cannot work. America must decide whether it wants the instant gratification of killing "the bad guys", or accept the risks inherent in living in an interconnected world and find lasting solutions. We can't have both.

  54. "For every Predator missile we fire" let us encourage training in logical thinking skills everywhere by improving math education. Not only is it good economic sense to teach mathematics, but good mathematics education is totally non-sectarian and universally acceptable. It teaches us to think logically from start to finish, to determine exactly what we are assuming and to prove every step along the way to everyone - good life skills.

  55. Come on Tom usually you're so good with the

    There's zero chance of an American mother
    sending her child off on a teach-Yemen
    program with the reigning ideology of the
    region something akin to an escatological
    Sex Pistols.

    And on the eve of a great Marine battle it's
    really a just matter of academic interest
    whether the grand democratic designs of Bush
    will work out or not. We're in it up to our
    hip for now and then we're going to leave.

    I wish we'd just help the Haitians.

  56. It is quite interesting and enlightening to be reminded explicitly by Thomas Friedman, no less, of the role played by the USA in "Islamizing" not only education, as a means to hinder the spread of communism, but also, though not as explicitly, of "Jihad" to fight Soviet presence in Afghanistan.
    Both campaigns were successful beyond the expectations of their initiators, particularly the USA, and implementer, Saudi Arabia to their ultimate, judging by consequences, common deep sorrow and regret.

    For the USA to presume to be able to use Islam for its own purposes, turned out to be not only an infantile demarche but also, and more significantly, totally counterproductive and self defeating.

    That grave historical mistake of attempting to pit Islam against communism, in lieu of Israel, as prime enemy is presently being replicated by both initiator and implementer in the domain of Sunni/Shiite relations as demonstrated most glaringly in their joint attempt to substitute Iran for Israel as the prime enemy of Arabs and Moslems.

    The futility and predetermined failure of both approaches derives not only from the fundamental incapability to manipulate the believers in and adherents of a deeply entrenched universal dogma for transient political purposes as much as from the utter impossibility to manipulate them into positions contrary to their history based,life endured, long held and deeply entrenched beliefs that has morphed into a collective sub consciousness .
    Mr Friedman would do better reminding the USA of the futility and dangers inherent in such political man oeuvres, as in substituting Iran for Israel, than advising on Yemeni school curricula

  57. Thomas,

    "They spoke fondly of U.S. schools that were based on merit, taught them to think freely and prepared them with the skills to thrive."

    Let me guess, their American education prepared these gentlemen to deal with the world outside of Yemen; primarily the West. But inside Yemen their skills with the outside are, at best useless or at worst an extreme hindrance. Their education--if their expressed views are a good sample-- has made them unsuited for the type of power relationships that dominate the Arab world (They may be successful in Yemen, my point is that that requires a different skill set). The clerics, who have come to wield so much influence, are not dealing with the outside world; that's the Great Satan that they're fighting. And because they are rooted in the traditional culture of the area, their success went almost unnoticed until an entire generation had become radicalized.

    If the Yemenis-- or any Muslim country-- can take back their education system, then we should aid them in doing so. My question is whether taking education back from the clerics will produce a system where objective truth is taught or just a secularized version of the prevalent Arab bigotry. bc

  58. "It is the only way Yemen will have a future. So, yes, fire those Predators where we must, but help build schools and fund scholarships to America wherever we can. And please, please, let’s end our addiction to oil, which is what gives the Saudi religious ministry and charities the money to spread anti-modernist thinking across this region."
    Why must we be involved everywhere? It seems to me that our misguided intervention into the Middle East and other countries in the 70's has caused much of the trouble we have today. And how will we get the money to build 60 or 70 modern schools there when we can't build modern schools here? I'm sure Detroit or East St. Louis would love a few of those modern schools. And if we did give them modern schools (and teachers for them) we would probably be exporting all of our jobs to Yemen in 30 years. I know that protectionism and isolationism are supposed to be wrong, but it seems to me that every other country in the world practices this when it benefits them and only wants open trade when it benefits them. We are quickly dropping to second world and eventually 3rd world you think China, Yemen or Iraq will help us out when the shoe is on the other foot?

  59. OK. OK. I'll join the chorus here. No schools. No predator drones. Leave Yemen alone. [And while we are at it, cut the military budget in half.]

  60. Our leaders are not interested in educating anyone. They are interested in governments that do their bidding in relation to our control of oil in the Middle East. This sort of humanitarianism is, at best, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

  61. Why don't we improve OUR school system?

  62. nice idea, but faulty once it hits the gournd. much like our own arrogant fundamentalists (e.g., the idiot missionaries who tried to steal the haitaian kids), you can provide good schools to people, but religious doctrines trump education, logical thought and objective reality for many. as noted above, most suicide bombers in the west are products of decent schools and even fairly affluent families. perhaps you need to dry the stuff and roll it and smoke it!

  63. Why shouldn't America take on another burden: leave no Yemeni child behind? The trouble is that we're leaving many Americans behind, educationally, economically, and socially. We can't even provide healthcare for millions of Americans, and we're quicker to extend aid to bankers and Haitians than Native Americans in trouble on the plains.

  64. Mr Friedman, If we want to take the wind out of al-Queda's sails we should push Israel to return to '67 borders and give all those nice settlements to the Palestinian people as a partial payment of the wrongs committed.

  65. "So, yes, fire those Predators where we must, but help build schools and fund scholarships to America wherever we can. And please, please, let’s end our addiction to oil...."

    Therein lies the crux of your problem, Tom. It's like your old counter-insurgency false conundrum in Iraq and Afghanistan: no insurgency, no counter needed. But no invasion in the first place, no insurgency.

    It's your addiction to oil that creates the "must" (interesting choice of word) of firing Predators, and the firing of Predators that create the need for "education" to counteract al Qaeda's influence.

    You might as well forget all your do-gooder bandaids like "education" for the unwashed Middle East masses. You're kidding yourself that you can plug holes in this crumbling dyke with propaganda.

    While you continue your corporate wars to bolster corrupt vested US interests, USA and the Middle East will wallow in dead paradigms and technologies, al Qaeda will bleed you dry, and the East Asian Miracle and the rest of the world will leave you behind.

    You will wake up thirty years from now - if that - and wonder how you turned into the Soviet Union, with your parades of empty military grandeur, no more oil to speak of, and your people left to starve, suffer, go homeless and die for lack of health care.

  66. By rebuilding America's educational system we could prevent the country from becoming a Tea Party or " do nothing Republican" breeding ground.

  67. Yonkers, New York
    10 February 2010

    Yes, Thomas L. Friedman's proposal for the U.S. to help Yemen put up schools which teach science and math and critical thinking--instead of "schools" [called "madrassas" in Pakistan] which teach Wahabbism--is highly laudable, not only for Yemen but for the U.S. as well.

    Yemen has become a breeding ground for terrorists and other forms of extremists precisely because Wahabbism teaches students to hate "infidels" or non-Muslims. That is pretty much the core of the curriculum based on a distortion of the Qu'ran.

    The problem is that the U.S. is not now nor will it likely be in the near future in a position to help Yemen build those new schools. Its own schools are not doing well and thousands of school buildings are reported to be crumbling from lack of good maintenance.

    The sensible thing to do should be for the U.S. to take care of its own schools first--after it survives the Great Recession which President Obama and his Democratic administration are now trying desperately to stop dead in its tracks. Tht may take some time yet.

    Mariano Patalinjug

  68. I am tired of spending US money to fix the rest of the world. When are we going to fix our own country? Let Yemen take care of their own problems.

  69. It is important for the U.S. to crack down on child labor and insist that the countries we help enforce compulsory schooling laws. Otherwise, poor adults will keep using their uneducated children as human agricultural robots, sex toys, and slave labor. We need to insist that developing nations adopt the modern view of the child.

  70. It's more than half the population that doesn't produce in Yemen and similar societies, because a lot of the men waste their time and energy suppressing the women.

  71. Who are we to try to rebuild anyone's educational system? Been to a Philly, DC, or NYC public school lately?

  72. It appears that Yemen offers the opportunity for us to be helpful in ways that we have failed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, namely in education and supportive infrastructure. My fear is that our military will look upon this as yet another chance to flex its muscles and send in occupying troops, which would of course not only be counter-productive but expand the deadly enmity already felt against us by the East.

    My modest proposal, therefore, is that we do nothing unilaterally, but only in cooperation with such international organizations as UNICEF. We already know that al Quaeda is expanding its influence there, witness Umar of underwear notoriety. And this direct attack on our sovereign nation must not go unpunished. If the drone attacks are a direct response to that event, so it must be.

  73. It might be a nice idea to build more schools in the 3rd world, but we are broke.

  74. Doesn't the article serve to prove that the policy being advocated now was tried in the past and failed? Perhaps the reason for its failure (and the failure of secularism in the Arabic world the last generation) is that it is in the nature of a foreign graft rather than an inner societal growth?

    If one looks at societies that have successfully made the leap from traditional to competitive Western values, one sees that they make that leap once there is a consensus that it is better to join them than be beaten up by them. They then adapt their own core beliefs to do so; they don't replace them wholescale. For Yemen and the rest of the Arab world, that means a modernized Islam, and this is far more likely to emerge from the emigre Islamic schools and communities than a secularist Harvard or Yale or Washington D.C..

  75. Amazing, brilliant! Schools, redistribution of income, an end to the Geopolitical strategy whereby the West gave the Wealth of the Gulf to a few trustee Clans, thereby dooming the remaining millions to generations of tyrannized poverty. Yea! Schools instead of War, Tom Friedman is a Genius!

    Credibility is not a Bank you can apply to whenever in need, Tommy me boy - you lost yours in Iraq in 2003, and long delayed embracings of the obviously won't restore your intellectual luster.

    The Detective In The Mirror

  76. Me too! me too ! me too !

    Me too want schools, lots of schools;and colleges and universities and laboratories.

    Me too ;and you dont have to spend money on drones with me. No one to kill. Only to educate.

    Me too !!

    Don't discriminate against me just because I do'nt have hundreds of people ready to strap bombs on their backs(or shove bombs into their underwear).

    And if thats what it will take for the USA to build schools, then it will take me just months to do that. After all I have 150 million muslims with me. They, mostly(and unfortunately for themselves), dont strap bombs on their backs.They just try and to educate themselves.

    Fools !

    Now I will have to tell them that a few thousand of them will need to strap bombs on to their backs if they want to get the USA to come and build the schools that they need so that they can get educated, so that they can understand that it does not make sense to strap bombs on to their backs.

    That makes sense.

    So, who do I go to to get the details ironed out?

    Hillary? Biden? Gates? Panetta? Gen. Jones? or the big "O".

    I wish you had told me earlier.

    Such a lovely idea. A few hundred guys strap bombs (only strap;they dont need to go off), and a few millions get schools. Wow! And here I am telling them to work hard, believe in non-violence,believe in democrasy, blah, blah, blah.

    Dumb me.

    Thanks Thomas.

    As they say in Urdu " derse aaye, par durust aye". Or "better late than never".

  77. In your travels to chronicle other cultures, it's clear from your books and columns that you are impressed with people and have a deep empathy and respect for them, whether the Yemen people in this column, or the Indian people in The World is Flat. I guess your respect for the poor here at home is understood, but I rarely read anything about all the jobs we have sent to these cultures while you are gushing about them. We're out of work here, and people are hurting. Our schools need help too.

  78. I understand what your advocating with us building modern schools in Yemen, but the fact remains that their culture (not the elite you were qat chewing with) prefer madrassas. In addition, Yemen, like too many Islamic countries, prefers NOT to educate women, and when they do educate the men, the curriculum is based on the ant-American narrative you wrote about earlier.

    I am a American PhD student presently in Birmingham, England and with the very Islamic culture here, and a host country that indulges the increasing demand for 'ethnic' schools, I can tell you the anti-American narrative, complete with the prerequisite that girls are not to be educated is alive and well.

    America needs to invest our money into OUR education system first. Let the Islamic states educate their children (or not) as they see fit. We need to invest and develop our institutions, not keep throwing money into countries that will not utilize it effectively.

  79. I have long puzzled over the difference in views in regard to the best use of US resources between columnists such as Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kristoff on the one hand, and many readers on the other. This column and its comments are a good example of this situation.
    The columnists frequently recommend that the USA build good schools, or provide health care, or create employment opportunities for people abroad. This is an example for Mr. Friedman, and recently Mr. Kristoff recommended that the USA establish factories in Haiti.
    But the readers- presumably living more typical American lives - try to point out that poor educational opportunities, thousands of people ill or dying unnecessarily, and vast un- and underemployment are now quite common right here in the USA.
    I don't know all the reasons for this disconnect between the columnists and commentators, but the ones I've come up with so far are:
    1. The columnists are behind the times. They grew up in an America that has fundamentally changed, but they aren't aware of it yet.
    2. The columnists are not well-acquainted with the details of the lives of average Americans . Rather than spending so much time in Yemen or whereever, they ought to spend a month in a trailer in rural Ky. or even in my urban neighborhood, where 1 in 3 homes is now empty.I suspect their recommendations would be similar to the ones they make for other countries.
    3. Frankly, from personal experience, I know it is also a lot more stimulating/interesting to spend time in Africa or Asia than in a small town in the USA or a depressed urban area in Florida.

  80. So we helped them "Islam-isize" their schools? As we supported the mujahadim in Afghanistan? And then we had to bomb Iraq back to the stone age (presumably all with your support, Tom?) And now you want us to build schools in Yemen. Doubtless a fine idea.... but precisely where does your largess for the rest of the world stop? (You devote as much of your income as you want to these projects!)
    I'm more interested in bringing our far-flung troops home.

  81. The US cannot solve the problems of the world. The sooner we face that and accept that, the better. If we keep on trying, we'll go bankrupt.
    Any schools that we build should be built here. In the US. Where they are desperately needed.

    And while we're at it, why not withdraw all our military "aid" and foreign bases too. We could use that money here as well.

  82. Sorry, Tom, but your argument is specious at best. From the 9/11 hijackers to Abdulmutallab, the Christmas day bomber, we have seen that well-educated young people can also be moved toward radical ideology. Abdulmutallab had access to the best education that money can buy courtesy of his wealthy father, yet he still fell in with Yemeni radicals. Although I wish all children could have good educational opportunities (including those here in the U.S), we have to move past the argument that education alone is a panacea for preventing the radicalization of young people. No, Tom, its not all about schools. I only wish that the solution was that easy.

  83. If we had built the stupid schools in Afganistan after the Russians left we would not be fighting there now. Unfortunatly politicians can only seee as far as the next election cycle and it blinds them to the truth. Fix our education system in america first and then export education/ideas. Seems so simple only a politician could screw it up.

  84. And then there's our educational system, of course.

  85. It's close minded and unfair of people to say that we should stop worrying about Yemen and let them deal with their own problems because we have our own issues with the education system in this country. I work in the public schools and I agree that there are serious problems to be addressed here. I also hope that such problems get addressed and fixed sooner rather than later (immediately would be best but I won't hold my breath).
    However, many of the problems that exist in Yemen and throughout the Middle East are problems that have been worsened by the United States' overpowering influence. Much of the religious zeal in Yemen has developed as a reaction to our government's policies.
    We cannot jump ship and leave Yemen on its own to 'fix itself'. Collaboration is needed and education is absolutely a more successful way of creating lasting change than is military occupation.

    Problems in the US education system CAN be addressed while problems in the Middle East are addressed. It does not have to be one or the other.

  86. End poverty and unemployment to end terrorism.

  87. Yes we should help the Yemenis build and incorporate modern schools with critical thinking, math and science. But it seems to me we have failed at home. Yemen has religious fanatics that want to spread war and hatred, we have religious fanatics that want to spread war and hatred. Here, the Christian Right would have us believe Jesus has became a lover of war, despises the poor, ignores the sick and greed is a godlike quality. In Yemen the religious fanatics have not gone that far. Their enemy are not the poor people, they do not condone blatant greed as a virtue. We are not practicing what we preach, it rings hollow and will fall on deaf ears.

  88. Ummmmm, forgive me for playing masters of the obvious, but how long do you think those schools would last before they were burned to the ground. Critical thinking is an anathema to most religions, much less one as extreme as Wahhabism. Just a thought...

  89. I wonder how much we could advance the education of US children if we would abstain from foreign military involvements?
    Gerhardt Thamm

  90. I would love to see the comparison of United States money spent on schooling in the Middle East in comparison with United States money spent on military in the region. These numbers should be broadcast until every American understands how we are prioritizing expenditures in the Middle East. The generals have told us that we need to do more to support the military in terms of education and infrastructure and still there is not significant change in policy.

    Unfortunately the military to education expenditures ratio will perpetuate until the United States military industrial complex undergoes significant reform.

  91. Ok, Tom I know you speak to a great many prominent people but speaking from experience at the point of action with three tours in Iraq taking on the monumental task and responsibility of building schools does not education people. You need an education system with teachers, materials and buildings. If your objective is to educate the building buildings does not do acheive your goal. It will however make many contractors rich but it will not solve the right problem. We are better served discovering the right problem and applying our talents to that.

  92. I wish for once we would elect to go away; not do anything. Clearly and according to his article US meddling has helped create this situation, as it did by building up the Taliban in Afghanistan to thwart the Russians. WE need to trust that everyone wants to be happy and stop goading reactions by our interference. As far as oil addiction, like all trade, the natural confluence that occurs around trade is what keeps the melting pot boiling and the world communicating. The fall of oil will further isolate the Middle East which would not be good. We are not so great: look at our economy, education, health care, and historically relatively recent reliance on slavery. Why should we push the huge "undeveloped" world, to imitate us? Maybe left to their own devices they will come up with something entirely new and better?

  93. If we use other than American teachers perhaps. Our reputation in the world has suffered so we would need Yemeni allies to teach.

    A good start would be to stop putting King James Bible quotes on the sites of rifles our military is using, as it that would put God on our side.

  94. I thought we were busy rebuilding Afghanistan's school system. Or was that Pakistan? Or, perhaps, we'd be wiser to rebuild our own school system.

  95. Thomas: You said, "So here is my new rule of thumb: For every Predator missile we fire at an Al Qaeda target here, we should help Yemen build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking — to boys and girls."

    Clearly you jest! Leave the Yemenis alone. It is their choice to put the madrassa style study of a medieval theocracy first in their lives. Allow them their ancient traditions and get out of their lives.

    Do you know of a single example where the US has invested the tax dollars of its citizens to enhance the educational opportunities of the citizens of a hostile country that has turned that hostility into any emotion other than loathing and hate? Let's keep our eyes on the game. Those Islamic zealots that have hurt us and our fellow western allies are not products of ignorant Yemeni, Afghanistan, Syrian, Jordanian or Saudi slum residents. They are well educated middle class Islamic terrorist. You educate the young in Yemen and all you do is educate the future suicide bomber. The Muslims of the middle east will do this themsleves. They do not need our help.

    You want to do something for schools, lets get our own schools to teach science and math and critical thinking to our boys and girls. Here is a war that is "necessary" and worth the effort. This is a war that is being fought bravely in our Capital's own school district. Follow her lead. She knows the right path. Give your editorial clout to Michelle Rhee and her very supportive Mayor, Adrian Fenty.

  96. By the way, Tom, next time you're sitting down for a little qat with your buddies ruling Yemen, try to keep in mind a few things. Qat has played its part in the economic ruin of Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen. The ruling elite is one of the more oppressive in the world. And President Saleh has managed to keep himself in office for 32 years.

    In short, your buddies may have been educated in the West, but given their actions, they only took what they wanted.

  97. America offering to rebuild anyones educational system gives one pause. My guess is the leaders would really have to give some careful consideration as to which is less damaging - a bombed out infastructure laden with terrorists and anarchy -- or the US system of public education imposed upon their populace. A very tough decision indeed.

  98. Thomas Friedman hits the nail on the head. Now, all we have to do is to persuade the military industry- not the military itself but all the companies that build weapons and supplies for them like cars, uniforms, tanks, ships, tents and anything and everything they use to wage war. We are not fighting these wars because they are necessary, we are fighting them because the industry turned the national security area to a video game. Didn't we attack Saddam in 1990 because we needed to do something with all the bunker busters? In other words, we fight because we have the army, and then there is no money left for anything else. God save us. We, as the public, need lobbyists in DC to protect our interests. Clearly, the elected officials, which are supposed to be public servants, are not strong enough to fight the special interests and the big business. Thank you

  99. What is this paternal obligation we suddenly have to build schools wherever militant fundamentalist Islam pops up? Are these people not both capable of and responsible for fighting their own culture wars? What about our schools [that are being gutted]? The money should go there first. If what is left over is an either/or between the bombs and schools for other people's children, unfortunately the bombs are the safer bet unless we plan on withdrawing from the world stage and isolating ourselves. Sure, all of the above would be nice, but let's worry about our kids first, and treat other polities as if they were grown ups.

  100. Schools not bombs. Food not bombs. Who would hate us then?

  101. Why did this make me think of the tea party fanatics?

  102. If you changed a few words you could be talking about American schools and their poor track record of late in teaching students critical thinking and the scientific method. In a country where half the population believes that the Adam and Eve story was true, and where most students have to borrow too much money to get an education, we should be more worried about our own. With all the oil money in the Middle East they should be educating their own children with no help from us.

  103. Why don't the Saudi princes just stop giving them money? I agree with you though. The most important thing we can do is to not need what they have. They wouldn't care a whit about us then.

  104. "Islamism is not producing any Sakharovs."

    Oh Jeez, Friedman. Really? Are you just parading your ignorance or being stubbornly hyperbolic? There are important and fascinating artists arising throughout the Middle East, from Abbas Kiarostami and Shirin Neshat in film and video, to Khaled Hosseini, Ahdaf Soueif in fiction and, oh you know what, forget it. If you're so moronic that you're not aware that there are talented artists coming from all over the world, then you're really not as well read as you pretend you are in public.

    Here's my first suggestion: go read Naguib Mafouz's main trilogy of novels (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street), or anything by him (he wrote more than 30 novels). A heads up for you--he won the Nobel Prize. But since he's a Muslim, I guess that doesn't make sense. He couldn't be any Sakharov.....

  105. It is not a surprise that Islamic fundamentalism was spurred on by the reactionary pro-American regimes of the Seventies and Eighties. This was the only way they could fight Socialism.
    The West didn't want Nasser to succeed, so it created Osama bin Laden.
    This is just a repeat of the twenties and thirties where the West built up the Fscists and Nazis as a counterwieight to the Soviets.
    We need social reform at home and to allow social reform in the Middle East.

  106. We should take money used for missiles and build schools? Okay, wake me up when the U.S. Government does that. Thank you.

  107. Only if we could control what was taught ... throwing money at our system hasn't cured our ills ... why would it cure theirs?

  108. Typical overly rich American - thinks Schools are a panacea to solve "the others" problems.

    Hey Mr. Flat Earth, maybe we should fix our own schools first. But then again, you never really liked logic, you like war!

  109. While I usually agree with Mr. Friedman, this column is absurd--we need to educate our own children first and foremost--our educational system is deplorable. We need to build our schools to create leaders, innovators in math and science. We need to put America'S educational house in order before we go off rebuilding other countries. We need to keep miles away from nation-building and Mr. Friedman's suggestion is just that.

  110. Tom,

    I agree with everything you are saying. But the problem goes deeper than that. As a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University you would be hard pressed to find someone who believes more deeply in education than I do. But education alone will not do it. To quote you: "Because right now there are some 300,000 college-educated Yemenis out of work — partly because of poor training and partly because there are no jobs..."

    Having spent six years of my career working in economic development and poverty reduction, I can tell you that education is a necessary but not sufficient condition. All the statistics prove this out. The average educational level of Hong Kong is only through the 9th grade. Russia and Cuba are both highly educated and look at what basket cases their economies are.

    What is also needed is a stable society with a predictable and transparent government. It is only with this condition in place that the private sector will invest, grow and create new jobs. Sadly, that is not something we can do for them. Only they can do this for themselves. If we don’t acknowledge this we are merely fooling ourselves.

    Bob Bestani

  111. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Selling weapons is more likely the outcome of this cry, and not Education, Mr. Friedman.

  112. I agree with Mr. Friedman. For those who decry spending money on Yemeni education while our own schools are left behind, I would say this: the dollars that we spend on education in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Morocco will serve in our own best interst. This is not altruism or charity. It is heads up national security strategy.

  113. Yes! I agree completely. I have been saying for many years that if the US had built as many schools, hospitals, and community programs as we have built and financed military bases and funded the military machine...we would have many more supporters around the world. I am afraid that the US is reaping what it has sowed in our focus on defense.

    It is not too late. Expand the Peace Corps, give young Americans jobs, and education credits. The main way out of poverty for young people should not be the military! We could solve a multitude of problems by focusing on building the globe instead of only defending/controling it. What we have done in the past is not getting us what Americans want, peace, prosperity and stability. Let us all think outside the box!

  114. I agree that education is key. I grew up in Beirut during the 15-year civil war and the only reason I am able now to have a normal productive life (successful career that contributes to society) is primarily because: despite the crazy everyday violence; I had a good education using American science and Math books. I was equipped and prepared for real life even though I lived in hell and it worked. In Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all other almost-failed states you need to give people a way out. Education gives the next generation another option. An option to have skills in this high-tech world and create a better life for themselves (and may be help build a better country). Not all of them will take this option but I am sure that just like in Lebanon most will choose it.

    Unfortunately, Ali Sallah and other corrupt dictators/leaders do not care about creating this second option. Neither does the US gov seem to care. What the average Arab on the street sees is the US coordinating with (and giving military support to) dictators who only care about staying in power and enriching their families and friends.

    What is needed is a different approach. Starting with the education system is a good idea.

  115. Schools yes, Predators no!

  116. When will ever learn? Saudi Arabia is not an American ally. But they have bought off government officials, universities, and influential people here. They could teach the Wall Street banks lessons.

  117. In a perfect world, Thomas Friedman makes perfect sense. If we could influence the education of the Yemeni's, the Afghan's, the Somali's, etc., it is possible the we could turn them from ignorant fanatics into semi-literate wage slaves. It's a great idea, but it misses the target.
    The Yemeni's, the Afghan's, and the Somali's are a threat to us because they are poor, uneducated, and desperate for a way out of their current conditions. The perfect candidates for suicide bombers. The only thing that keeps us safe is that they live far away.
    But if being poor, uneducated, and desperate for a way out is a pre-requisite for suicide bombers, we don't have to look outside our own borders to find likely candidates.
    That is why Mr. Friedman has missed the mark. Those schools, or their equivalents, need to be built here.
    We can do a better job of keeping foriegn terrorists out of this country, but how do we stop the home grown terrorists from destroying from within?

  118. Tom

    Who cares about Yemen? We can't pay our bills. How about we compromise and pull our troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and beef up the Peace Corps? Nation building is money down a rat hole. If you want to do that join the Peace Corps.

  119. Why us, Tom? Why does it always have to be us?

    The citizens of Yemen need to decide for themselves what kind of education they want to give to their future generation. Not me. No more.

    I want a better education for the next generation in THIS country. Why is this so much to ask?

  120. Tom, I appreciate your thoughtful approach. Frequently disagree, but admire your efforts. For several decades we have viewed our own education system as a series of escalating trade schools. This has given us a million or so MBAs incapable of contemplating larger issues and trapped in patterns of false dichotomies - Free Market v. Socialism, Family Values v. Liberal Depravities, etc., etc.

    We desperately need to teach our own people to think critically. The education systems in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. may be awful, and the spread of Wahabism is surely a serious threat. But my greatest concern is the decline of our own schools, and our attitude towards them. College freshmen should be looking forward to becoming educated people, not just putting in time to get a job certificate. They may become competent accountants or lawyers and be utter failures as human beings.

  121. What good would modern schools do Yemen if the religious extremists do not let the population use them?

  122. Tom, stop smoking hashish ! There is a perfectly broken country right under our noses; it's the former republic called the United States of America. It used to be a progressive democracy that was a beacon of goodness; it is now a decaying plutocracy with dying journalism, a raped middle class and a thoroughly corrupted government serving the obesely rich. Put down your passport, Tom, and drive down the pot-holed American road; the USA is completely kaput.

  123. Hummmm.
    Sounds suspiciously like the idea Greg Mortenson had and actually has been working on for years and documented in his book, "Three Cups Of Tea"
    Check out this interview he did with Bill Moyers;

  124. It is awkward to think of America having stronger relation with Saudi Arabia after 9/11. Is Taliban any different from that? Both receive water from same fountain but why drink from one is more infectious than the other?

  125. Friedman is absolutely right here: free education is the best counterbalance to Saudi-funded madrasas indoctrinating young Muslim students in so many countries around the world.

    Greg Mortenson is saying the same thing in his books, 'Three Cups of Tea' and 'Stones Into Schools', and is also suggesting that instead of spending billions of dollars on military counterterrorism campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, US should better spend the money to build schools for children in these countries. Bright, educated kids are much more difficult to indoctrinate. No wonder jihadist mullahs all over the region hate secular schools, especially for girls.