World Is 'Flatter' than Ever, Author Says Two years ago, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that the global, economic playing field was leveling out for countries such as China and India. A new edition of his book, The World is Flat, has been released in paperback.
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World Is 'Flatter' than Ever, Author Says

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Four years ago, when the United States invaded Iraq, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman supported the Bush administration's goals to overthrow Saddam Hussein and establish a democratic government in the heart of the Middle East. But he soon questioned its conduct of the occupation and its competence, and now writes columns about what, if anything, can be salvaged.

Two years ago, the multiple Pulitzer Prize winner set out his views on globalization in a widely acclaimed book called, "The World is Flat." In it, he argued that the playing field had become leveled, or flat, for countries like China and India to compete and about the ways the United States could thrive in the globalized economy. Today, a new edition of "The World is Flat" is out in paperback with two new chapters that address how to be a political activist in a flat world and how to manage your privacy in an increasingly public world. Tom Friedman joins us in just a moment.

Later in the program, Rock Harper, the chef who emerged from "Hell's Kitchen" on television last night, and your letters.

But first, a conversation with Tom Friedman. If you have questions for him about Iraq, globalization, the Middle East or oil, give us a call. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. E-mail - talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation on our blog. That's at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Tom Friedman joins us here in Studio 3. Nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. TOM FRIEDMAN (Foreign Affairs Columnist, The New York Times; Author, "The World is Flat: A Brief History of The Twenty-First Century"): Well, thank you.

CONAN: On Iraq, we've read a series of cautiously optimistic assessments of the so-called surge, on the military side at least…

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah.

CONAN: …from recent visitors to Iraq. I know you're on your way to Baghdad soon. What do you expect to find?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, I'm going because I want to make my own assessment obviously, but I'm also going with enormous humility in the sense that - you know, one things that has always struck me about Iraq, this will be my, I guess, my sixth visit, compared to covering Lebanon. I covered Lebanon during the Civil War from '79 to '84. And reporters in Lebanon, Neal, we can go north, south, east, west. We can go the Christian side in the morning and the Palestinian side in the afternoon, the Shiites in the evening, and the Sunnis the next morning, and the Druze, you know, for tea. And as a result of that, after a couple of years in Lebanon, if you were there and halfway decent reporter, you could feel like you had a bird's eye view of the country. In fact, I would say reporters in Lebanon had the best bird's eye view.

In Iraq, that's not the case. The thing that's always struck me about Iraq is no one has a bird's eye view of the country. Everyone has to look at it through a peephole.

That said, my own metric on whether the surge is working or not - the surge is not working, I think of surges in Iraq the way I think of Arab-Israeli peace overtures. And I have a fundamental rule about Arab-Israeli peace overtures, and it goes like this. If you need a Middle East expert to explain it to you, it's not real, okay? No one had to explain Anwar Sadat's trip to Jerusalem. Everyone got it in their gut. Yet everyone had to explain the Saudi peace overture, which, actually, I was involved in, and - because it was basically facts, you know, to the Israeli people, so some of them didn't interpret, you know, the facts. I kind of feel that way about the surge.

That is - if it needs a Middle East expert to explain to you why it's working, then it's not working. Because to me, the measure of the surge working is not whether, you know, the number of people, you know, turning up dead in Diyala province is down by 30 percent. All that tells you, Neal, is that where you put more American troops, you get more security. Well, we knew that from before. The measure of the surge working is, is there an Iraq. Because is there an Iraqi state with an Iraqi army to hand over those places where large number of American troops can establish security to an Iraqi army that would report to a unified Iraqi government? That strikes me as still a very much open question.

CONAN: Another open question is the patience of the American people. And that is an evaluation. Well, we keep hearing, you know, there's a military timetable, there's a political timetable, and there's also a public timetable, and patience has run out.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: You certainly feel that as you listen to the debate, not only listen to the Democratic debates, but also, I think, more relevantly to the Republican debate. This is a no great insight, but I think the people you have to watch are the Republicans and when, as we enter the presidential season, do they march down Pennsylvania Avenue and tell the president it's enough.

I think the game of the president, the game - the strategy of the president is to - his hope is to stabilize Iraq enough that there's virtually no casualties and you can begin a drawdown of troops. So he'll say, look, I'm drawing them down. But basically keeping a force there in the hope, may be vain at this stage that somehow, a political process will emerge there to stitch a united Iraq together. That seems to be the president's strategy. You know, whether…

CONAN: And a pretty diminished goal. And a lot of people would say…

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Oh, absolutely.

CONAN: …it's a pipe dream, too.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah. Exactly. I think it's - I think the chances of it are very low. And, as you say, and sadly, it's a diminished goal. And, you know, when you look around the region, you look at Gaza, what's happened there, you look at Lebanon, what's happened there, you really see the need there for consensual, decent, progressive government.

And the hope that Iraq, not in some ridiculous domino theory, but just in the heart of that world, might have provided a model, a social contract in a region that has only known top-down monologues of dictators, kings and colonial powers, that you might actually have produced a horizontal dialogue where actually the constituent communities of an Arab country reach a social contract so they don't have to be ruled by an iron fist. It's very sad. Most of all, you know, we will have failed, but they will have lost and, I think, the real opportunity.

CONAN: One more question from me…

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Shoot.

CONAN: …and then we have listeners on the line. 800-989-8255 if you'd like to join us. Tom Friedman is our guest.

But, that is, you did propose, recently in a column, a diminished goal yourself.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah.

CONAN: There is one part of Iraq, you suggested, where these goals might still be achievable.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: And that's Kurdistan. And what we see in Kurdistan, we've seen the opening of an American university there. We see what I like to call decent progressive modernizing government. To call Kurdistan, you know, a Jeffersonian democracy, it's not, it's still dominated by two major clans, the Barzanis and Talabanis. But you really have a reasonably free press there. You have a very vibrant capitalist economy, and most of all, you have decency, which is why so many Iraqis of every ethnic group are flocking there.

And it seems to me that, Lord knows, if we can't get the whole Iraq, if we can at least implant, you know, there a decent model - you know, I'm really a big believer that one good example is worth a thousand theories, and that you get a decent model there, that may be, sometime in the future, people will say, you know, I'd like a heck of a lot more than that than I would some crazy lunatic state down here.

CONAN: All right. Let's get callers on the line. And again, our number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. And we'll begin with John(ph). John is with us from Boston. John, are you there? I think John just hung up.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: I have that effect.

CONAN: Well, I do, too, sometimes. Let's go instead now to - this is Clay(ph). And let's see if we can get Clay on the line. Clay is with us from Kansas City.

CLAY (Caller): Hello?

CONAN: Hi, Clay, you're on the air.

CLAY: Thank you. Mr. Friedman, I've got a question for you.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Shoot.

CLAY: And I've heard you talk about this before. And it's about partition. It strikes me that the only solution there in Iraq is to partition it not just on the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds, but maybe even among the Kuwaitis, the Iranians, the Syrians, the Turks, and maybe, just maybe, put Palestinian homeland there and maybe compensate everybody financially to make it so.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: You mean sort of like redraw the whole map of the Middle East, which is…

CLAY: Absolutely.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah.

CLAY: What do you think about that?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: You know, one of the problems I have with - you know, this whole question of partition, which Joe Biden and Les Gelb have been proposing, the one problem with it, Clay, is that no Iraqis have been proposing it yet, you know? And so it becomes very hard for us to impose externally. But I do think what we learned from Bosnia is if you get an internal movement in that direction and maybe the ethnic cleansing, that sadly has gone on there, and just the nature of the fighting in communities, in effect partitioning themselves, that, you know, within six months or a year, that that may be the natural solution. We may not call it partition. We may call it extreme federalism, but it's certainly a possibility. It's very hard, though, for us to impose it.

To come to Syria - you know, in a country like Syria, it's a- I know fairly well the populations are really mixed up, I mean, in the best sense of the word. You know, there - Damascus is a city of, you know, of predominantly Sunnis, but there's a big Christian community, there's a big Alawite community. So, it's very hard to do from the outside. It has to happen from the ground up, not from the top down.

CONAN: It does make a degree of sense in the sense that those borders were originally drawn by colonial powers with very little regard as to who actually lived there and then that's why you got the current split up between Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey, and various other things. On the other hand, I remember back in the old days of the OAU in Africa there where the - they used to say, the only thing worse than those colonial borders that separated all of us - the only thing worse than those would be to try to redraw them.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah, and that's - they do take on a logic of their own.

CONAN: Yeah. Anyway, Clay, thanks very much for the call.

CLAY: Whether it's imposed or comes from the ground up, do you see any other solution?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It's a very good question. I lean in your direction, Clay. The thing I'm asking myself is, what would be self-sustaining? For, you know - Neal raised the point the American public's out of patience. We're not going to stay there forever. And the surge is only a means to creating a framework that would be - the question you have to ask about the surge or anything else is, is what you're creating self-sustaining? And it's pretty clear, Clay, from everything that's happened over the last five years in Iraq - almost - that the only self-sustaining Iraq is one that is roughly or loosely divided between the three communities.

CLAY: Thank you very much for your time.

CONAN: And thanks for call.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Thank you.

CONAN: And, as you go back, the level of casualties, it has gone down a little bit…

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah.

CONAN: …it has not notably extended American patience a great deal.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Right.

CONAN: But there is a deadline coming up here in Washington come September. We keep seeing the Bush administration apparently trying to downplay that, too.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Right.

CONAN: We anticipate the message, look, it's too early to tell, really.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah, I mean, basically, you know, what's happened, I think, you know, is that the president has lost all credibility with the American people on this issue, as has the vice president, who you know, basically said that the insurgency had run its course a year ago. And so, as a result of that, they've outsourced the decision of whether or not the surge is working to the firm of Petraeus and Crocker. General Petraeus, our military commander on the ground and Ryan Crocker, our ambassador. Well, that puts them, really, in an impossible situation.

No doubt, with the surge, you can point to improvements in some areas and lack of improvement in others, but I come back to the key metric. The key metric is, you know, the way I look at it, you know, is ask yourself this question: What would convince you? I start there. I just look in the mirror and say, what would convince you that it's working? Well, what would convince me is if I saw Iraqis coming together - Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis - asking us to stay and committing themselves to a real deadline to produce a real government.

CONAN: Tom Friedman is our guest. If you have questions for him about Iraq, or China, or his book, "The World is Flat," give us a call. 800-989-8255. You can also reach us by e-mail, talk@npr.org. In a minute, just how flat is the world these days?

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

It's two years now since Tom Friedman described a new globalized and flat world. Now, his update, "The World is Flat 3.0" is out in paperback. We're talking with him about the book, about Iraq, China, U.S. policy.

If you have questions for New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, give us a call. 800-989-8255, e-mail is talk@npr.org. And you can read his take on globalization 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 at our Web site - that's at npr.org/talk.

And, Tom, the new addition to the book is at paperback. Is the world any more or less flat than two years ago?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It's more than ever flat, Neal. I really see the process continuing and intensifying. The three things that flatten the world, you know, the rise of the personal computer, which allowed us all to be creators of our own content, including the listeners of this show. The Internet, which allowed us to actually share that content globally and collaborate with others on it. And the software, which risk enhances that collaboration, to me, of advanced farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.

CONAN: Mm hmm. One of the interesting things about the book, in one of the new chapters, is a book on how transparent all of us are today. You and I have had the great, good fortune that the first part of our careers, where we made most of our mistakes, I like to think, well, those are unrecoverable. Those mistakes are known to us and our confessors. Your daughters, my daughter and son, they are going to - the entirety of their lives is going to be around them like a nimbus of digital fact for the rest of their lives.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It's really true. You know, when you - when the world is this flat, everything you do becomes a digital footprint, basically, that never gets washed away by the sea. George Bush could not be elected president today, imagine how many cell phone camera pictures of him may be splayed on account sheet - Skull and Bones, you know, at Yale, would be circulating. And Lord knows, we all have that and our kids.

You know, I first started thinking about this. I was teaching, actually at Harvard, what, three years ago, and just a course on globalization with a couple of friends, and I was at Boston Logan Airport, they're coming back to Washington, and I went to buy a magazine late in the day. And I walked up to the magazine stand and there's a woman coming from another direction, I thought I got there first, I put my money down, and she said, excuse me, I was here first. And she looked at me, Neal, like, I know who you are. If that happened today, I'd say, ma'am, could I buy your magazine? Could I take you to lunch, could I shine your shoes? Just don't blog about me or take a picture of me on your cell phone.

What is that all about? It's that we really live in this incredibly transparent world, where, on the one hand, everyone can now create content. All your listeners, all your neighbors, and at the same time, with Google, YouTube, everyone can now search that content, broadcast it anywhere in the world. So, what does that mean, Neal? What it means is, if I want to go to Google now, and put in Neal Conan, I can hear everything whispered about you. I can hear everything whispered about you. And we can all hear everything whispered about ourselves.

Now, you know, if you want to have some fun, go to Google and type in MySpace and lawsuits, and see some of the stuff that's going on around this. Because when everyone's a creator of content, well, let's say, you know, your neighbors, one day, they've got their own MySpace page, you know, maybe now Facebook - a lot of adults doing that - and they go in their Web site and they say the Conans had a fight last night.

CONAN: You wouldn't believe it.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: You wouldn't believe it. I heard dishes breaking. They don't know that Mrs. Conan is Greek. She loves to throw dishes into the fireplace to celebrate her birthday, and wham, it's all over the world. And so, what this means, the net result of it, is that - this is something a friend of mine, Dov Seidman has written, I think, beautifully about in a book called "How." And Dove's point, which I've also quoted in the book, is this - it's a simple point, Neal. How you live your life, how you collaborate with others, how you say you're sorry or don't say you're sorry, that's going to matter more than ever before.

You and I were lucky. When I applied to the New York Times and you applied to NPR, you got to turn in something called a resume. And, as Dov points out, that resume was a proxy for your life. And it was written by Neal Conan. Now, you go to apply for a job, well, they'll take your resume, I suppose, and then they'll Google you upside and downside. And if they want to see how well you write, they'll Google what you've written, maybe in your high school paper, maybe in your college paper. They'll see what pictures of you on YouTube maybe have showed up. And so your ability now to write your own life story is going to be much diminished. So, you know, Mark Twain said, always tell the truth, that way you'll never have to remember what you said?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It's so much more true in a flat world.

CONAN: And tell the truth and be polite.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

CONAN: Let's get some more callers on the line. This is Eric(ph). Eric's calling us from St. Louis.

ERIC (Caller): Hi. Hey, did I detect in Mr. Friedman's assessment just now that maybe the flat world isn't quite as great as it sounded from his tone in the first addition of the book that it was. That as we get flat, we're getting thin and two dimensional and seeing everybody very - everything about them, but in a very two dimensional, gossipy way?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, one of things about, is it Eric?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Writing about globalization, Eric, is that, if you have - if you actually read the "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" and "The World is Flat," what you'll notice is, I say there are upsides to globalization and downsides to globalization. And I go through them quite extensively.

But there's something about this issue, globalization, that if you say there are any upsides, it's shill, spokesman for corporate capitalism, enemy of culture - no, no, excuse me, I just meant that there are upsides and downsides. shill, spokesman - well, the fact is, I have to tell you, Eric, you know, I kind of get a little excited, you know, when I see hundreds of thousands -actually, tens of millions of people in India and China coming out of poverty, in larger numbers faster than ever before in the history of the world.

So, I have to think that's a real upside. I also think there are real downsides. And I've always really stressed the two, but the way people look at this subject, somehow, if you just say there are some upsides and some downsides, then immediately, you're a spokesman, pen glossy, and, you know, shill for globalization. No, the fact is, there are good things about it, there are bad things about it, the flattening of the world makes possible incredible opportunities like blogging, and it makes possible the virtual Afghanistan and al-Qaida Web sites, the two are together. The name of the game is how do you get the best and cushion the worst.

ERIC: Could I ask a follow-up question?

CONAN: Sure, go ahead.

ERIC: Do you think that your advocacy of going into Iraq was an extension of your flat world doctrine, and possibly, in the negative sense, in that, we're trying to make Iraq the same as everybody else, but in so doing, we actually flatten the country, because, really, one size does not fit all.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: That's a legitimate question. You know, it really didn't come out of that. What it really came out - from my own travels in the Arab world, and my own real sense, in my - in many discussions with young people, how much they aspire to a different future in that part of the world. And my whole take on Iraq, before the war, which is all in - written in longitudes and latitudes and in this flat world, very easy to access, I really tried to stress two points. Why this could be so important? And why it was really hard. And I was really torn between those two things.

And the reason I think it's really important, Eric, is that, look at the Middle East today, what do you really see in that part of the world? You see two trends. One, you see the biggest population explosion happening regionally anywhere in the world, from Morocco to the border of India. On the other hand, you see really authoritarian, retrograde government, you know, for the most part - not exclusively, but for the most part. Now I happen to think those governments, which are basically now really running on oil, and feeding their people subsidized jobs, subsidized state industries, et cetera…

CONAN: And living in fear.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: …and forcing fear on them, is producing a set of pathologies that were the groundwork, not just of 9/11, but everything you see going on in Europe today, and everything that ultimately exploded in Iraq. It seemed to me that when the oil starts to dry up and the populations continue to rise, you're going to see, actually, the biggest social explosion anywhere on the planet, in that part of the world, in my view. And so it seemed to me that it wasn't crazy after 9/11 to see if we could partner with people there to change the context. One of the things that - to change the context in which these young people are going to grow up not to be a context of anger, of humiliation, and unemployment, that doesn't seem like totally crazy to me. Yes, I knew it was going to be really hard.

But, you know, thinking about a whole chunk of civilization that's growing up under oppressive backward regimes, one expression of which was what exploded on 9/11, but what explodes there every day in suicide bombings - that's not normal. So, thinking about how we could collaborate with that part of the world to create a different context seemed really important to me then, still seems important to me now. My sadness is - and this is, I think, was something that the Bush people never fully appreciated, not to mention others - how many people there were hoping we would succeed?

CONAN: Hmm. Eric, thanks very much for the call.

ERIC: You're welcome.

CONAN: And here's an e-mail from Caroline(ph) in Mankato, Minnesota. Do you regret your support for the Iraq war and is your wife talking to you yet?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: My wife's always talking to me because she understood really my reasons for it. They're many things I regret, Neal. I regret the fact that I don't think we ever put enough troops on the ground. I regret the incredibly nihilistic, suicidal violence that's been perpetrated against the Iraqi people by other Muslims - the blowing up of Hamas, the blowing up of schools, the blowing up of universities, the blowing up of markets, which has been greeted by silence in that part of the world.

Of course, I'm full of regrets about how the war has transpired. But that doesn't excuse me or anyone else from thinking seriously about how we collaborate with people there, if we can, to produce a different context that isn't going to take a whole swath of civilization and condemn it to a future authoritarianism, okay, and a future of religious fanaticism. Sorry, I still believe that you got to think seriously about that question, but I have deep regrets, obviously, about how it's played up.

CONAN: Now, let's get Ben(ph) on the line. Ben is with us from New Meadows in Idaho.

BEN (Caller): Howdy?

CONAN: Howdy.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Howdy?

BEN: I was wondering what you thought about what seems to be a lot of drive in the Middle East to protect their own culture and how that's actually clashing with what we're bringing in the western culture, and how that's going to be integrated and how it will ultimately play out in Iraq and other countries as well?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It's really a good question. You know, there is a deep strain of certainly anti-Western and fear of globalization in that part of the world. And I certainly understand that there is a very powerful, you know, traditional culture there where family and clan are very, very strong, and tribe, as we see in Iraq. I once did a book tour of Egypt - but when I wrote "Lexus and the Olive Tree," my book before "The World is Flat" and "Globalization," I remember it's the last day I - the Egyptian woman who was escorting me on the book tour said to me after she overheard my lecture…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: …you know, over and over again, 10 times in Egypt, and she said, Mr. Friedman, can I ask you a question? I said, of course, anything. She said, if we are going to globalization, does that mean we can't give charity anymore? And I thought, wow. What a powerful and interesting question - giving alms, charities, one of the five pillars of Islam.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: And somehow, you know, she was really worried that in this market-driven world, that that real cultural pillar was going to get wiped out. I said, no. That's not the case. But I understand, you know, that dimension of it. But I also understand the hunger in that part of the world by young people - and here's where it intersects with Eric's question about the flat world - to be able to realize their full aspirations. Why is it that 25 percent of college grads in that part of the world immediately leave the area? Why is it that so many young people, when you sit with Arabs and Muslims, the first word out on their mouth is humiliation? These are people craving a different future.

CONAN: Ben, thanks for the call.

BEN: Thank you.

CONAN: Tom Friedman is our guest. A new edition of his book, "The World is Flat" is out today. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And another e-mail question. This one from Mark(ph) in Columbus, Ohio. Could the recent product recalls of Chinese goods lead to a rethinking of our trade policies? What if American workers made toys for American children made to American standards or is this no longer possible?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Probably, no longer possible in large scale. Simply because of the ability of China to compete on these cheap labor-intensive, low-cost products. But certainly, things like, you know, that incident are going to give people some pause. Maybe there'll be a backlash. I don't really know.

CONAN: Hmm. Joe(ph) is on the line. Joe calling is from Ludlow, Kentucky.

JOE (Caller): Hey, Mr. Friedman. Very nice to hear your voice.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Thank you.

JOE: I'm one of the - you're considered a big thinker, a big world thinker, you know, long range and geopolitical. And I'm curious as to how and what your ideas are on how to control these radical fundamentalists in the madrasahs that are out there preaching to destroy western civilization and they seem to grow stronger everyday. And we're just clinging on, you know, with teeth and nail just to try to hang on to what we have over there. And they just seem to be becoming more and more popular. And my second question…

CONAN: Why don't we deal with one at a time?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Let me take that one. This is very…

JOE: Well, this one kind of goes hand in hand, if I may…

CONAN: Very quickly then. We're going to run out of time.

JOE: China, Russia, India, these people are going to be affected by this global jihad also. And I don't understand why they are letting us bleed to death slowly while they just stand back because, you know, they're going to be…

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, I got you.

JOE: Okay.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It's a good question. Let me - and I guess again, people ask, you know, about the war and why I would have supported it. It goes back to the very beginning. I believe that we treated the Arab world - for 50 years, we, the United States Democrats and Republicans - as a collection of being big dumb gas stations. That's how we treated it. There is the Saudi station, the Algeria station, Libya station. And our message to them was basically, guys - because it was only guys to talk to - here's the deal. Keep your pumps open, your prices low, and be nice to the Jews. Don't bother the Israelis too much.

And you know what? You can do whatever you want outback. You can treat your women however you like. You can deprive your young people of their aspirations as much as you want. You can preach whatever intolerance you want from your mosque. You can print what other crazy conspiracies in your newspapers you like. You can deprive your people any civil rights you want. Just keep the pumps open, the price low, and be nice to the Jews, and do whatever you want outback.

Well, it was my crazy view then, and it's my crazy view today, that on 9/11, we got hit with the distilled essence of everything that was going on outback, that all of those pathologies were really embodied by bin Laden.

And therefore, it seemed to me that if we could find a way to collaborate with people there, to change the context of what's going on outback that that would be hugely important, and that's the answer to the caller's question. That's the only way you get that might address the issue. Think about it. What's the second largest Muslim country in the world? It's actually a country called India.

Well, here's an interesting question. How many Indian Muslims are there in Guanatanamo Bay? Zero. Until the bombings in London last week, we saw no Indian Muslims really taking part in any of these al-Qaida phenomena. Well, how could that be? Could it be because the richest man in India is a Muslim software entrepreneur? Could it be because India just had a Muslim president? Could it be because if you're a young person in India, you can run - a young Indian Muslim, you can run for office, start a newspaper, speak your mind?

Guess what, ladies and gentlemen - context matters. The context within which people live their life, that is so important. And it's reflective in their religion and their outlook in the world, and whether they want to wrap themselves up in dynamite. So pardon me for thinking that maybe if we could begin to try to change the context in collaboration with people there, it'd be a heck of a lot better for them, a lot better for the whole world.

CONAN: Tom Friedman, thanks very much for your time today. Tom Friedman's book, "The World is Flat" is out in a new paperback edition today with additional material. And he joined us here today in Studio 3A.

CONAN: Coming up, out of Fox TV's "Hell's Kitchen" and onto Studio 3A, Rock Harper has got the keys to his own kitchen last night. He joins us next.

Plus, an update on the case of the missing ceramic turtle urn. Stay with us.

It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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