Analogies

TalkingPointsMemo notes an odd simile, using the headline: Tom Friedman Compares Afghanistan To “Special Needs Baby”. Friedman told Fareed Zakaria:

This is nation building. This is nation building 101 in the most fragmented country in the world. Fareed, we’re talking about Afghanistan. And we’re talking about America in the middle of the great recession. I feel like we’re like an unemployed couple who just went out and decided to adopt a special needs baby. You know, I mean, that’s really kind of what we’re doing. And that’s like, whoa, y’know, that terrifies me.

Friedman’s error isn’t what kind of baby he thinks Afghanistan might be, it’s the premise that invading and occupying a sovereign country is like an adoption.

If we take this simile in its strongest form, such that there is a comparison drawn between each element, we wind up with:

  1. USA compared to an unemployed couple
  2. sending ~100,000 troops into another country compared to adoption
  3. Afghanistan compared to special needs baby

Of all the parallels in that analogy, calling Afghanistan “special needs” may be the least offensive to all involved. Its needs are special, it’s rate of growth is abnormal and unhealthy, and Afghanistan does need more help than many countries do to function normally. That said, it’s managed to kick the asses of several of history’s mightiest empires, including Alexander the Great’s, Great Britain’s, the Soviets’, and (possibly) America’s. Hardly the sort of thing most babies do, however special it might be.

That analogy is interesting to discuss, at least, while the parallels between adoption and a military occupation are … deeply disturbing. And you know what, Friedman’s been selling that line for a while now. It’s absurd, offensive to the Afghans, to our troops (or, as Friedman would have it until this September, “babysitters”), and of course, to actual adoptive parents.

For a long time, I assumed Friedman’s request that Iraqis “Suck. On. This.” was a reference to the male genitalia. But maybe he thinks we adopted Iraq, and just wanted them to nurse.

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