Hyperconnected pontificator Thomas Friedman's column this weekend was one long extended metaphor purporting to explain the threatening nature of the Islamic State. Like The Da Vinci Code, his theory has a hidden, stupid secret.
Thomas Friedman is a man who makes millions of dollars annually and is closely read by the most powerful members of the corporate and political establishment. Presumably because of his unique ability to translate ideas into metaphors? One might think, therefore, that Thomas Friedman's ideas would be based upon deep study of the issue at hand, and that his metaphors would be carefully chosen to convey the most precise meaning of a given situation.
Is this a fact? Or might his metaphors be based upon... lesser intellectual ground? I won't pollute this discussion with my personal bias. Decide for yourself! Your first hint is the headline of Friedman's column:
"I.S. = Invasive Species"
Interesting... but is there an incredibly boring story of dubious import to justify this first-letter-based metaphor?
AN Iraqi official recently told me this story: When the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, took over Mosul in the summer, the Sunni jihadist fighters in ISIS, many of whom were foreigners, went house to house. On the homes of Christians they marked "Nassarah," an archaic Arabic term for Christians. But on the homes of Shiites they marked "Rafidha," which means "those who reject" the Sunni line of authority as to who should be caliph, or leader of the Muslim community, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. But here's what was interesting, the Iraqi official said, the term "Rafidha" was largely unknown in Iraq to describe Shiites. It is a term used by Wahhabi fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia. "We did not know this word," he told me. "This is not an Iraqi term."
I was intrigued by this story because it highlighted the degree to which ISIS operates just like an "invasive species" in the world of plants and animals. It is not native to either the Iraqi or Syrian ecosystems. It never before grew in their landscapes.
The entire column continues like this.
Incredibly, some of the most influential people in the world believe that Thomas Friedman's foreign policy metaphors are based on something more substantial than the fact that some things start with the same letters of the alphabet as other things.