Arnold Kling  

Of Bones and Pomeranian Grenadiers

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Edward Luttwak writes,


We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts—excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa. The people of the middle east (only about five per cent of the world's population) are remarkably unproductive, with a high proportion not in the labour force at all...even with high oil prices, Saudi Arabia's annual per capita income, at $14,000, is only about half that of oil-free Israel.

...the region boasts the second lowest adult literacy rate in the world (after sub-Saharan Africa) at just 63 per cent...despite its oil wealth, the entire middle east generated under 4 per cent of global GDP in 2006—less than Germany.

Unless compelled by immediate danger, we should therefore focus on the old and new lands of creation in Europe and America, in India and east Asia—places where hard-working populations are looking ahead instead of dreaming of the past.


Many intellectuals complain that America is isolationist. But I cannot think of a President since Eisenhower who showed any real determination to keep America out of things (I'm thinking of Vietnam in particular, where Eisenhower was much more willing than Kennedy to take a pass. I also would tend to view his approach to the Suez crisis as anti-interventionist, although one could argue that point.)

Perhaps complaints about America's isolationism are comparable to complaints about our free-market health care system. That is, they mis-describe the current state and create a bias toward government expansion.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Bill writes:

Many intellectuals complain that America is isolationist.

Who are these intellectuals and under what rock have they been hiding? I'm serious. Who are these people?

Buzzcut writes:

Maybe I should read the whoe article, but the excerpted quote is bogus.

The middle east is not a focus because of how productive or unproductive it is. It is not a focus because it does or does not produce patents.

It is a focus because of one thing: militant Islam. And militant Islam is also why the place is so unproductive.

Militant Islam is a problem because it is agressive and expansionist, much like Communism was in the last century. Ignoring militant Islamists is not going to lessen its agressiveness or expansionist tendencies. It will just embolden them.

dearieme writes:

What can he mean by "focus"? Invade? Anyway, "excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa". If you exclude Israel, shouldn't you also exclude South Africa? How would the comparison look then?

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