PJ O'Rourke On the Middle East

I use to read a lot of this guy in Rolling Stone...


In your last interview for The Atlantic you mentioned that Chris Buckley and Dave Barry are good friends of yours. What would happen if we locked the three of you in a room—with drinks and cigars, of course—and told you to solve the problems of the Middle East?

First of all, it better be a lot of cigars and a lot of beer! An awful lot of beer, because we're going to be in there for a long, long time. The problems of the Middle East are the problems of mankind since we came out of the trees. They just happen to be a little more intense. When you look at a chaotic region like the Middle East, what you're really seeing is most of human history, and some parts of America and some parts of Europe and a few parts of Asia are glaring exceptions. The kind of peaceful, productive, incredibly wealthy life that we live in these few areas around the world—this has only been going on for a nanosecond as time goes. It's so exceptional I'm not even sure what it means. The whole world might degenerate back into the Middle East, because that's what it's always been. And you can't solve the problem of the Middle East, because it's not a problem, it's a condition. It's the normal condition of mankind.

If you read Donald Kagan's The Peloponnesian War, it's all there. It's been going on like this, time out of mind. Little islands of human happiness, peace, and prosperity are so exceptional at this point in history that I'm not even sure we can draw lessons from them.

So we shouldn't be trying to make sense out of it?

You don't despair about something like the Middle East, you just do the best you can. Do the right thing and be brave and it will never get any better.


PJ O'Rourke Inteview

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