Tom Maguire , Robert Musil, and Dan Drezner are not particularly impressed with Paul Krugman’s latest missive to the readers of The New York Times, in which he
defends explains blames George W. Bush for Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s anti-Semitic diatribe in front of the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s recent summit.
Dan points out that Mahathir has basically made a career of using anti-Semitic rhetoric to bolster his reign as head of Malaysia’s one-party state*, a career that well-precedes George Bush’s presidency, has generally been chummy with the Bush administration (as Mark Kleiman pointed out a few days ago, rather unhelpfully if you’re trying to defend Krugman’s ignorance of contemporary U.S. foreign policy), and has “no domestic flank to protect” seeing as he’s leaving office in November—although it’s unclear whether Mahathir will continue to pull the strings in Malaysia, as his neighbor Lee Kuan Yew continues to do in Singapore.
Tom, on the other hand, engages in full-scale fisking of Krugman, wondering if Krugman actually read the speech in question. Robert Musil does some fisking of his own, suggesting we could find quite a few alternatives to Mahathir as a “forward-looking” Muslim leader, and isn’t all that impressed by Krugman’s attempt to whitewash Malaysia’s brutal policies imposed on its ethnic Chinese minority as some sort of high-minded affirmative action program.
* While Malaysia has multiple legal parties, they are tightly regulated by the state and opposition parties are actively undermined by widespread gerrymandering and state support for Mahathir’s United Malay People’s Organization (UMNO) and its affiliated ethnic Chinese and Islamist parties.