Thomas Friedman proposes a new rate of marginal transformation

So here is my new rule of thumb: For every Predator missile we fire at an Al Qaeda target here, we should help Yemen build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking – to boys and girls.

The full article is here.  At those prices, how many missiles does the Yemeni government want fired?  The Yemeni median voter?  (Is there a single dimension in Yemeni politics?  If so, what is it?)  The average Yemeni teacher?  By the way, how would we feel if each al Qaeda attack came with 50 new madrassas?

I usually think that building schools — in the absence of other, complementary inputs — doesn't help much.

We are told:

America’s last great ideological foe, Soviet Marxism, produced its share of violent radicals, but it also produced Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – because it believed in science, physics, math and the classics of literature. Islamism is not producing any Sakharovs.

Is the problem lack of school buildings?  Is there a recipe for building a modern state and capitalist polity in Yemen?  I'm all ears.  The conclusion is:

…please, let’s end our addiction to oil, which is what gives the Saudi religious ministry and charities the money to spread anti-modernist thinking across this region.

Didn't the Saudis radicalize to a greater extent when their oil income fell?  Will nailing the Saudis help Yemen, given Saudi Arabia is one of their main trading partners? 

When I am blogging this material, you know I have too much time on my hands at home.  I'm not usually this grumpy but I've been locked up for days.  Here are related comments.


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