David Rothkopf

The G8 does not seem to understand the appeal of fatwa envy…

In discussing last week’s Aspen Ideas Festival with a friend yesterday, I mentioned that for all the big name policy types floating around Aspen Meadows and offering their views on the world that the highlight for me had to be standing behind “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi in the hot dog line. (Yes, they had ...


In discussing last week’s Aspen Ideas Festival with a friend yesterday, I mentioned that for all the big name policy types floating around Aspen Meadows and offering their views on the world that the highlight for me had to be standing behind “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi in the hot dog line. (Yes, they had little hot dog stands located at different spots where you could get free hot dogs.) 

What’s better than free hot dogs? Standing behind Padma Lakshmi while getting free hot dogs. This was even better than standing near Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Felix Rohatyn, and the Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein in the dinner line the night before. And not just because the gourmet nitrite and nitrate free hot dogs were so tasty. Padma was stunning, charming, and a magnet for all the little something-or-other fellows they had floating around Aspen imagining that someday they would be the aging millionaires and wiener-eating big thinkers who made up the rest of the crowd.    

So as I described the scene, needless to say, my friend and I started to discuss what Salman Rushdie, to whom Lakshmi was married for several years, had that we didn’t have. This in turn led to the creation of a new term and a new disorder from which I believe my friend and I now both suffer: fatwa envy. This is caused when a death sentence from one or more Imams suddenly transforms an otherwise ordinary looking man into something sexy, mysterious, and dangerous. After a certain point in life, it is really the only path open to some of us.

As a consequence, I am making it my stated objective to do whatever I have to in this blog to alienate at least one Imam, preferably one with a low fatwa threshold (so I don’t have to be too offensive, as it is not in my nature.) I also am hoping it is an Imam with a very small, peace-loving following so it doesn’t lead to anything untoward, like my premature death, which would undermine all the benefits of having the fatwa placed on my head in the first place.

(I will acknowledge that this approach may not work as Lakshmi explains her otherwise mystifying attraction to Rushdie at least in part because he reminded her of her father who she described as being “the most sexy, manic, in-shape, lean, tall, handsome man I have ever met.” This is not a description that has ever been used to describe me, fatwa or none. In fact the only word from that list that has ever been used to describe me is “man” and that is only used by aging hippies who yell at me on the highway, “Hey man, get out of the way.” This doesn’t matter so much because, of course, my wife is every bit as lovely as Padma…the only real difference being that my wife did not have a part as a lip syncing disco singer in the immortal Mariah Carey movie, Glitter. Further, being from the Midwest, my wife did not require a fatwa. The fact that I was a kind of cranky Jew from New Jersey was plenty exotic enough for her. To this day I believe she still thinks a “knish” is a small, mountain-dwelling cousin of the chipmunk….and I believe the only member of her family to be circumcised was injured in a power tool accident.)

One group of people not likely to end up with any of that fatwa glamour any time soon are the leaders of the G8, who today continue their meetings in Italy. That’s because in the wake of the recent fraud and brutality from nuclear weapons seeking, terrorist-sponsoring Iran, even as the discredited Iranian leadership warned of  a “crushing response” to further protests, our men and women in L’Aquila, leaders of the world’s most powerful countries, offered the following collective statement: “meow.” 

Admittedly, the G8 leaders were trying to portray their stance on Iran as tough. For example they condemned the recent violence in Iran and said the detention of foreigners and journalists was “unacceptable.” They then said they would give Iran until September to accept negotiations over nuclear issues or else expect sanctions. As articulated by Canada’s spokesperson, “All G8 nations are united. There is a strong consensus at the table that unless things change soon, there will be further action.” 

Of course, what he wasn’t saying (and he wasn’t saying much) was that they couldn’t take a stronger stand because the Russians, ever helpful, obviously not persuaded by the recent visit of President Obama, simply would not accept action now. So “action” got punted till a September 24th and 25th G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. As for the Iranians, since what they want is time, any such deferral has to be viewed as a victory. And the fact that we couldn’t mobilize the G8 to even describe a more detailed, credible track to sanctions now when the Iranian leadership has provided the icing on the yellowcake of its nuclear program with its recent stolen election and murders of its own citizens suggests we are going to have a tough time getting anything meaningful done ever. 

Other than the unconvincing saber rattling of the G8 press release, the closest that they came to any additional action on either matter was, when thanks to the early departure of China’s Hu Jintao who had to rush home to quash unrest in his own country, Barack Obama filled an open slot in his agenda with a meeting with Brazilian President Lula. At this meeting, Obama asked Lula to try to use his influence to get Iran to back away from developing its nuclear weapons capabilities. While I’m all for using every channel availability to us, offering up this punt to the Brazilians (whom we have been hectoring for years to avoid developing their own nuclear weapons capability) as a high point of our diplomacy on this issue at the Summit suggests how little of substance was actually accomplished.

So what’s the message being sent to Tehran and Pyongyang and other would-be proliferators these days: the biggest real risk you face from creating a nuclear weapons program in today’s world comes from the paper cuts you might incur while reading the impassioned press releases of the “great powers.”

In other news, an AP story carried in this morning Washington Post, entitled “Drunken man shocks Spain with his generosity,” described how an inebriated British citizen arrived yesterday at the airport in Mallorca started handing out wads of cash to passers-by. Needless to say, unsettled by the largesse that was the only thing that distinguished the gentleman from the other drunken Brits in the airport, the Spanish police immediately arrested the man. However, the story does have a happy ending and Prime Minister Brown was put on an aircraft back to the G8 meeting hours later. 

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

 Twitter: @djrothkopf
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