20 Friedman units ago, our columnist was bemoaning the absence of Iraq and Kuwait at the Annapolis peace conference.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think Annapolis was useful. But when you toil for a year to throw a party and some of your worst enemies R.S.V.P., but the two people whose lives you’ve once saved don’t show up, it’s beyond rude. It’s interesting.”
A fair point for Kuwait, perhaps, but Iraq? Did that decent outcome we’ve heard so much finally happen and no one said anything?
— Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “Making Peace with Pieces.” The New York Times. Dec. 9, 2007: 4.10.
We take a break today from Friedman’s own words for some words about him. This whole article is worth a read, but here’s a highlight: “I was mostly in charge of fixing paper jams in the printers and keeping track of Thomas Friedman’s schedule, among other things (fun fact about Thomas Friedman: whenever he sends an email, he makes the subject line ‘Thomas Friedman’).”
“Yes, Iraq was always going to be hugely difficult, but the potential payoff of erecting a decent, democratizing government in the heart of the Arab world was also enormous.”
Give it six months or so.
— Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “Who Will Succeed Al Gore” The New York Times. Sept. 12, 2007: C12.
Friedman now admits the much-ballyhooed “decent outcome” is a long shot and calls for a schedule for withdrawal:
“So either we get help or get out. That is, if President Bush believes staying in Iraq can still make a difference, then he needs to muster some allies because the American people are not going to sustain alone — nor should they — a long-shot bet that something decent can still be built in Baghdad.”
So check back in six months?
— Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “Iraq Through China’s Lens.” The New York Times. Sept. 12, 2007: A21.
“Why is Kurdistan America’s best-kept secret success? Because the Bush team is afraid the Kurds will break away. But the Kurds have no interest in splitting from Iraq now. Iraq’s borders protect them from Turkey, Iran and Syria.”
— Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “The Kurdish Secret.” The New York Times. Sept. 2, 2007: C11.
Today, 20 Friedman units ago, we got to witness a skillful exercise in taking a good idea and layering it with so many buzz words and “branding” that it becomes almost unpalatable.
“Well, I want to rename ‘green.’ I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century. A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature and terrorism.
“How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world? Those are, in a nutshell, the big questions facing America at the dawn of the 21st century. But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green states – not an America divided between red and blue states.”
We’ve seen worse ideas out of Friedman but rarely more execrable expression of those ideas, combined with Friedman’s “common sense” centrist idea that we would be so much better off if the parties would just put aside their differences to do things. What things? You know — things.
Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “The Power of Green.” The New York Times Magazine. April 15, 2007: 40-51,67,71-72.
“I would argue that for the first time we have — by accident — the sort of balanced policy trio that had we had it in place four years go might have spared us the mess of today. It’s the Pelosi-Petraeus-Bush troika.”
Finally! Maybe this thing can be salvaged, maybe in the next six months or so.
Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “The Troika and the Surge.” The New York Times. March 21: A21.
Twenty Friedman Units ago, we were treated to another explanation of how the invasion of Iraq would have been just peachy if only the Bush administration had done it Friedman’s way.
“The irony of Iraq is that it’s the one place where Mr. Bush decisively chose regime change, but he then executed it so poorly, with insufficient troops, that Iraq never stood a chance. If Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney had spent as much time plotting the toppling of Saddam Hussein as they did the toppling of Colin Powell, Iraq today would be Switzerland.”
Switzerland. Yeah, that’s it.
Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “A Foreign Policy Built on Do-Overs.” The New York Times. Feb. 23: A21.
As Iraq spirals deeper into civil war, Friedman still has hopes of the much ballyhooed “decent outcome.” This time it will be set up by a Dec. 1 deadline for U.S. withdrawal along with a tax setting a floor for gas prices at $3.50 a gallon.
“To put it another way, if setting a date to leave miraculously brings them to their senses, our aspirations for the Iraqis will have been achieved, and we’ll be stronger. And if it doesn’t, but we have set an exit date and a gas price, we’ll be out of Iraq and more energy-secure — and we’ll also be stronger.”
If only someone would listen.
Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “Yes, We Can Find the Exit.” The New York Times. Feb. 7: A19.
(Also, kudos to the copy editor who wrote the Times headline for anticipating Barack Obama’s campaign slogan.)
So 20 Friedman units ago, it was still possible to imagine a “decent outcome” in Iraq but only by setting a deadline for withdrawal roughly 1.75 Friedman units hence — or Dec. 1, 2007.
“You need to tell Iraqis that by calling for a surge in troops you’re giving them one last chance to reconcile, otherwise we’re gone by Dec. 1. And you need to tell Americans that you’re creating a $45-a-barrel floor price for imported oil, so investors can safely finance alternatives without worrying that they’ll be undercut by OPEC.”
Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “Make Them Fight All of Us.” The New York Times. January 12: A21.