Feeling green?

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.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

“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.

The Switzerland of the Middle East

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.

Victory (of sorts) by Christmas

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.)

One Last Chance?

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.

If only…

“Every 10 years we say to ourselves, ‘If only we had done the right thing 10 years ago.'”

Umm, yeah, although one must wonder whether Friedman has achieved the level of self-awareness to be capable of this level of critical introspection.

Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “The First Energy President.” The New York Times. January 5: A17.

1.66 Friedman Units … or 20

“As I’ve written before, our real choices in Iraq are 10 months or 10 years. Either we commit the resources to entirely rebuild the place over a decade, for which there is little support, or we tell everyone that we will be out within 10 months, or sooner, and we’ll deal with the consequences from afar. We need to start the timer — today, now.”

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “Set a Date and Buy Some Leverage.” The New York Times. December 8: A35.

Got One Thing Right

“The Iraq war has turned into a sucking chest wound for our country — infecting its unity at home and its standing abroad. No one can predict what Iraq will look like 10 years from now. I wish it well. But in the near term, it is clear, nothing that we’ll feel particularly proud of, nothing that we’ll feel justifies the vast expenditure of lives and treasure, is going to come out of Iraq.”

Twenty Friedman units later, this seems to be correct.

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “Tolerable or Awful: The Roads Left in Iraq.” The New York Times. November 8: A23.

Our protagonist approaches self-awareness

The point of the column 20 Friedman units ago is that the driver who picked up Thomas L. Friedman at the airport in Paris was on the phone the whole time and didn’t talk to him. Not only is technology flattening the world, but it is tearing us apart, even as it makes life more difficult for overrated columnists for the New York Times.

“It’s a pity. He was a young, French-speaking African, who probably had a lot to tell me. When I related all this to my friend Alain Frachon, an editor at Le Monde, he quipped: ‘I guess the era of foreign correspondents quoting taxi drivers is over. The taxi driver is now too busy to give you a quote!’

“Alain is right. You know the old story, ‘As my Parisian taxi driver said to me about the French elections.’ Well, you can forget about reading columns starting that way anymore. My driver was too busy to say hello, let alone opine on politics.”

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “The Taxi Driver.” The New York Times. November 1: A23.

Premonitions of a proliferation cascade.

“This post-post-cold-war era will be defined by three new features — if things continue as they are. First is a nuclear Asia, triggered by North Korea’s flaunting of its nuclear weapons. How long will Japan, Taiwan and South Korea remain nonnuclear with Kim Jong-il brandishing his bomb? Second is a nuclear Middle East. Iran is almost certain to follow North Korea’s lead, and once the Shiite Persians in Iran have the bomb, how long will it be before the Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, even Syria have one too? Third is a disintegrating Iraq in the heart of the Arab world, with its destabilizing impact on oil prices and terrorism.”

Not that the North Korean nuclear program is insignificant. Friedman is actually onto something there. However, he then goes on to predict a proliferation cascade that will envelope six or seven more states. Twenty Friedman units later, exactly zero of those states have produced a nuclear weapon.

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “The Bus Is Waiting.” The New York Times. October 11: A27.