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.

A Classic Friedmanism

Today’s look back at the column that ran 20 Friedman units ago is a classic. Friedman, of course, will jump at any opportunity to brag about some exotic locale he has visited — and preferably in which he also talked to a cab driver. He also loves to take two seemingly dissimilar things and show how they are exactly alike. In today’s example, he manages both in just two sentences.

“The best part of this job is being able to step outside of your routine and occasionally look at the world through a completely different lens. The Peruvian Amazon rain forest is such a lens, and looking at the world through this dense jungle has given me new perspectives on two issues — Middle East violence and the spread of the Internet.”

We could go on, but why mess with perfection?

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “The Age of Interruption.” The New York Times. July 5: A17.

Planting seeds for a perennial

Idle speculation about the prospects for some kind of viable third-party movement are an evergreen — or as we learned 20 Friedman units ago — a “Geo-Green.”

“To be sure, Geo-Greenism is not a complete philosophy on par with liberalism or conservatism. But it can be paired with either of them to make them more relevant to the biggest challenges of our time. Even if Geo-Greenism couldn’t attract enough voters to win an election, it might attract a big enough following to frighten both Democrats and Republicans into finally doing the right things. ”

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “Seeds for a Geo-Green Party.” The New York Times. June 16: A31.tmw2011-08-03colorlowres1.

Standing by…

Don’t give up yet!

“When we don’t see Iraqis taking the risk to build a progressive Iraq, then it is indeed time to pack and go. That moment may come soon. It’s hard to tell. I won’t hesitate to say so — but not yet.”

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “Standing by Stand-Up Iraqis.” The New York Times. May 26: A21.

Five Minutes to Midnight

As Iraq plunged deeper into sectarian civil war 20 Friedman units ago, Thomas L. Friedman confronted the reality of Iraq’s “slide into medieval barbarism.”

“If a national unity government is not formed soon, and if these identity-card murderers gain more momentum, any hope for building a decent Iraq will vanish.

“It is five minutes to midnight.”

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “Iraq at the 11th Hour.” The New York Times. March 31: A19.

Nuclear Iran

“Well, there’s another Sputnik that just went up: Iran. It’s going to make a nuclear bomb, no matter what the U.N. or U.S. says, because at $60-a-barrel oil, Tehran’s mullahs are rich enough to buy off or tell off the rest of the world.”

To be fair, oil today is trading around $30 a barrel. On the other hand, it was still hanging around $90 a barrel when Iran began serious negotiations with the P5+1.

Friedman, Thomas L. 2006. “The New ‘Sputnik’ Challenges: They All Run on Oil.” The New York Times. Jan. 20: A17.