T Nation

Tom Friedman is Back!!!


Tom Friedman is back and has a new editorial in the NYT. Here's the link, but it'll be inactive after awhile because NYT starts making you pay after a few weeks:


Iraq: Politics or Policy?

October 3, 2004

Sorry, I've been away writing a book. I'm back, so let's get right down to business: We're in trouble in Iraq.

I don't know what is salvageable there anymore. I hope it
is something decent and I am certain we have to try our
best to bring about elections and rebuild the Iraqi Army to
give every chance for decency to emerge there. But here is
the cold, hard truth: This war has been hugely mismanaged
by this administration, in the face of clear advice to the
contrary at every stage, and as a result the range of
decent outcomes in Iraq has been narrowed and the tools we
have to bring even those about are more limited than ever.

What happened? The Bush team got its doctrines mixed up:
it applied the Powell Doctrine to the campaign against John
Kerry - "overwhelming force" without mercy, based on a
strategy of shock and awe at the Republican convention,
followed by a propaganda blitz that got its message across
in every possible way, including through distortion. If
only the Bush team had gone after the remnants of Saddam's
army in the Sunni Triangle with the brutal efficiency it
has gone after Senator Kerry in the Iowa-Ohio-Michigan
triangle. If only the Bush team had spoken to Iraqis and
Arabs with as clear a message as it did to the Republican
base. No, alas, while the Bush people applied the Powell
Doctrine in the Midwest, they applied the Rumsfeld Doctrine
in the Middle East. And the Rumsfeld Doctrine is: "Just
enough troops to lose." Donald Rumsfeld tried to prove that
a small, mobile army was all that was needed to topple
Saddam, without realizing that such a limited force could
never stabilize Iraq. He never thought it would have to. He
thought his Iraqi pals would do it. He was wrong.

For all of President Bush's vaunted talk about being
consistent and resolute, the fact is he never established
U.S. authority in Iraq. Never. This has been the source of
all our troubles. We have never controlled all the borders,
we have never even consistently controlled the road from
Baghdad airport into town, because we never had enough
troops to do it.

Being away has not changed my belief one iota in the
importance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq, to help
move the Arab-Muslim world off its steady slide toward
increased authoritarianism, unemployment, overpopulation,
suicidal terrorism and religious obscurantism. But my time
off has clarified for me, even more, that this Bush team
can't get us there, and may have so messed things up that
no one can. Why? Because each time the Bush team had to
choose between doing the right thing in the war on
terrorism or siding with its political base and ideology,
it chose its base and ideology. More troops or radically
lower taxes? Lower taxes. Fire an evangelical Christian
U.S. general who smears Islam in a speech while wearing the
uniform of the U.S. Army or not fire him so as not to anger
the Christian right? Don't fire him. Apologize to the U.N.
for not finding the W.M.D., and then make the case for why
our allies should still join us in Iraq to establish a
decent government there? Don't apologize - for anything -
because Karl Rove says the "base" won't like it. Impose a
"Patriot Tax" of 50 cents a gallon on gasoline to help pay
for the war, shrink the deficit and reduce the amount of
oil we consume so we send less money to Saudi Arabia?
Never. Just tell Americans to go on guzzling. Fire the
secretary of defense for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, to show
the world how seriously we take this outrage - or do
nothing? Do nothing. Firing Mr. Rumsfeld might upset
conservatives. Listen to the C.I.A.? Only when it can
confirm your ideology. When it disagrees - impugn it or
ignore it.

What I resent so much is that some of us actually put our
personal politics aside in thinking about this war and
about why it is so important to produce a different Iraq.
This administration never did. Mr. Kerry's own views on
Iraq have been intensely political and for a long time not
well thought through. But Mr. Kerry is a politician running
for office. Mr. Bush is president, charged with protecting
the national interest, and yet from the beginning he has
run Iraq policy as an extension of his political campaign.

Friends, I return to where I started: We're in trouble in
Iraq. We have to immediately get the Democratic and
Republican politics out of this policy and start honestly
reassessing what is the maximum we can still achieve there
and what every American is going to have to do to make it
happen. If we do not, we'll end up not only with a
fractured Iraq, but with a fractured America, at war with
itself and isolated from the world.


Thanks for the post, operaman. I must admit that he makes a few good points. I mean, I could care less about republican or democratic stuff, but he was right about the approach to the war. We should have crushed the Iraqis, not done the bare minimum. Why did we just dribble bombs here and there? If you're gonna go in and conquer a country, then friggin' do it! I can't imagine why Rumsfeld thought the Iraqis would just hand over their country without some extreme convincing. It's like the whole "shock and awe" thing. After CNN announced it, I was waiting for what seemed like a few days to see if we were really at war or not. There was no shock, and definitely no awe. But didn't it sound good on paper? I have this idea that we were just trying to scare the Osamas and save a few bucks, instead of actually pushing the "drop bomb" button a few zillion times and showing them what 4th of July should look like. But that's just me.


Tom Friedman supported the war at the beginning.

The fact that he now describes it as a mess that was badly bungled by Team Bush, is significant.


I think Friedman is an intelligent and honest observer, and that is why I am so pissed off by his support for initiating the war.

When he says

it makes me undecided about whether to laugh or throw up. Gee, Mr. Friedman, who the fuck told you to put your "personal politics aside"? This war is all about the politics.

It was pure politics to say that our troops would be greeted as "liberators." It was politics to refuse to recognize, as General Shinseki said, that it would take at least twice as many troops to achieve military control. It was politics to pretend that there was a "coalition" that would provide more than a token military contribution. It was politics to pretend that it wouldn't be a huge financial burden.

Well, welcome back, Tom Friedman. I just hope that in your absence, you found your balls and decide to put them to good use.


Great posting, Operaman. Friedman is a bright guy.