Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tom Friedman’s Latest Declaration of War

by Glenn Greenwald

Today’s a very exciting day in America. Our nation’s most Serious foreign policy expert, the brilliant Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, has today declared our latest new war:

The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war. Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president — but this cold war is with Iran.

So congratulations to us. After years of desperately searching, we’ve finally found our New Soviet Union. Nay-saying opponents of the New War (those who Tom Friedman, in March of 2003, dismissed as “knee-jerk liberals and pacifists”) may try to point out that it’s a country whose defense spending is less than 1% of our own, has never invaded another country, and could not possibly threaten us, but those are just small details. Iran is our new implacable foe in Tom Friedman’s glorious, transcendent struggle — which, in 2003, on NPR, he called “the beginning of World War III . . . the third great totalitarian challenge in the last, you know, 60 years,” and which he today defines this way (featuring an amazingly disingenuous use of parenthesis):

That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today — the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S.”

Friedman laments that “Team America” — that’s really what he calls it — “is losing on just about every front.”
What’s most striking about Friedman’s formulation is that — in the 2003 NPR interview — this is what Friedman said about why 9/11 happened:

I did a documentary last year for the Discovery Channel on the roots of 9/11, and we went with a team all over the Arab-Muslim world for over a period of about six months and interviewed people on what 9/11 was all about. And our conclusion was 9/11 was really fed by three rivers of rage. One was about what we do — what we, the United States, do, whether it’s how we use resources, it’s our support for a dictatorial Arab regime so they’ll sell us cheap oil. It’s our backing for Israel when it does the right thing and when it does the wrong thing. 9/11 is fed, in part, by what we do, OK. . . .

The second and hugely important river of rage feeding 9/11 was a real overpowering sense of humiliation. . . . The Arab Human Development Report told us last year that 22 Arab states, not a single one has a freely and fairly elected government. . . .
And the third river of rage is how much these people hate their own governments, governments that keep them voiceless and powerless and prevent them from achieving their full aspirations in a world where they know how everyone else is living.

So 9/11 was caused by our backing of dictatorial Arab regimes, our unconditional support for Israel, our general interference in the Middle East, and the fact that Muslims aren’t free. So what does Friedman want to do now? Have the U.S. wage a “cold war” (at least) for dominance in the Middle East alongside our best friends: the dictators and monarchs of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States (plus, incidentally, Israel). In other words, Friedman now wants to do everything that he himself said is what caused 9/11 in the first place.

There’s a reason that Friedman occupies the place he does in America’s foreign policy establishment. He’s perfectly representative of it. It’s an establishment in perpetual search of an Enemy and the next war. And finding it (or creating it) is the one thing they do well...[Open in new window]


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