Sunday, July 30, 2006

Thomas Friedman on Bush, Rice and Failure

Thomas Friedman seems to have come full circle from where he was four years ago. Here's what he had to say in his New York Times column on Friday:
Condoleezza Rice must have been severely jet-lagged when she said that what's going on in Lebanon and Iraq today were the "birth pangs of a new Middle East." Oh, I wish it were so. What we are actually seeing are the rebirth pangs of the old Middle East, only fueled now by oil and more destructive weaponry.


America should be galvanizing the forces of order—Europe, Russia, China and India—into a coalition against these trends. But we can't. Why? In part, it's because our president and secretary of sate, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That's been shattered by their performance in Iraq.

The world hates George Bush more than any U.S. president in my lifetime. He is radioactive—and so caught up in his own ideological bubble that he is incapable of imagining or forging alternative strategies.

In part, it is also because China, Europe and Russia have become freeloaders off U.S. power. They reap enormous profits from the post-cold-war order that America has shaped, but rather than become real stakeholders in that order, helping to draw and defend redlines, they duck, mumble, waffle or cut their own deals.

This does not bode well for global stability. A religious militia that calls itself "the party of God" takes over a state and drags it into war, using high-tech rocks—mullahs with drones—and the world is paralyzed. Those who ignore this madness will one day see it come to a theater near them. [Note: Yes, I caught the typo. Friedman wrote 'high-tech rockets' but my typo speaks volumes—Craig]

There's so much going on these days that Friedman can hardly cover it all in a short column but he covers a great deal. Yes, while we're tied down in Iraq, while Condi plays at diplomacy while playing the piano, while Bush flounders at the microphone, our foreign policy is twisting in the wind. But Friedman doesn't spare the larger Middle East:

In part, though, this madness is home-grown. I sat at a swank rooftop restaurant the other night with some young Syrian writers and listened to a discussion between a young woman dressed in trendy clothes, talking about how she would prefer to see Israel disappear, another writer who argued that Nasrallah was an Arab disaster, and an Arab journalist who described the "pride" and "dignity" every Arab felt at seeing Hezbollah fight Israel to a standstill.

When will the Arab-Muslim world stop getting its "pride" from fighting Israel and start getting it from constructing a society that others would envy, an economy others would respect, and inventions and medical breakthroughs from which others would benefit.

Reword that last paragraph so that it's about the Bush Administration or the radical right fighting terrorism or Islamofascists and it's unnervingly close to the current situation; its echos can be found in various parts of America (a few blocks from where I live is an outpost for the John Birch Society). The young woman hoping Israel would just disappear is no different than people on the far right who carry bumper stickers that say: "Visualize a world without liberals." Yes, the far right has been known to substitute other words besides 'liberals.' We need to get back to the world as it is, and even to what is possible, rather than fantasies that promise trails of blood that lead nowhere except to more destruction.

I don't welcome the news that Thomas Friedman brings because it's simply confirmation of painful news many of us have been recognizing for some time. But he has come a long ways from his support of the war and perhaps his considerable clarity of writing can help with the current situation in our country.

I can't speak for Thomas Friedman but here's how I see the situation: the Bush Administration and its neoconservatives allies have spent the last four years playing out a Cold War fantasy with nations who do not have nuclear weapons. We can be thankful they did not play out their fantasies with nations that do have nuclear weapons—at least to this point. The problems in the larger Middle East and elsewhere are quite real but they require more than the gut feelings of an incompetent president and a third-rate foreign policy team.

Let me change the pace for a moment. This is summer and people everywhere are going on vacation. It has been a tough twelve months in our country and a tougher twelve months in many places around the world. It is important for all of us to renew ourselves from time to time but it is also important to find again the courage and strength to deal with the crises that the American radical right has unleashed in the world. These things are not going away. There is work to be done.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home