Where Have You Gone,Tom Freidman?
Posted on April 23, 2011
I have long cooled on Tom Freidman, but this appearance on the Charlie Rose Show which my daughter forwarded to me seals the deal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwFaSpca_3Q.
Freidman’s penchant for oversimplification meets his continued attempt to rationalize his support for the Iraq war and now he just sounds dumb. When he says we “had to go over there and take out a big stick” to show the terrorists we would burst the “terrorism bubble” he makes my teeth hurt.
What’s wrong with his argument? For starters:
1. He again links 9-11 to Iraq, a patented falsehood put forward by the Bush administration to bolster their invasion plans, though there was no link whatsoever.
2. One can at least make a case for the invasion of Afghanistan, which did harbor bin Laden and al-Queda (along with Pakistan), especially if we had kept our focus there. Instead, the war in Iraq shifted massive resources and Afghanistan slipped back into being the quagmire it has become.
3. Iran poses a far greater threat to the safety of the world than Iraq ever did and our largely failed effort in Iraq has put the country more wholly under the influence of Iran, extending that country’s sway across the Middle East (especially if things in Syria go badly) in an arc that extends from Iran through Iraq, potentially Syria, right into Lebanon.
4. More than one analyst has pointed out that far from “bursting the terrorism bubble” (did he really coin that phrase?), our invasion of Iraq sent young Muslim fundamentalists into the arms of terrorist organizations, playing into their “America is waging war on Islam” campaign.
5. Freidman glosses over the moral complexities of branding one kind of violence terrorism (flying planes into buildings or suicide bombers at Israeli bus stops — those we can agree on) from other kinds of terrorism. In the latter case, one might argue that invading a sovereign nation without reason (or world sanction) with tens of thousands of civilian deaths or Israel’s widespread killing of civilians in the invasion of Gaza is a kind of state sponsored terrorism, as it surely must feel no less arbitrary or unjust from the perspective of someone who has lost a child or a spouse in either. Beware those who refuse to at least grapple with the contradictions.
I could go on.
In many ways, higher education has to be the counterweight to the media’s glib and most often reductionist interpretations of world events. When we talk about the need to teach students critical thinking skills, it is so they can listen to an interview like the Freidman one and not only recognize that one cannot reduce something like the invasion of a country (with its endless complexities and, in this case, lies and ideology) to one snappy phrase, but to also have the tools to pick it apart and ask better questions.
Freidman’s skill at sorting through complexity and providing useful analysis (think The Lexus and the Olive Tree) has deteriorated into the Tom Freidman show, full of name dropping, hopelessly reductionist thinking, and in this case, an ongoing attempt to redeem his very, very bad decision to support the invasion of Iraq.