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Friedman in search of a horse


Thomas Friedman’s latest analysis of the uprisings in the Arab/Muslim world has received the response it deserves from Sarah Carr.

In Friedman’s defense, however, it is presumably difficult for a foreign affairs columnist to devote his full attention to the goings-on in his alleged region of expertise when he is simultaneously penning his latest scheme for the glorious resurgence of the United States of America.

As Friedman explained to Fox’s Don Imus not so long ago, the “gut thesis” of his upcoming book is as follows:

It’s not a man on horseback we need, Don, it’s a different horse right now, and a different horse that demands a different kind of politics that drives the country in a different direction.”

As a result of the horse project, the foreign affairs columnist was prevented from weighing in on Arab/Muslim uprisings for a full 46 days, though he did manage an article about how the U.S. government should take attitude lessons from Singapore’s millionaire bureaucrats.

Friedman’s latest dispatch on the “‘not-so-obvious forces’ that fed this mass revolt” is meanwhile the sort of disjointed and noncommittal analysis Friedman throws together when he doesn’t feel like concocting a full-fledged scientific model along the lines of his “Theory of Everything”. (See past noncommittal examples in The World Is Flat, p. 427: “Why does one country’s skyline change overnight and another’s doesn’t change over half a century? The only answer I have been able to find is something that cannot be defined: I call it ‘the intangible things.’”)

Given Friedman’s claim that “I often begin writing columns by interviewing myself,” he might pose the following questions the next time he decides that his own favorite topics have coincidentally spawned the major turning points of history:

  1. Why has my own access to Google Earth not prevented me from repeatedly lauding “Bahrain’s progressive king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa”, or from promoting Bahrain in my First Law of Petro-Politics as evidence of the democratic freedoms that are unleashed when oil-rich countries start running out of oil?
  2. Why did I not include King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on my list of forces in between Barack Obama and Israel, given my previously confessed “soft spot” for the Saudi monarch, “a man of decency and moderation”?
  3. Why am I suddenly trying to co-opt Al Jazeera when they still haven’t apologized for referring to the U.S. occupation of Iraq as an occupation?

As for Friedman’s own conception of the occupation of Iraq as a “rare exercise in the revolutionary deployment of U.S. power“, this just confirms the extent to which our hero is unequipped to evaluate legitimate regional revolutions. To put it in Friedman-speak, he is riding without a horse—in more ways than one.


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