THE BLOG
05/15/2008 02:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tom Friedman's Latest Declaration of War

Yesterday was a very exciting day in America. Our nation's most serious foreign policy expert, the "brilliant" Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, 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 Iran is a country whose defense spending is less than 1% of our own; spends less on its military than countries such as the Netherlands and Sweden; has never invaded another country in modern history, 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."

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:

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, according to the 2003 Friedman, 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.

The British writer G.K. Chesterton, in his book Heretics, wrote:

It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity. After that, the next step is to become a small power itself.

It's hard to imagine a more concise and accurate explanation for what motivates the Tom Friedmans of the world and what that mentality is doing to the United States.

Then again, perhaps even more illustrative is this video clip of Friedman from the Charlie Rose Show in 2003 -- one of the most revealing (and most repellent) three minutes of commentary one can find. Friedman spent months before the invasion of Iraq continuously supporting and cheering it on based on righteous appeals to the transformational values of freedom and democracy. But once the invasion was complete, he unmasked himself, telling Rose that it the Iraq invasion was "unquestionably worth doing" because what we needed was to invade some Muslim country -- Iraq was just one of many that would have sufficed -- in order, using his words, to "take out a very big stick" and say: "Suck. On. This."

This same ugly mentality is very much in display as Tom Friedman and his comrades, who brought us the disgraceful debacle in Iraq, have now fixed their gaze on doing the same with Iran.