Friedman achieves enlightenment -- too late
What an amazing insight in yesterday's New York Times. Premier world improver, DR whipping boy, and one of the few people in history to have a unit of time named after him, Tom Friedman, has just made a breathtaking discovery:
9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again…
Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”
You know his sentiment is genuine, otherwise he'd have rolled out this column for the anniversary of 9/11. So here we are, more than six years after 9/11, and it's just dawned on the man that all the world improvement that's since ensued, much of it encouraged by himself, has left America a hated place across much of the world:
Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 — even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. “Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today’s world,” Mr. Dow said.
But it's hard to say Friedman is feeling genuine repentence or remorse. The closest he can get to renouncing the imperial adventure in Iraq is this:
I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.
Too late, Tom. For as Seymour Hersh reports in his latestNew Yorker piece (amazing how every time I wonder when he's going to be out with a new article, it arrives within a week), plans for an attack on Iran are proceeding apace:
This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.
I had a suspicion this was how it was going to play out; outside of the 29 percenters, most of the lumpen weren't going to buy another WMD story. But paint the Iranians as the bad guys undermining, or even better yet, outright attacking U.S. troops, and an attack becomes a much, much easier sell.
The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.
And so, just as it's dawned finally dawned on Friedman that the government's actions since 9/11 have left America a more hated place, it's finally dawned on the government's leaders that taking out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have made Iran the 800-lb. gorilla of the region. And now they're going to set about "correcting" that. God help us all.