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August 19, 2007

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I thought the related idea - "we should do something crazy so rational people in the Muslim world will act to keep us from getting hit" was stupid but rational. This bubble-bursting stuff applied to Iraq - just out there.

I think _FBTJ_ was so good because it was based on reportage and informed by very sharp people on both sides of the conflict. By 2003 Friedman was either relying on his own intellect or listening to, well, not very sharp people on one side of the issue.

He was, after all, the man who wrote the truly-fantastic From Beirut to Jerusalem (no sarcasm there). What’s more, he wrote this book after actually living there and seeing the effects of war close up. Most importantly, his book included first-hand accounts and harsh criticism of the war – the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 – that is perhaps the closest historical analogue to the Iraq War (the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would be a close second).
This is why I've always been uncomfortable with the attacks on him that are utterly dismissive, and nothing but name-calling: as if the people calling names had ever spent a decade living in first Beirut, and then Israel, doing some of the best reporting from both countries for all those years, and writing such a good book.

Which isn't to say that I don't agree with most of the subsequent criticisms of Friedman, or the validity of them, in this century, because I do. It's just that, sheesh, let's have some context and perspective, too.

"Or, more likely, he did but chose to remain a member in good standing of acceptable opinion."

Probably right.


"I think _FBTJ_ was so good because it was based on reportage and informed by very sharp people on both sides of the conflict. By 2003 Friedman was either relying on his own intellect or listening to, well, not very sharp people on one side of the issue."

I think that's quite right. I think he went progressively downhill when he became a general World Affairs columnist, and Iraq has largely destroyed him. Certainly he's destroyed most of my respect for him.

But I will always respect his earlier work. You know, the early, funny, stuff.

on this gary, i'll tentatively say that we're on the same team. friedman is such a disappointment b/c he should be held to higher standards b/c his earlier work was so good.

"on this gary, i'll tentatively say that we're on the same team."

I'm pretty sure we're on the same team in general. I give everyone a hard time with as little discrimation as I can manage, you know. :-)

Why, this evening, I disagreed with you, Sebastian, and Hilzoy. I'd find that remarkable if it hadn't been for the fact that you all seemed to be momentarily wrong.

;-) ;-) :-)

Seriously, I don't mean to ever go over the line in unpleasantness or rudeness, unless someone really really deserves it, and otherwise I know I'm prone to all sorts of failings of excess sarcasm or snottiness, and plenty of other stylistic faults, but it actually is, believe or not, usually unintentional when I'm particularly jerky.

And I like to think it's only sporadic. Otherwise I'm just opinionated.

And occasionally a bit relentless. Just a bit.

But for the left. (Woody Allen reference.)

Otherwise I try to use my powers for good, and not for evil.

But if I offend you, probably all you have to do is mention it to me, and there are quite reasonable odds I'll apologize. For what little that may be worth. Otherwise, it is actually not my intention to offend anyone undeserving.

This is why I've always been uncomfortable with the attacks on him that are utterly dismissive, and nothing but name-calling: as if the people calling names had ever spent a decade living in first Beirut, and then Israel, doing some of the best reporting from both countries for all those years, and writing such a good book.

Could you explain what you mean by attacks which are "utterly dismissive"? I don't know of anyone who's said that he's been full of crap his entire life, just that he's full of crap now, or alternatively full of crap ever since the writer started following politics (i.e. circa 1999 - 2001, usually). I'm not by any means saying that those attacks don't exist, btw, just that I'm not familiar with them.

It's not just that he said this idiotic thing; I didn't watch the whole Charlie Rose episode Atrios linked to, but I saw enough to note that he went on to say: and if we don't do this right, if we blow it because of ineptitude, etc., the consequences will be staggeringly bad.

Which seems, to me, to raise the obvious question: since George W. Bush, not Tom Friedman, will be responsible for the execution of this war, how likely is it that he (a) recognizes the importance of doing it right, and (b) will actually do it right? A question that doesn't seem to have troubled Friedman until it was much too late.

the early, funny, stuff

Are you suggesting that Friedman's problem started when he tried to be Ingmar Bergman?

Digby has posted the text of Thomas Friedman's column "Crazier than Thou."

I read that column when it was originally published and it caused me to lose all respect for Mr. Friedman. I have to admit, though, I haven't read from Beirut to Jerusalem.

Based on that column, it seems to me he actually considered and deliberately ignored the possible consequences of trusting George W. Bush.

"Could you explain what you mean by attacks which are 'utterly dismissive'?

"Tom Friedman is nothing but a sh*thead."

"That f*cking *ssh*ole Friedman, who should just die."

"That Arab-hating swinedog racist-fascist Friedman."

And so on.

"I'm not by any means saying that those attacks don't exist, btw, just that I'm not familiar with them."

Common in many blog comment threads of blogs with a lower quality of commenters than here. No more or less than the general incoherent raving about anything and everything else. See any of the larger political blogs with comments, like Kevin Drum's, or Yglesias', or Americablog, or whatever.

Hilzoy: "A question that doesn't seem to have troubled Friedman until it was much too late."

It seems quite clear to me that the entire intelligensia of the press engaged in the traditional dismissal of the notion that there were any truly significant differences between the modus operandi of Gore or Kerry on the one hand, or G. W. Bush, on the other, beyond what they dismiss as mere trivial "ideology," which can, should, and must be ignored in a black box of non-judgmentalism/neutrality.

Except that Al Gore was a liar, and acted like he was smarter then them, and was widely hated. George W. Bush was a loveable guy whom everyone thought was great!

And G. W. was a compassionate conservative! He was a uniter! He'd be like his dad: not an ideologue!

So what reason to doubt he'd do a decent job in the Mideast?

As well, none of the foreign policy news columnists seems to have much of a clue about domestic politics, but, then, since most of the domestic politics reporters seem to have no clue about American politics other than as a horse race, why should that be surprising? Who do you think the foreign policy news people get their clues/impressions from?

Lastly, I have to note that while I never believed any of the above even remotely, and I never supported the invasion outright, I was ambivalent enough to suspend judgment for a while, and that that was largely because I was stupid enough to not imagine that G. W. Bush and his cronies would reach down far enough into the professional bureaucracies to screw so many things up so widely and thoroughly.

Now, mind, I've long since been convinced that the whole thing was a horrific idea, that never should have been engaged in under almost any circumstances, but certainly not these, no matter how it would have been executed, for a wide variety of reasons moral, strategic, and ever onwards.

But it does give me a clue how even people pretty sensitive to the crimes and predilections of the traditional criminal Republican class, from Watergate through Iran-contra, through G. W. Bush's reign can misunderestimate their ability to destroy.

Hilzoy, one of the more remarkable comments Friedman made in the run-up to the invasion was that the Bush administration wouldn't screw up the war because they couldn't afford to. That's kind of a post hoc ergo propter hoc way of putting the question of consequences, and there's a difference between "They can't screw it up" and "They won't screw it up."

I never read Friedman's earlier stuff. My opinion of him is based on his public statements leading up to, and following, the invasion of Iraq.

Friedman's argument has consistently seemed to be:

No, Iraq is not an immediate threat, no, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but it's really important right now for us to pick a Muslim Arab nation and bomb it back into the Stone Age, and Iraq will do.

I appreciate the Friedman did some excellent reporting and analysis back in the day, but IMO the point of view he's articulating is, baldly, hideous on its face, and bad for this nation overall.

I have little to no interest in his thoughts on American foreign policy here and now, other than to grieve for the fact that they're taken seriously, even seen as being balanced and moderate.

Frankly, it's hard for me to see him as anything other than another careerist jerk, perfectly willing to blow other people up to make his grand geopolitcal points. But, that's just my personal opinion.

If I've significantly mischaracterized his point of view, let me know.

Thanks -

Friedman's position here seems to be the Ledeen doctrine ("Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business") specifically targeted at Ay-rabs.

Common in many blog comment threads of blogs with a lower quality of commenters than here.

You seem to be ignoring the distinction I was making above, or at any rate a fundamental underlying distinction: they're expressing opinions about his current status and not about his life's work as a whole. [Indeed, I'll wager they, en masse, aren't even aware of his life's work as a whole.] I have no qualms whatsoever with dismissing Friedman's current work -- and his current self -- as an assh*le, a sh*thead or whatever other epithet you'd like to hurl at him, based purely on his current sh*tty assh*lishness. This is a far cry from asserting that he's always been this way, or that he always will be this way, which seems to have been your initial point.

The analogies between the Lebanon war and this one are, yes, too clear — including the U.S.'s then-unprecedented decision, in 1981, to weigh in on the side of the Christian militias.


"Too many people making history who don't read history," the saying goes. And too many sucking up to the latter by offering to lend scholarly sheen to what they know in their hearts is a fantasy.

And too many sucking up to the latter by offering to lend scholarly sheen to what they know in their hearts is a fantasy.

I think it's slightly worse than that: they're offering to lend a scholarly sheen so that this time they can "do it right".

I'm reminded of discussion of how much credit Mike Gravel should be given for his earlier career when criticizing his current wackiness. But then I think Gravel is still saying a lot more sensible stuff among the lunacy than Friedman is nowadays.

"the Bush administration wouldn't screw up the war because they couldn't afford to"

This I think wasn't a bad argument (and not post hoc) on the scale of the rest. Anyone who's seen the video floating around of Cheney explaining why deposing Saddam would lead to insoluble problems in Iraq will conclude that there was sufficient native competence in the admin - if it hadn't turned out (so it seems to me) to have gone bonkers. I still can't explain why the post invasion was run so badly, and while I was convinced by perhaps the best blog post ever I can't even now give a full refutation of the "can't afford to" argument. Which, perhaps, others here can, but that would likely be with the benefit of knowledge unavailable then.

I don't have the links, but Friedman said some pretty crass, let's bomb them back to the Stone Age things about the war in Kosovo. You can think that war was justified and still disapprove of the excessive civilian casualties caused by some of the US bombing (500 civilian deaths, according to HRW, many or most avoidable). Friedman, however, was doing his tough guy Michael Ledeen impersonation. I think that should have been enough to demonstrate he'd fallen into megalomania. One of his standard rhetorical devices is to write letters to foreign leaders pretending to be a Western leader telling those foreigners to shape up or we'll make them suffer.

Friedman was also the great globalization guru and still is, to some extent, but his credibility there took a hit beginning in 2000, when Joseph Stiglitz and others started saying that at least some of what the antiglobalization crowd was saying about the IMF had merit. You wouldn't have known there was any respectable disagreement with the Washington Consensus in the 90's if you only read Friedman.

I recognize that the source for the following isn't going to be persuasive for many here, but Chomsky in "Necessary Illusions" has some choice Friedman quotes from the mid to late 80's, which makes it sound to me like he'd already made the transition from reasonably fair-minded observer to megalomaniacal pundit with delusions of wielding the iron fist. He cites an October 30, 1988 NYT Sunday Magazine piece by Friedman that, according to Chomsky, contains some pretty nasty sentiments, but if I have time I want to check this article and maybe some others out at a local library before I repeat what Chomsky claims Friedman said. Maybe there's context Noam has left out. But certainly these reported 1980's statements sound a lot like the Friedman I've been reading beginning in the 90's.

Here's one link to Friedman's drooling over violence

DJ: "but if I have time I want to check this article and maybe some others out at a local library before I repeat what Chomsky claims Friedman said."

Donald, I can, with a bit of time-consuming clicking, get through to the Times archive via my local library's website access on my home computer, and e-mail you the full text of the article in a few minutes, if you give me your e-mail address.

The guy is a complete sophomoric joke at this point.

Case in point. I don't remember what talk show it was (it may have even been Letterman) he was promoting his book "The World is Flat."

One of the first questions was along the lines of "How did you come to the title of the book." Friedman goes off on a rambling, overly-complicated explanation, then abruptly ends it firmly with "The World is Flat!" and sits there grinning from ear to ear as if saying "Brilliant!! I'm fucking Brilliant!!!" Just waiting for the praise.

I just shook my head and asked "How can people take this guy seriously anymore?"

Its as if he can't see around his own ego for objective analysis anymore.

The time I was in Israel coincided with part of the time Friedman wrote about in FBTJ, and so I read it with interest, and liked it a lot. But somewhere between then and the mid 90s, I decided he had lost it -- he had changed from a very interesting reporter to someone who just wrote platitudes about globalization that had, I thought, very little insight, and gave me very few actual interesting thoughts. Basically, I thought he had gone completely shallow, and so I stopped reading him.

Shallow isn't bonkers, though, and the stuff Atrios linked to is just bonkers. And not just morally hideous: it's also completely stupid as a way of dealing with terrorism.

Um, Donald? October 30, 1988 is a Tuesday. There is no such thing as a NY Times Magazine issue of that date.

If you can give me a real date, I'll find it for you. Or give me some text from the piece to search for.

I admit I haven't read FBTJ, but his latest rants and his interview with Charlie Rose speak so much to his character and judgement that I can't see how his book or various Pulitzers can make up for it. It's a bit like Hitchens and his allegedly brilliant past. I think one can easily say he's morally and intellectually corrupt based on this interview alone.

His evident infatuation with his own ridiculous idea of a "Terrorist Bubble" brings to mind one of the funniest book reviews ever written.

Thanks, Gary. I typed in the date correctly as it appears in the bibliography, but apparently it's wrong.

The article is called "Proposals for Peace". Friedman introduces "an elderly curmudgeon named Sasson", who is Friedman's version of
"the Israeli silent majority". "Sasson is the key to a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement"

Those are Chomsky's quotes from the Friedman piece. I haven't typed in the ugly stuff. I'd want to see the context.

I'll email you in a minute, assuming your email address is at your website.

No I won't--when I click on Gary Farber the computer asks me if I want to set up an email account. No I don't--I've got a Yahoo one.
I don't know if there's a way around this, so if you want, type in the address here or back at your site sometime.

Not that's it's necessary. I should see if I can get to the NYT archives through my local library online.

My e-mail address is under my name at the copyright notice in the sidebar of my blog; hover your cursor over it, and you will read it. If you're using Firefox, you can right-click just to copy the address.

"when I click on Gary Farber the computer asks me if I want to set up an email account."

If you're clicking on the above, then you have your computer set up to react to a standard "mailto" link by activating whatever mail program you have as the default; that's not really something I can speak to. Otherwise, just copy the address and use it as you normally would.

Meanwhile, I'm still searching.

I have many flaws. One such flaw is that I can't let a post on Friedman go by without linking to this http://www.nypress.com/16/20/news&columns/cage.cfm>masterful piece on Friedman by Matt Taibbi.

Okay, the Select version is here. Going for the full version now.

Donald, if you hover over the link and look at the status bar, you'll see that his Yahoo address starts with gary_farber.

"Well. Suck. On. This."

I think Friedman, as many did, got his war frenzy juices after 9/11 and his testosterone intermingled.

That's why we have a Defense Department AND a State Department ..... so we can act with our killer libidos when necessary AND keep our heads at the same time.

"She made them stand in separate corners" is where we have ended up because painting schools and preserving artifacts in national museums as a way of preserving a culture and building an ally was not the point, was it?

The point was to get them on their knees.

We're not really Cossacks; we're more like the johns who want their rough fun from the prostitute and then want to preserve their essential goodness by paying a little extra to enquire, empathetically in a shallow sort of way, after the girl's unfortunate predicament.

What the john really wants is a little understanding that the act of paying for the sucking was an act of love.

Graham Greene had it pegged.

Okay, got it. Let me know where to e-mail it; my e-address is gary underline farber at yahoo.com.

Something I find truly depressing is that there are folks who read FBTJ years ago (as I did) and think the current iteration is the same guy. He stopped making sense a long time ago -- mid '90s at least -- and since I have limited time, I stopped reading him. I choose not to obsess over guys who have exceeded their shelf life. We may all do that one day.

"We're not really Cossacks"

Indeed, not. These are Cossaks (on my list of things to blog, maybe).

I tend to believe that in general, few people, if any, can keep turning out a decent news-oriented column even twice a week, for more than a handful of years, before they've run out of worthwhile things to say.

Columns should, as a rule, probably be given only for 2-4 year terms; possibly renewable thereafter, but probably best for all if it's just planned as a fixed term of no longer.

There are probably some people who deserve to be exceptions to this rule, but not many. I agree with Hilzoy's 12:37 PM, and the other criticisms of Friedman.

Incidentally, I have Donald's piece (which was dated October 30th, 1988, so apparently my calendar is wrong), but since it's a PDF, and I'm on dialup, it looks as if it may be impossible for me to fully access it, since the server keeps giving timeout errors, since it appears it would take about an hour, or some equally substantive chunk of time, to get the document through the eye of the needle. This is standard living on dialup on today's internet, unfortunately.

Hmm, yeah; I just can't get it to go past the second page. Sorry, Donald.

But wait! I found another means! Will it work? I'm waiting to hear from Donald if it got there. The suspense! The suspense!

Donald tells me he got it, and is pondering The Evils Of The Friedman, and will render a judgment later today.

If anyone else wants an e-mailed copy, it turns out to be only ~500k, so my e-mailing it to you upon request is no problem now. It was just a problem with the server offering it directly. Just let me know.

the Bush administration wouldn't screw up the war because they couldn't afford to

really bad argument, they got re-elected, remember? granted, one couldn't be sure about that beforehand, but thinking there was a lot at stake for them meant disregarding the post 9/11 mental state of the US public; as has been pointed out, it also meant putting one's trust fully into the administration, while refraining from independently evaluating the feasibility of the whole enterprise

If anyone would any more evidence that I'm an idiot than I daily provide, I just realized that my calendar works fine; I was looking at August, 1988, not October, when I said the 30th was a Tuesday.

I'm also prone to simple arithmetic errors.

There a whole tradition of would-be tough men explaining how 'strength is the only thing that the Xs respect', where X are the 'natives' of your choice. In some cases this simply represents fascist tendencies (such as in that would-be Canadian ubermensch Mark Steyn), but it's also sometimes a response by those who have been out 'in the wild' and 'understand what it's really like'. I associate this tendency particularly with Rudyard Kipling's response to Indians and I think that is what Friedman has succumbed to. He's (presumably) met warlords and so thinks he knows what 'real Arabs' are like and how what they respect is toughness and standing up for yourself. Tragically, he doesn't seem to realise that while such macho posturing on a personal level is simply unpleasant, when a whole nation starts doing it, a lot of innocent people are likely to end up very dead. If the would-be tough guys had just been able to get Dubya and Saddam fighting it out mano a mano, the world would have been a much better place.

"There a whole tradition of would-be tough men explaining how 'strength is the only thing that the Xs respect', where X are the 'natives' of your choice."

Also, justifying your acts against Your Enemy with that claim (or sincere belief).

Lisa Goldman, an Israeli with a Canadian passport visited Beirut and wrote a long and fascinating report, along with many pictures (too many for me to load on dialup), but included this inevitable, if you're paying attention, observation:

[...] Some people who were not Hezbollah supporters told me they were nevertheless on the fence about enforcement of UN Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. “It’s complicated,” explained one middle-class, secular Sunni. “I don’t like Hezbollah, but I’m sure Israel will attack us again. If Hezbollah disarms, who will fight back?” This particular guy did not know I was Israeli, so I did not want to expose myself by debating that point with him, but I thought it was interesting that he was absolutely convinced Israel posed a military threat to Lebanon. To bolster his point, he mentioned the frequent IAF flyovers that broke the sound barrier. It was interesting to see how similar the Israeli and Lebanese narratives of the conflict could be: The average Israeli will tell you that we’re just sitting here trying to live our lives in peace while Hezbollah threatens our northern border for no reason, and that if they would just leave us alone we’d be able to make peace with Lebanon tomorrow; meanwhile, a lot of average Lebanese seemed to feel they were just trying to live their lives and rehabilitate their country, while Israel was threatening their southern border for no reason. This reminded me of how many times I had heard both Israelis and Palestinians express the exact same phrase about the other: “They only understand force.”
They're brutes, you know. "They" always are, for whatever value of "they."

Which can be perfectly, if only partially, true, but it's rarely wholly true, a point perhaps seldom made.

The naivity of people that believed that Bush could have done the invasion of Iraq competently continues to amaze me. The very fact he wanted to invade Iraq, the fact he pulled resources out of Afghanistan to do so, and the fact that he left Afghanistan unsettled was enough evidence for me to believe that he wouldn't have been competent in Iraq.

Secondly, I still have a disagreement with those folks that believe that if it had been done competently and even if Iraq had turned out stable, that the invasion would have been a good thing. There was nothing presented at any time that justified our invading a sovereign nation.

Gary, a quick request. My son just asked me for the name of a sci-fi short novel written by an American that was an allegory of America. Any suggestions? He is teaching an American Lit course for college prep students in high school and wants to utilize this.

Thanks in advance.

magistra, I think you underestimate Kipling (and I have read comments from notable Indian authors that defend him from criticism). The problem seems to be that those stories by him that "don't fit the narrative" are far less well known (interestingly contemporaries accused him of being too native-friendly while today many see him as the embodiment of jingoism). That does not mean of course that he was flawless from today's point of view.

magistra: I associate this tendency particularly with Rudyard Kipling's response to Indians

Which one? I mean, we're talking about a writer whose professional career spans nearly 50 years, who wrote a lot of stories, novels, and poems which referenced inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent.

one of the more remarkable comments Friedman made in the run-up to the invasion was that the Bush administration wouldn't screw up the war because they couldn't afford to.
That logic doesn't cover screwing the war up unintentionally, nor it being a failure for reason beyond their control. What Friedman coucluded was that the war was far too serious an issue for the administration (and the country) to be pursued with anything less than their full attention and full effort.

And, of course, Friedman was wrong about that too.

"Gary, a quick request. My son just asked me for the name of a sci-fi short novel written by an American that was an allegory of America. Any suggestions? He is teaching an American Lit course for college prep students in high school and wants to utilize this."

Maybe there's something obvious that isn't springing to mind -- it's entirely likely -- but offhand, there's relatively little sf allegory, and what there is tends to be in short stories.

I'm not clear: is he asking for a reminder of a specific book he's read, in which case I'd ask for more clues, or is he searching for an example of what you asked for, because he doesn't have one?

Maybe Jack Finney's original Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Walter Miller's A Canticle For Leibowitz isn't precisely allegory, but it's perhaps in a nearby neighborhood.

Ursula Le Guin's short story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is perhaps one of the most famous sf allegories. But it is just a short. And one of the most assigned sf stories in school.

Perhaps he should read Tom Disch's nonfiction The Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of, and pick something from it. Although I'd hate to see anyone adopt Disch's views without comparing and contrasting them to the views of other scholars of the field; Disch is a genius, and his views are valuable, but also very much his, and hardly universally agreed with. But in context, a book worth reading along side others.

Pierre Boulle's Planet of the Apes is very much allegory, though only partly about America.

Harlan Ellison's A Boy And His Dog is kinda allegorical, as are a number of his many short stories. No novels, though.

Herbert George Wells was very partial to allegory, but again, not American at all.

I'm probably not thinking of some obvious choices, but as I said, really, most sf writers tend to avoid allegory like the plague, as too heavy-handed, and not really what science fiction is about. It tends mostly to be written on the borders of the field, by semi-outsiders, or people who are wholly outsiders (Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing, Animal Farm, Borges, Lewis' Christian allegory, etc.) though without doubt there are a number of further exceptions I'm not thinking of.

Basically, scientific speculation and extrapolation, and allegory, tend to go together like chocolate and salad dressing. You can make it work, but it isn't served often.

Oh, here's one I actually worked on, but, well, um, I'll finally be a bit unprofessional, and say this, but it's pretty damn bad -- there's Piers Anthony's Bio Of A Space Tyrant series (of novels), which is kinda an allegory of America. But I really don't recommend it at all.

Perhaps A Handmaid's Tale might work?

The place you really want to ask questions like this is rec.arts.sf.written.

Probably better off discussing this in the open thread, though, John.

My long awaited review of Friedman's Oct 30 1988 article. (Well, Gary might be curious anyway--we can trade opinions.)

Friedman gives the reader two possible peace plans, using his favorite literary device--two speeches by imaginary Israeli politicians directed at the Israeli silent majority. As Friedman portrays him (or her), the middle of the road Israeli voter in 1988 didn't care about the West Bank or Gaza, but also doesn't have much empathy for Palestinians. They just want to a peace agreement where they don't get blown up. I suppose this is plausible--with two groups fighting for the same land for decades, both guilty of numerous atrocities, the typical person on either side is probably not going to be overly concerned about the human rights or legitimate grievances of the other. They'll see themselves as the innocent victims, the others as the obstacles to peace.

Friedman assumes that this typical Israeli voter (who he calls Sasson) has to be sold on some realistic peace plan. Friedman provides two. The first one (he calls it the "tribal solution") involves a unilateral pullout by Israel from those parts of the West Bank and Gaza that it doesn't want that much, keeping the settlements within commuting distance of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem which are more defensible. (Sounds like Sharon's final strategy before his stroke). Doesn't matter what the Palestinians want. The Palestinians are to be told "if they put one of ours in the hospital, we'll put 200 of theirs in the morgue." ("The Untouchables" had just come out, I guess.)

The seemingly more liberal plan (the "diplomatic solution") involves Palestinians given some autonomy, with the long term promise that they'll be given some portion of the West Bank and Gaza for a state if they behave themselves. Again, it doesn't matter what they might want, what their legitimate aspirations might be or anything like that. They'll take what they're given and like it or else. Friedman says the tribal and diplomatic solutions can be melded, depending on how Palestinians behave.
To me, there doesn't actually seem to be a substantive difference.

As a reporter describing what centrist Israeli voters might have accepted in 1988 (or maybe now), this might be accurate. What's appalling is that Friedman endorses it. Palestinian desires mean nothing. Palestinians are only important as possible threats to Israelis and so one throws them bones hoping it will appease most of them--if not, they injure one of ours and we can kill 200 of them.

I don't think the Friedman of 1988 is different in any significant way from the Friedman salivating over the prospect of bombing Serbian infrastructure back into the Middle Ages (which would involve massive civilian casualties) or the Friedman who wanted to invade some Arab country, any Arab country that was convenient, in 2002. He likes to fantasize about being a political leader who can wield military force as a form of collective punishment for unruly folks who go against his plans.

Anarch above wrote: " they're expressing opinions about his current status and not about his life's work as a whole."

Because, really, it's 2007 and Friedman's writing in the distant past is pretty much irrelevant, except as a high water mark from which he has sunk.

What's relevant is what he writes now, what he's written recently, and what we can expect him to write in the future, for as long as he retains any influence.

Seeing as he seems to have become an indolent dilettante, coasting on his reputation while churning out mindless pap and schoolyard bravado, while retaining influence far beyond his current worth, I think a degree of venom is warranted. A high degree.

FWIW, Friedman's just declared the surge a complete failure.

[...] T]he Bush team will say the surge is a “partial” success and needs more time. But that is like your contractor telling you that your home is almost finished — the bricks are up, but there’s no cement. Thanks a lot. My answer: If I saw something with my own eyes that I hadn’t seen before — Iraq’s Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders stepping forward, declaring their willingness to work out their differences by a set deadline and publicly asking us to stay until they do. That’s the only thing worth giving more time to develop. . . .
Don't shoot me, I'm just reporting.

I saw that this morning, Gary. My own complaint about Friedman is not that he's always wrong, though he's been spectacularly wrong on some issues, obviously, but that he's a power-worshipper who likes to fantasize about giving out threats and then bombing people if they don't comply. His attitude on globalization was similar, though there he drooled over austerity measures and golden straitjackets rather than F-15's and bombs. And he's been like this for many years, and widely praised in the US as a liberal. (Until Iraq, of course.) 100 years ago he'd have been raving about the White Man's Burden and urging us to civilize the Filipinos. A person can be like this and still recognize when one of his favored projects isn't working out as planned.

Donald: "from those parts of the West Bank and Gaza that it doesn't want that much", "that they'll be given some portion of the West Bank and Gaza for a state"

I haven't read the article but I would guess you're misreading Friedman from what I recall of _FBTJ_ (I think the coda of the expanded version).

"Palestinian desires mean nothing."

And this I would expect is the "he talked about X thus he doesn't care about Y" fallacy.

Well, since on these issues Gary's better informed than me and I agree with him almost entirely, and since he enjoys the signal advantage of having the essay in front of him, I'll shut up now.

Gary could email the essay to you if you want.

The thesis of the article is that a peace agreement has to be acceptable to this hypothetical Israeli Everyman named Sasson. There's no attention given to what a hypothetical Palestinian centrist would find acceptable and how the two sides would be in conflict and how one might fairly resolve the disagreement. Friedman's offer is to make a Palestinian state out of "Gaza and the densely populated Arab areas of the West Bank". Sounds like bantustans to me and nothing even moderate Palestinians would go along with. The point of both of Friedman's peace plans is that the Israelis dictate the terms and Palestinians either accept them or are made to suffer the consequences. They are designed to appeal to "Sasson", not to the Palestinians.

In 1988 that probably was a mainstream American position--if anything, Friedman's willingness to imagine a small Palestinian state on part of the West Bank and Gaza Strip probably made him seem pro-Palestinian in American political circles of the time. My point is not only that his proposal was arrogant and one-sided, but that it was also coupled with Friedman's delight in issuing violent threats, something we see in his later writings on the Kosovo War and in the debate over Iraq.

Donald,

How does the article square with Chomsky's characterization of it, in your view?

I ask as a former admirer of Chomsky.

JM: I'm not entirely clear by what is meant by "of America", but here are a few ideas:

- Le Guin's short novel The Word For World Is Forest is an allegorical musing on the Vietnam experience.

- Sheltered Lives by Charles Oberndorf can be read as an allegory of AIDS in America

- Thomas M. Disch's On Wings of Song can (arguably) be read as an allegory of Disch's experience growing up gay in the Midwest.

- PKD's A Scanner Darkly has allegorical elements re: the drug war/social control in post-60s US, but like a lot of Dick's oeuvre (especially his later work) can also be interpreted through a more autobiographical lens.

T]he Bush team will say the surge is a “partial” success and needs more time. But that is like your contractor telling you that your home is almost finished — the bricks are up, but there’s no cement. Thanks a lot. My answer: If I saw something with my own eyes that I hadn’t seen before — Iraq’s Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders stepping forward, declaring their willingness to work out their differences by a set deadline and publicly asking us to stay until they do.

Shorter Tom Friedman:

"Where's my pony? You guys said there would be a pony!"

The failure of our policies in Iraq will cost Tom Friedman exactly nothing, and he will never acknowledge or accept one ounce of responsibility for our involvement there.

He was, after all, simply offering his opinions. That's what he gets paid for.

What we're seeing now, and will see for a while, is a parade of know-it-alls explaining why they weren't wrong, or weren't exactly wrong, or were only a little wrong, and how it isn't their fault they were wrong even if they were. Then they will treat us to an enthusiastic monologue about their next big idea.

I seriously think these guys are missing the shame gene.

Thanks -

Obscure--

I thought Chomsky's summary was characteristically harsh, but fair. Very similar to mine, actually, and I'm embarrassed as I reread Chomsky's description how close my summary echoes his, but I think it's accurate. I often though not always see things similarly to Chomsky. He stresses the 1 vs. 200 comment in Friedman's "tribal" solution and describes the "diplomatic" solution as--

"along the lines of Labor Party rejectionism, with enough power deployed 'to ignore Palestinian poetry' that they do not like. Again, the familiar racist arrogance. Notably missing is any Palestinian Sasson or indeed any recognition that it might matter what Palestinians want or think."

Chomsky goes on for a few more sentences which sound much like what I wrote last night.

I wouldn't use the term "racist" because one tends to get into arguments about what racism is--I don't think Friedman believes Palestinians are genetically inferior, which is how I think of racism, but I do think he dismisses the legitimate interests of the Palestinians as less important than those of Israelis. More of a cultural bias rather than some pseudoscientific genetic belief. Maybe "bigoted" is the right word.

Then they will treat us to an enthusiastic monologue about their next big idea.

Which in many cases just happens to involve belligerence toward Iran.

Donald, I've got _FBTJ_, and the 1990 epilogue is probably based on the Op-Ed you describe. He explicitly says that he's discussing a practical solution aimed at Sassoon - he is interested in "what might induce Israelis to trade part or all of those territories [that is, the WB and Gaza] for a secure and stable relationship with the Palestinians", because in his analysis the Israelis have to make the first move. He says the tribal solution is not fair, that it's not "the right thing for the right reasons". And in his diplomatic solution, the Israeli statesman he describes says, "Real Israeli security can never come from the club, but only from having a neighbor who is a dignified, responsible, and self-determining human being".

In short, I think your reading of Friedman is simply wrong.

And this I would expect is the "he talked about X thus he doesn't care about Y" fallacy.

This has been rattling around in my head a bit, because most of us usually assume that we aren't going to hold people for what they don't write about, something that we've hashed out several times here, and I think that RF's statement of the fallacy might be seen as an aspect of that. Yet, with an issue like I/P and a person who gets paid to comment on topics, I'm wondering if 's/he doesn't talk about X, so we can't beat up on her/him on that subject' gives people like Friedman too much leeway. This is both a particular question (how much does Friedman actually discuss things from a Palestinian point of view, which I think is at the heart of Chomsky's critique) and a general question (how much of the situation does a pundit need to discuss to be taken as a fair commentator) and I'd be curious about other people's take on this.

But Friedman (at least in the time-frame we're discussing here - I haven't read him much since blogs arose) does talk about how things look from the Palestinian POV, and is sympathetic to it. It's typical Chomsky-style analysis to take an op-ed pragmatically focused on an aspect X and ignore a book on X and Y. It would be stupid to note that Donald doesn't talk about the important and legitimate interests of the Israelis in his above comments and then conclude he's bigoted.

RF,
sure (and I've also noted Chomsky's penchant for this type of argument, so I'm not suggesting that it doesn't exist), and on the specific aspect of Friedman's work, I was hoping for some more detailed points about Friedman's discussion and understanding of the Palestinian situations rather than 'of course, he talks about it'. However, the world of _FBTJ_ seems to me to be as far away from our situation and problems today as the court intrigues of the Romanovs (this should be taken as a personal failing rather than any suggestion that I/P issues don't matter, but there is a fatigue that has set in on a number of issues)

There is also a side issue that interests me in that I'm thinking that Friedman's New Yorker piece was sandwiched between _FBTJ_ and the publication of the revision, so the question arises whether Chomsky was honestly responding to the article or was responding by unfairly ignoring additional material that Friedman had written. But this shouldn't be taken as a demand of you or Donald to prove anything, just some random thoughts rattling around in my head.

He might have liberalized a bit in the book--I don't have it. He says some of that in the 1988 article, about neighbors and dignity and so forth, but since he's only offering the Arab-dense portions of the West Bank there, I don't think proclaimed good intentions cut it. There's a lot of self-delusion going on there if he thinks the offer he's talking about in the 1988 article is supposed to be something a moderate Palestinian would accept. Yes, he talks about dignified Palestinians while quietly assuming that Israel can hold onto the parts of the West Bank that aren't "densely populated by Arabs". That phrase is carefully chosen. Even in the 1990 version you cite he talks about "part or all" of the WB. Make it "all" or nearly all, with some compensating land from Israel and some of my complaints about the "diplomatic" solution would vanish. Why even talk about "part" unless the idea is to give up as little as possible to win over "Sasson"? In the 1988 article he says

"Israel might use the diplomatic solution as a starting point: if rejected, it could fall back on the tribal solution, which needs no cooperation from the other side. Or Israel could implement the tribal solution, which might grow into a diplomatic dialogue."

There he's talking about the diplomatic solution where the Israelis concede those Arab-dense parts--if they're ungrateful about this there's the tribal solution.


There's no hint in this article that there might be something, well, terroristic about threatening to kill 200 Palestinians for one Israeli injury. This is the Friedman who enjoys fantasizing about violence, just as he did in 1999 with the Serbs and again in 2003 with the Arabs. I think he constantly demonstrates a classic colonial mentality--the liberal sort who wants the natives to be happy on his terms, but if they see things differently he's more than willing to bash a lot of heads.

People talk about Friedman as though some mysterious transformation happened to him. It's actually simple. When he was strictly a reporter he did an adequate job. Israel dropped bombs on Beirut. Civilians died. Phalangists were let into refugee camps by Israel and slaughtered civilians. Wow, Israel does things wrong sometimes. What a truthteller. Other reporters were just as good. Jonathan Randal did a good job on Lebanon, in my opinion, but he's not a household name because he never turned into a pompous ass. Anyway, Friedman became a pundit and all the arrogant attitudes people criticize him for in Iraq came out, but they came out almost immediately, as early as 1988, because they've been there all along.

matttbastard, it turns out that thinking of and listing sf allegories is pointless, because john miller responded in the open thread that his son hadn't asked for allegories at all; john just "used that word" on his own, for some reason, he said.

So, in fact, listing allegories would be completely counter-productive to recommending actual science fiction.

Unfortunately, as a result, I have no idea what John's son is actually asking. But best followed up in the open thread.

On Friedman, though I will gladly e-mail the 1988 piece to anyone at all who asks -- it's no trouble, now -- I don't really see a lot of point in debating someone's views from nearly 20 years ago. Almost everyone's views on Israel/Palestine have evolved since then, one way or another, and if they haven't, at least to the extent of absorbing the import of subsequent developments, they should have.

So I don't see much point. If we were to flip it around, we'd discuss how Palestinian views on what an acceptable settlement were in 1988. We could point to all sorts of rejectionists and unreasonable views held by many Palestinians, as well, at the time: but what would be the effing point to this exercise?

"however, the world of _FBTJ_ seems to me to be as far away from our situation and problems today as the court intrigues of the Romanovs"

A great exaggeration, but not entirely untrue, but when discussing what Friedman's views were in 1988, obviously it's of the utmost relevance.

"There is also a side issue that interests me in that I'm thinking that Friedman's New Yorker piece was sandwiched between _FBTJ_ and the publication of the revision,"

So far as I know, Tom Friedman has never been employed by or written for The New Yorker in his life.

Donald Johnson:

[...] Even in the 1990 version you cite he talks about "part or all" of the WB. Make it "all" or nearly all, with some compensating land from Israel and some of my complaints about the "diplomatic" solution would vanish. Why even talk about "part" unless the idea is to give up as little as possible to win over "Sasson"?
Because reporters aren't negotiators, and it would be counter to the guidelines and standards the Times has for these sort of things for a reporter, even in a magazine piece, to be deciding to foreclose one of the standard pieces of diplomatic language at the time.

In any case, Friedman was describing his iteration of the views of an average Israeli; he wasn't passing judgment on them.

Quoting is tedious, because it's images, and thus has to be typed in by hand:

[...] Therefore, without the cooperation of the Sassoons, there will simply be no peace. You can talk about what is just, and you can talk about what should be, you can talk about United Nations resolutions and Palestinian rights and fancy peace plans and declarations by Yasir Arafat, but unless you talk about what will move Sassoon, you will be talking to yourself.
This wasn't a dismissal of Palestinians; this is an article about Israeli views, and Friedman was discussing ways to break the deadlock between the two sides. And it's full of descriptions of Israelis being unreasonable, and "crazy." "Crazier than they [the Palestinians] are," he quotes Zev Chafets saying, as they go on to talk about how the Israelis are driving the Palestinians to violence, and that this was Israel's fault.

Eventually he gets to: "I am suggesting a way to reach the Israelis who will only do the right thing for the 'wrong' reasons, for the harsh reasons, for Sassoon's reasons, because without them there will never be a stable majority for a territorial compromise."

And later: "Nevertheless, I believe there could be a diplomatic solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which might be acceptable to the Sassoons of Israel, as well as to many Palestinians. It, too, could be initiated by an Israeli gesture."

Friedman wasn't in any way hostile towards Palestinians, as, indeed, any reading of his work at the time should make clear. He was a highly liberal American looking for the fairest solution he could find. In the context of 1988, he was speaking to an American audience that wasn't particularly sympathetic to Palestinians, or the notion of a Palestinian state. Neither was he trying to dictate terms of a settlement. Trying to make molehills out of his using the absolutely bogstandard boilerplate usage of "part or all," language still used as a standard today, strikes me as close to kooky, because it's attempting to derive a lot of deductive conclusions that don't fit into boilerplate. It's asking Friedman to have invented new language of his own, and castigating him for not having done so; that's absurd.

It's like noting someone used the phrase "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness," and saying, wait, you didn't mention "justice": obviously you oppose justice: why do you hate justice?

Because that's not the boilerplate phrase. Which is what "all or part" was and is.

Anyway, the gist of the piece is why Israel should, in 1988, unilaterally declare themselves in favor of a Palestinian state. Obviously this should be attacked as anti-Palestinian.

Apologies, New Yorker fell off the fingers when I should have typed New York Times Sunday Magazine. I would also point out that my comment about FBTJ was not to dismiss it in determining Friedman's views, just that my own personal ennui prevents me from digging thru 10 year old discussions of the I/P problem to try and determine precisely what is at issue. As to what was solicited by my comments, I leave it up to the gentle reader.

I was trying to figure out where Donald finds Friedman talking about violence positively, as that's wildly out of character.

I was baffled, until I realized that's Donald's talking about the part where Friedman is offering two hypothetical Israeli speeches from a leader, one he regards as horrible and to be avoided, which he calls the "tribal solution," and the other, which the piece is about proposing, which he calls "the diplomatic solution."

Donald is quoting the speech Friedman regards as evil. Well, duh. That's where the "kill 200 of yours" comes from: what Friedman rejects.

Similarly, I will quote Donald Johnson above: "if not, they injure one of ours and we can kill 200 of them."

Donald Johnson says we should kill 200 Palestinians: why does Donald have these violent fantasies?

Friedman concludes the piece:

Either way, some radical approaches are required -- approaches which are based on the real emotions on the grounds. Today, Israeli leaders fall into two categories: moderates with no guts, and heros with lost causes.

I am convinced that an Israeli leader ready to offer his people a compelling and realistic way out of the current dead end, ready to offer a clear-cut vision with a road map to get there right now, will find a public ready to follow. But those who offer only the murky water of international peace conferences or empty assurances that "it will all be o.k." will find only a national divided.

The piece was a kick in the ass to get Israel to take that step of making a unilateral declaration of acceptance of a Palestinian state.

Possibly this is evidence of Friedman's latent violent tendencies. But I don't see it.

I understand Donald's attempt to offer this as evidence of said alleged long-held fondness of fantasizing about violence -- "salivating," for it, in Donald's words -- but while I greatly value Donald's views, and entirely welcome hearing them, I can't say that I believe this is other than an extraordinarily thin reed on which to support such a claim about a person.

Rereading bits of _FBTJ_ this morning I was struck by what it was: the end-product of a decade's reporting. Here's what happened, here's what the principals are like, here's what groups A, B, C, and D say, here's what they think about D, C, B, and A and why it's understandable that they do. Only at the end is there some tacked-on punditry which holds up remarkably well after 17 years. Friedman got too far from the street and didn't realize that having been there was what enabled him to understand the traffic accidents and the achievable rules of the road.

"one he regards as horrible and to be avoided"

I'll have to go reread the epilogue - I didn't get quite that impression on my morning skim. I thought he considered the tribal solution the wrong way to go but possibly effective - anyway better than stagnation preceding another explosion.

"I'll have to go reread the epilogue - I didn't get quite that impression on my morning skim."

In fairness, rereading, I went too far there. Friedman's holding up of the two alternatives, and clear preference for one was clear, but wasn't as emphatic in rejecting one over the other. It was less overt than I implied, but I think it was clear, nonetheless.

The whole piece was addressed to what Israel should do, and implicitly therefore addressed to Israelis, and their American supporters; it was therefore written in a tone clearly intentionally intended to be his attempt to write in a way that more hardline, but not fanatic, Israelis wouldn't automatically reject. So the weighing and weighting of the two speeches was a bit on the subtle side, I grant. But it was overtly clear which one he pushed: the "diplomatic solution," not the "tribal solution."

Friedman quotes:

Blow up a different power station in Iraq every week, so no one knows when the lights will go off or who's in charge.

_____

Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.

______________

It should be lights out in Belgrade: Every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road, and war-related factory has to be targeted.(...) Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set back your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.

He's clearly a sociopath - why should anybody listen to him?


Sure - "tribal solution" nearly means in the context of the book "Hamas rules".

I suspect it's not unreasonable for Donald to read the op-ed (which in fact reads perhaps word-for-word the same as the epilogue) and - based on a very negative but arguable view of Friedman's recent work - mistake what he meant. I don't think Chomsky's comment on the NYT piece can be viewed that way, though.

Hartmut/Jesurgisilac

The attitude of Kipling I was thinking of was in stories like 'The Head of the District' in 'Life's Handicap'. In that story an Afghani (?) tribe revolt because after a British Deputy Commissioner dies, he is replaced by a Bengali. Kipling clearly admires these North-Western tribesmen and sees their contempt for the Bengali imposed on them as justified, but still writes within a framework in which rule by upright white Sahibs is justified. I don't have the time to hunt out other similar stories by him, but I don't remember this as being untypical of his work.

I gave Kipling as an example of how someone who knows an alien culture well and sympathises with its people can still feel that they need to be 'taught a lesson' by the use of force every now and then if they don't behave in the 'reasonable' way that the white man expects. I wonder if there's a streak of that in Friedman.

His attitude strikes me as different from that of Mark Steyn. Before I realised that reading him was like going too near an open sewer, I saw one column where he was boasting about sitting in a restaurant in Baghdad shortly after the invasion and sneering at all the Iraqis being subservient to him, because they were a conquered people. He simply didn't have the imagination to think what it might be like to be an Iraqi in that situation. Kipling, for all his faults, I think could have imagined that.

"I suspect it's not unreasonable for Donald to read the op-ed"

I'm assuming that you're referring to Friedman's New York Times Magazine piece, which definitionally is not opposite the editorials, on the Op-Ed page.

As a general statement, I've made clear my opinion of Friedman's work in since the mid-Nineties.

And I can also "prove" that just about anyone is a "sociopath" by taking, out of the millions of words they've written over thirty years, a couple of dozen out of context.

That would not be reasoning, however, I would expect to earn me any respect.

But, fortunately, people never make crazed over-statements in blog comments. Because if they did, it might prove they are psychotic.

According to certain types of reasoning.

You're misrepresenting the paper Gary. You ignored the peace proposal Friedman is advocating in 1988--the Arab dense population of the West Bank. His hypothetical Israeli statesman says that is the most the Palestinians can have. And you're flat wrong about what Friedman says about the tribal solution. . He doesn't call the tribal solution "evil". In fact, he talks about people doing the right thing for the "wrong" reasons, and he's the one who puts "wrong" in quotes. Friedman himself advocates at the end using the tribal solution as a fallback or alternatively, as the first step followed by the diplomatic solution. Your claim that he rejects the tribal solution as evil and not to be employed is flatly contradicted in the article. I quoted that part, which was right above the concluding portion that you cite. And this is vintage Friedman--he's not been shy about making childish calls for violent actions. Earlier in this thread I linked to a quote he made about bombing Serbia. What publius has in his post is an example of Friedman sounding like an absolute lunatic who was willing to attack several different Arab countries. It's odd to me that people think the Friedman of 2003 was some changeling from the Bizarro World. There's a simple explanation unifying all of these remarks--it's the same Friedman all along, the Friedman who delights in fantasizing about righteous uses of Western violence.

Try imagining the whole article rewritten from a pro-Palestinian slant with mirror-image biases. Marwan Barghouti, say, deciding not to attack civilians inside Israel proper would be the part of the tribal approach, but there would also be suicide bombing against the settlers who don't withdraw and the Other Friedman casually ends the article saying that if diplomacy doesn't work, well, there's always the Hamas/Islamic Jihad/Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade approach, which could be used as a fallback or as an initial approach which might lead to diplomacy. No mention of the word "evil"--just descriptions of the advocates of these approaches as not nice and "wrong", with the word "wrong" in quotes. The diplomatic approach would, I suppose, concede those parts of Israel which are "population dense" in Israelis. All this would be designed to appeal to the Palestinian Hamas voter. Americans reading this would have apoplexy.

There's a long, long tradition in Western culture of people who consider themselves friendly and sympathetic to non-Western people, who then want to bomb them or shell them into better behavior. I'm not going to say Friedman is the equivalent of Joseph Conrad's Kurtz, but he has his moments when there is a resemblance. So it's not impressive to me that Friedman uses all the language of making peace with dignity with Arab neighbors. Standard boilerplate. He's just finished writing an article describing an offer of "the densely populated Arab areas" of the West Bank to the Palestinians. In other words, letting the Arabs have what hasn't yet been stolen. Could he possibly have believed that Palestinians would have found this acceptable? No matter--if they don't, there's the tribal solution.

I realize that in the context of American politics in 1988, this qualified as a remarkably generous pro-Palestinian offer. That's only to say that mainstream American politics was and is very one-sided on the I/P conflict. Why that would prevent Friedman from writing a balanced article describing just how Palestinians would view his hypothetical offers escapes me. It seems sort of relevant if you're writing an article about a peace proposal that you talk about how the other side is likely to view it. But not if you think like Friedman--the solution can be imposed. If you read material on the truly pro-Palestinian side, as I'm sure you have, you'll immediately see how incredibly arrogant and one-sided Friedman sounds. And that's not to say that the Palestinians should or could have all they want. What they want, obviously, is everything. Specifically, the right of return to their original homeland. They never accepted that even the 1947 UN partition was remotely fair--55 percent given to a minority. The Palestinians are expected to give up their right of return, which they already see as conceding 78 percent of their original home. Friedman in his great American liberal colonialist generosity was willing to give them some fraction of the 22 percent, where their population density was high. He was offering bantustans, and yeah, by American standards in 1988 that no doubt made him a great liberal. Hell, by current standards it probably makes him a great liberal.

There's nothing surprising about a man like this thinking we could bomb Iraq into democracy.

My long reply above was written while several of you were hashing it out, so I'd have written it in a slightly calmer tone if I'd seen those. I have some rule about not posting while I'm still annoyed, but I often disregard it when too annoyed to be bothered with following rules.

Yes, Friedman favors the diplomatic proposal in the 88 piece, but with the big stick to back it up. He likes big sticks and threatening to wield them against people who don't see reason as he sees it.

"You ignored the peace proposal Friedman is advocating in 1988--the Arab dense population of the West Bank."

I believe you're confusing the point he was trying to make, and the audience he was trying to make it to, and ignoring the fact that your "evidence" is that he used perfectly conventional language at the time.

Trying to speak to an audience of the American supporters of Israel, and Israelis, in 1988, and insisting that not specifying that 100% of the 1967 borders was the only acceptable offer, is proof of someone's personally "salivating" over lust for killing over their whole life, makes no sense whatever to me.

You're completely ignoring context in making anything at all of the use of boilerplate.

"...the Friedman who delights in fantasizing about righteous uses of Western violence...."

Friedman has written thousands of columns, over decades. It's perfectly obvious to anyone actually familiar with them that he's not Michael Ledeen, or Mark Steyn, or whomever you're confusing him with.

If he "delighted" in this sort of thing, there would be more than five or six quotes out of a lifetime of millions of words. I'm sorry, but this is just ludicrous. I'm completely down with pointing out how Friedman has fallen into shallow worthlessness and error, and in condemning his work in the past decade as of little worth, but turning him into a monster who salivates over killing people is just pure kooksville.

Why is it never enough to disagree with people, and condemn them? Why do we have to attempt to prove that they are monsters?

We have enough people who actually lust for blood in the rightwing punditsphere, and the rightwing blogosphere, that we don't have to go torturing bodies of decades of work to find a couple of dozen words we can interpret in the harshest possible fashion to "prove" what someone Sekritly Lusts After.

Isn't it enough to say that Friedman has long been worthless, and there's been little or no point in listening to him in many years?

I should also add that I would be equally disgusted with the hypothetical Other Friedman article I talked about above, in case that's not clear. But it is somewhat close to what I understand Marwan Barghouti actually favors. Not the end game--I'm not sure what he'd settle for, though he was apparently one of the leading moderate pro-peace Palestinians in the 90's. But he has favored attacks on settlers in the West Bank, while leaving Israelis inside the 67 borders alone, and that's presumably a position meant to appeal to Palestinian "Sassons".

Nobody made Friedman write those things, Gary. You write those things if you're an irresponsible idiot who shouldn't have a column, typing out your Walter Mitty fantasies about ruling the world (this is what computer games are for) or if you really are bloodthirsty.

Now I'm perfectly willing to believe Friedman is a well-meaning nitwit who has somehow acquired an enormously inflated reputation and who now goes on TV and spouts off on things, sounding like someone at a local pub who's had a few too many beers. No need to bring him up on aiding and abetting war crimes. Just ridicule him as someone who should never be listened to on the subject of violence and don't treat him, as Charlie Rose did when I could still stand to watch the show, as a fountain of wisdom on Middle Eastern politics and globalization issues.

I like him on green issues. But someone else can advocate for that. He doesn't deserve to have a column.

"All this would be designed to appeal to the Palestinian Hamas voter. Americans reading this would have apoplexy."

I only speak for myself. And I know perfectly well that my response would be to explain that the speaker was speaking to an audience of Palestinians that includes Hamas, and that this is an attempt to persuade them to the diplomatic approach.

Of course. Duh.

But, presumably, you're saying that would be unreasonable, and that this proves that the speaker lusts to kill Israelis.

So you've just proven that your explanation would be wrong. That your interpretation of the speaker was wildly wrong. That you condemn your own reasoning as erroneous.

Ok, I agree with you.

"Why that would prevent Friedman from writing a balanced article describing just how Palestinians would view his hypothetical offers escapes me."

I'm unaware that you've offered proof to support, or even suggest, any assertion that he hasn't.

In any case, the entire assumption you're making, that when Friedman offered two speeches in the voices of two hypothetical people, he was speaking for himself, isn't supported by anything other than your assuming it. (Putting what he wrote in 1988 into present tense further undermines your assertions.)

"Yes, Friedman favors the diplomatic proposal in the 88 piece, but with the big stick to back it up."

You don't seem to get the point of the piece, and the context, which was highly elaborated upon: persuading Sassoon.

Obviously, your approach to persuading Sassoon would have him storming out of the room with your opening sentence.

How this would have been helpful to anyone, I don't know.

Otherwise, I can agree that if you want to ignore the point of the piece, ignore the context, and ignore the approach Friedman took, then yes, criticzing him for not doing some entirely other thing, makes sense.

Also, he offered no gardening tips. He clearly hates gardeners.

Apologies for probably being a little overheated, Donald.

My point is that if I say "my goal is to persuade these biased folks over hear of something, so I'm going to offer them two hypothetical alternatives, in two hypothetical voices that their biases will allow them to hear, using current diplomatic boilerplate language designed to not exclude possibilities either side would walk out on if excluded," then it's not possible to make claims from what's thereby said that prove that that's what the speaker believes.

So each time you offer quotes from those hypothetical speeches "proving" that that's what Friedman "believes," I view it as no different than the standard mistake of confusing what a character in fiction says with what the author believes. The author isn't speaking in his own voice.

He wrote several thousand words about Sassoon, as he explained that he was going to explain how to try to persuade the Sassoons. "What will move Sassoon?," he asks, and tries to answer.

You ignore all that, and characterize it as "what Friedman believes."

If someone did that intentionally, it would be thoroughly dishonest. I don't believe you're other than completely sincere and well-intentioned, but your reading, by ignoring this, is flatly wrong and unfair.

"The following is a hypothetical that might persuade someone" is not "this is what I believe."

It just isn't. And he wrote a couple of thousand words on how he was doing the first. Which you and Chomsky utterly ignore.

That's illegitimate.

"Sasson". And if we don't agree on these points by now we're not about to.

Anybody want to hash out the West Bank First approach? Seems ok to me, but I haven't read up on it.

No problem about the temper. We've both gotten a little heated.

And I don't agree with how you read the article. I think those speeches, both of them, reflected Friedman's own views of a two-pronged approach that could work. It's not just a reflection of where Israelis were. Use diplomacy and fall back on the tribal approach if it fails-i.e., if the Palestinians aren't grateful enough to be offered their bantustans. He pays lip service to the ugliness of the tribal approach, but he endorses it as a possible way to go. There's no need to go into what Palestinians might dream about in his plan. That's explicitly stated. And it doesn't make sense to say "Oh that's just what the hypothetical Israeli politician would say." It's what Friedman wanted to see happen.

The present tense thing was just a grammatical mistake. I'm not a fan of the more recent Thomas Friedman on the I/P conflict either, but I don't want to branch out and start talking about everything Friedman has ever said that makes me nauseous. Scrape together some Friedman books and columns and there's plenty there that would make me sick.

I haven't read everything that Friedman has ever written, but I seriously doubt he's ever written the mirror image version of this piece. What I've seen him do, IIRC, is tell Arab leaders and Arabs in general to shape up and stop whining. There's not a whole lot of concessions made to the Arab narrative about what the West has done to them. One of the endlessly entertaining things about the "liberal" NYT is that harsh criticism of Israel of the sort you see regularly in magazines like the Nation or the Progressive or books and articles by Israeli writers
is rarely found in the NYT, certainly not in the columns by Friedman that I've read.
.
I'd like to see an example where he has some hypothetical Palestinian leader telling his followers that he will dictate terms to Israel (something short of a full right of return, but far more than the Geneva Accords, for instance, so totally unrealistic and yet seemingly a big concession from the Palestinian viewpoint) and if they don't like it, they'll have to face the consequences (see tribal solution). If I were a good enough writer I'd try to do it as a parody. Fortunately I know my limits.


You see Friedman as someone who is very liberal with good intentions. I see him as a very common sort of American liberal who thinks he's got good intentions, but wants to use force (actual military force or in the case of globalization, austerity programs) to make people do what he thinks is right. And I think his deranged support for the Iraq War lunacy is entirely in character, nothing that anyone who'd been reading him for years should find surprising. Whether that makes him a bad person is beyond me. It makes him a bad columnist.

I don't think it's unfair, Gary. I understand what you're saying, but I don't think that's what's going on with Friedman. And my view of it is consistent with his stands on other issues. He sides with powerful Westerners telling others what a fair solution would look like, and who are willing to use force to back it up.

Anyway, we're just repeating ourselves.

I meant to reply to this--

"All this would be designed to appeal to the Palestinian Hamas voter. Americans reading this would have apoplexy."

I only speak for myself. And I know perfectly well that my response would be to explain that the speaker was speaking to an audience of Palestinians that includes Hamas, and that this is an attempt to persuade them to the diplomatic approach.

Of course. Duh.

But, presumably, you're saying that would be unreasonable, and that this proves that the speaker lusts to kill Israelis.

So you've just proven that your explanation would be wrong. That your interpretation of the speaker was wildly wrong. That you condemn your own reasoning as erroneous.

Ok, I agree with you."

Sarcasm aside (you already apologized for that), no, you don't agree with me. However, with a force of will in myself that I find awe-inspiring, if I do say so, I will not explain why, for it would lead to several iterations of disagreement about the proposals of some hypothetical Other Friedman and while I enjoy a longwinded, borderline ludicrous ObiWi slugfest as much as the next guy, I'd rather be on the sidelines watching.

"Anyway, we're just repeating ourselves."

Nah, I'm done; you can have the last word; except that: a) this is fair, and I agree:

One of the endlessly entertaining things about the "liberal" NYT is that harsh criticism of Israel of the sort you see regularly in magazines like the Nation or the Progressive or books and articles by Israeli writers is rarely found in the NYT [....]
And b)
You see Friedman as someone who is very liberal with good intentions.
I didn't say that. I also don't believe in necessarily characterizing a person as identical to who they were twenty years ago; most people evolve. Look at what Dick Cheney of the Nineties thought of what Dick Cheney of today believes was a good diea.

And c) As regards "It makes him a bad columnist," I've already stipulated that, over and over and over again, in regard to his work in the past decade or so.

"He sides with powerful Westerners telling others what a fair solution would look like, and who are willing to use force to back it up."

That's a perfectly fair statement, that I fully agree with.

I just don't equate it with "salivating for blood." But I'm done, I tell you! Done!

Gary - West Bank First, yes or no?

"Gary - West Bank First, yes or no?"

Haven't come to any conclusions; sorry. Other than the normal view of the situation: I can't see much reason for optimism about anything. Beyond that things could be worse.

magistra
That's one of the stories I have heard of but not yet read myself. The context I had heard of it was that of the quite common Kipling theme of "incompetent official blunders by ignoring local customs, leading to completely avoidable bloodshed".
I would not object to the claim that Kipling believed that Britain was (though temporarily) superior (in civil development, not in a racist way) and that imbued the English with certain rights (but especially duties). Interestingly he did also believe that Germans were not White (in the sense of White man's burden) despite being white (small w) and he despised the Boers for their racism.
Thus I would see Kipling as far more nuanced than most "experts" today. Better not to think what he would have written about Bush and "viceroy" Bremer.
One thing Kipling could do (according to "natives" even with perfection) was to write from both sides, i.e. able to put himself into the shoes of the "natives" and present rather unflattering descriptions of the English colonial apparatus. The reactions to that sound quite familiar (i.e. they were of the "you are with the terrorists" type).
A last thing: Kipling was willing to admit when he was wrong. Iirc later in life he harshly criticised his own naivety as a young reporter. That's something we are unlikely to see with the Friedmans of today.

Gary, it turns out we were channeling people at this comment thread.


Or I was, anyway. You may or may not feel like anyone there mirrors your POV--possibly the opening post comes closest.

Though I don't think I can see you saying what Shadi says in that last sentence about Republicans. Maybe some of what he says about Friedman.

Compared to 1988 we have the advantage of almost 20 years experience.

So in hindsight it's obvious that there could be no negotiated solution in 1988. To get a negotiated solution both sides would have to find the solution acceptable, preferable to continued fighting. Any negotiated agreement that the israelis could accept would be utterly unacceptable to palestinians, and vice versa. In the absence of a negotiated solution both sides must accept there BATNA, their best alternative to negotiated agreement.

The alternative was that each side take what they could get. That meant the israelis attempt to hurt palestinians enough to make them submit, to accept whatever scraps israelis would be ready to offer. The less *capability* palestinians have to do any aggressive action, the better.

So in the short run israel would gradually hurt the palestinians worse and worse, always keeping short of genocide. They destroyed the palestinian economy and left them utterly dependent on foreign assistance. They mostly destroyed the palestinian schools. They destroyed most attempts at palestinian sewage treatment. Each attempt at creating a palestinian government has been destroyed by the israelis. When israelis restricted food to gaza, they insisted that they didn't actually intend to starve anybody, "just make them tighten their belts".

There is no reason for israelis to give palestinians anything, for anything they are willing to give to palestinians will not be enough and will be used for attacks on israel. Food will be used to grow a new generation of palestinian terrorists. Why let them have food? Medicine will be used to treat the wounds of palestinian terrorists. Why let them have medicine? Etc. And yet, israelis don't want to be responsible for outright genocide.

Palestinians have no reason to negotiate, because whatever they agree to will limit their maximum but will not affect their minimum. If palestinians agree to the 1967 borders then they will never get anything beyond the 1967 borders but israel will still tear up the agreement and take more from them whenever it seems appropriate to the israeli government to do so. What do they gain? Not peace.

In hindsight it's obvious there could never have been a negotiated peace for israel/palestine. And to people who knew the score like Friedman, it should have been obvious in 1988 there could be no peace. But they didn't want to say that.

So Friedman presented a fake. After all, everybody knew that peace was better than war, that good guys try to negotiate. Israel ought to negotiate. But no israeli government could offer more than israeli citizens would accept. Here's what israeli citizens would accept. Offer the palestinians that, and who knows, maybe they'll accept, maybe they'll negotiate a surrender. Worth a try. And if not, there's always the BATNA.

Friedman was advocating that israel politely carry out the legal fictions as if they intended to negotiate. Similarly Bush/Cheney are willing to negotiate with iran. If iranians give them everything they want without a fight and ask for nothing, then the negotiations have succeeded. Otherwise they haven't seriously delayed the war. No harm in trying.

Sure, Friedman used boilerplate language. Why not? He wasn't suggesting anything new, he was only suggesting going through the motions of pretending to negotiate. Because a real peace simply wasn't in the cards. He knew it. But it wasn't appropriate to come right out and say it.

Was he some super-liberal? No. There was no such thing as a super-liberal about israel/palestine. There wasn't enough agreement between israelis and palestinians to get an agreement, so the only choices were to support israel utterly or be a traitor to israel.

Suppose that super-liberals had proposed that israel give the entire west bank to palestinians, and give them open borders with jordan, and let them do everything that sovereign nations do. And suppose that somehow a deal like that was enforced on israel. Then it was utterly predictable that palestinians would try to build an economy, and they would spend as much as they could afford on arms. And when -- inevitably -- israel was required to invade palestine, every antitank weapon in palestine would be used to attack israelis. A giant expense for nothing.

No responsible american suggested such a course of action. Only a tiny minority of deluded super-liberals had the illusion that there was a chance for real peace, that israel should try to take that chance, that risk. Friedman wasn't one of them. Friedman was only going through the motions. Similarly, he wasn't being bloodthirsty. His position was the same as all americans outside a tiny minority -- unconditional support for israel. Since a negotiated peace was not available, the only accepted alternative was to progressively hurt palestinians until they agree to an unconditional surrender. Friedman was not unusual in that, he was the norm.

I am going not from what he said in a couple of editorials etc. I am going from what he must have realised, given his experience. This could be argued. It could be claimed that he didn't notice, that his supposed expertise was all a sham, that he had no concept what it would take to get peace. But did he say the goal was peace? I doubt it.

J Thomas, I shouldn't have talked about Friedman's drooling over violence--his statements speak for themselves and my drool comment just got in the way. It turned out Gary agreed that Friedman is willing to use force to make others accept what he sees as fair, which was one of my points, stripped of rhetorical flourishes. You've got the same problem with rhetoric. If you want to talk about what the Israelis have done to the Palestinians, fine, but paragraphs like the food and medicine one are guaranteed to turn people off. Make specific charges about Israeli actions, if that's part of your argument, and don't go into that rhetorical mode where you appear to be attributing just-short-of- genocidal thoughts to Israelis in general.

Stripping away the verbal excesses, we partly agree. I think Friedman was very liberal in the 1980's American context (and still to the left of most current Presidential candidates), but was still miles away from proposing anything a Palestinian would accept. He was putting forward the most generous politically possible offer he can imagine coming from Israel at the time(including the statement that this is as good as it is going to get for the Palestinians) and he should have suspected no Palestinian would accept it, unless he wanted to be called a traitor and assassinated. Either way, the end result would be a Palestinian rejection and then the onus for the continued conflict could be placed on them and we get the "tribal" solution. Maybe eventually the Palestinians would be so beaten down they'd be willing to take what's offered. Do I think Friedman is a conscious cynic? Naah. No one who lets himself type the sort of rantings he occasionally lets out is a cynic. He's a Kurtzian liberal, exasperated and hurt and outraged by the ingratitude of those he wants to help. If they won't be brought into his version of utopia, bomb them until they see reason. A tragic figure, really.

Donald, thank you. I didn't intend to attribute almost-genocidal thoughts to israelis generally. I intended to say that actual israeli policy is almost-genocidal. They want to stop short of genocide. They do want to torture palestinians to the point that palestinians accept unconditional surrender and whatever tribal reservations israelis offer them.

I mostly don't get this from what israeli leaders say. I get it from what they do. And to my way of thinking it's a rational approach for them. The more ability palestinians have to do anything, the more ability they have to attack israel. And so, when malnutrition of children under 6 years is known to cause permanent brain damage, israel is enforcing malnutrition on palestinians and, inevitably, palestinian children.

While it seems mean, still they'd stop doing it if palestinians would just surrender, and completely give up violence, and live on their reservations without causing further trouble.

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