Tom Tom with a Club

|

Here is what Tom Friedman proposes the U.S. do to overcome the Abu Ghraib scandal and put the Iraq project back on track:

Mr. Bush needs to invite to Camp David the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the heads of both NATO and the U.N., and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria. There, he needs to eat crow, apologize for his mistakes and make clear that he is turning a new page. Second, he needs to explain that we are losing in Iraq, and if we continue to lose the U.S. public will eventually demand that we quit Iraq, and it will then become Afghanistan-on-steroids, which will threaten everyone. Third, he needs to say he will be guided by the U.N. in forming the new caretaker government in Baghdad. And fourth, he needs to explain that he is ready to listen to everyone's ideas about how to expand our force in Iraq, and have it work under a new U.N. mandate, so it will have the legitimacy it needs to crush any uprisings against the interim Iraqi government and oversee elections ? and then leave when appropriate. And he needs to urge them all to join in.

"Eat crow, apologize for his mistakes and make clear that he is turning a new page"? The only thing remarkable in Friedman's list of political hair shirts is how almost every one is utterly wrongheaded–and I'm someone who often agrees with him.

I will mention only one: Apologize to Bashar al-Asad, Crown Prince Abdullah and Hosni Mubarak? For what? For not "disappearing" the prisoners the way they would have?

Advertisement

NEXT: Granny Got Run Over By A Cop

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “So sorry, dictators… please show me how to nation-build.” Insane.

  2. Well put Mr Young…

  3. Friedman forgot to include Sudan. The Sudanese should definitley offer oversight into the treatment of prisoners and ensure that the U.S. is in keeping with international standards on human rights as described by the UN.

  4. Actually, we’ve already “disappeared” a few inmates ourselves.

    With that said, Friedman has lost his mind…

  5. I don’t know, it sounds like it could work.

    And monkeys might fly out of… oh shit, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! Iraq needs stability, a constitution, constitutional rights, a civil society, working civil institutions, economic freedom, the ability to invest, general security, freedom of speech, and a few other things. With the exception of stability, what do the other Middle Eastern nations have a good track record for providing?

  6. … only thing remarkable in Friedman’s list of political hair shirts is how almost every one is utterly wrongheaded …

    Remove the phrase “and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria”, and it all sounds pretty reasonable to me. Does anyone really think we’re going to accomplish any of our objectives in the Middle East all alone? The rest of the world was ready to back out already; the prisoner scandal will make it happen that much faster. Bush *does* need to grit his teeth and do some sucking up (but I agree, certainly not to those other tyrants).

  7. I don’t know, it sounds like it could work.

    And monkeys might fly out of… oh shit, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! Iraq needs stability, a constitution, constitutional rights, a civil society, working civil institutions, economic freedom, the ability to invest, general security, freedom of speech, and a few other things. With the exception of stability, what do the other Middle Eastern nations have a good track record for providing?

  8. I don’t know, it sounds like it could work.

    And monkeys might fly out of… oh shit, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! Iraq needs stability, a constitution, constitutional rights, a civil society, working civil institutions, economic freedom, the ability to invest, general security, freedom of speech, and a few other things. With the exception of stability, what do the other Middle Eastern nations have a good track record for providing?

  9. Boy I hate my computer sometimes. But it works better than Egyptian democracy.

  10. Does anyone really think we’re going to accomplish any of our objectives in the Middle East all alone?

    We’re not alone, so that’s not really a relevant question. But if it came to that, then yes, we certainly could accomplish our objectives alone.

    The non-coalition nations of Europe aren’t going to offer a significant quantity of money or military forces, period. If they wanted to, they would have already. Friedman’s statement that we need to “explain” the situation to other world leaders is, ironically, an incredibly America-centric way of looking at it — like the leaders of the world have no clue what’s going on unless the United States explains it to them. They know how important Iraq is to them — ie, not very — and are acting accordingly.

  11. Look, leaders of countries don’t apologize to each other (except under rather rare circumstances), and its stupid to contemplate such. Indeed such insults the dignity of sovereign states.

    I also agree with Dan’s comment; it seems exceedinly arrogant to presume that the leaders of Germany, France, Spain, etc. don’t understand the Bush argument on Iraq, and that only if Bush got them in a room together they would change their minds. I’m afraid that America chose the nature of the “coalition” when it launched its attack in March; meaning that aside from the 10-20K British in and around Basra, and the small contingents of troops in shi’ite areas, etc., that the US is in this on its own. And to be blunt, I have no faith that the Brits will stay; I think its pretty clear that UK military commanders are getting fed up with the US “plan.”

  12. Mr. Friedman’s article was the beat-around-the-bush way to say, “The president should put someone like Hilary Clinton in charge of Iraq and concede the 2004 election.”

  13. As Dan and Gary said, what is there for Bush to explain to the other leaders? Most of them have their own take on the situation and have analyzed it from their perspective (and from their self/national interests). They will do what they think is in their (and/or national) interest. It is simplistic to assume that everyone has the same goal in Iraq.

    by the way,

    Tom F. forgot to invite himself to Camp David along with all those leaders.

    How can such a historic (new leaf turning) meeting be recorded for future by anyone less eminent than this guy?!

    Saw a parody of his column (linked to on these pages) a few days ago – priceless!

  14. We’re supposed to go on bended knee to the UN, begging for help, and not a WORD about the Oil-For-Food scandal? This is a serious suggestion?

  15. We will have accomplished something in Iraq if all that happens is that terrorists, in the future, stop and think “Do we really want to take a chance of pissing off the U.S. again?”

  16. We will have accomplished something in Iraq if all that happens is that terrorists, in the future, stop and think “Do we really want to take a chance of pissing off the U.S. again?”

  17. Walter Willis,

    At this point they would likely answer “Yes.” America looks weaker and more divided today than it did before the war started (the war with Iraq).

  18. Gary,

    That *might* be true of the foot soldiers (of terrorism) who may have nothing to lose, but I doubt the leaders who surely have things to lose take the same approach to the Americans (even after the Iraq war)

  19. zorel,

    Why does that matter? (a) It is readily apparent that terrorist groups don’t need state sponsorship; indeed, they work quite adequately and successfully without it. (b) If a terrorist group can get the US to pour blood and filthy lucre into a country such as Iraq, which said terrorist group had no substantial connections to, and therefore create divisions in the US, cause all sorts of international tension, etc., I would think they would be happy to do it.

    Under this scenarior the terms “dupe” and “sucker” come to mind. At this point the terrorists couldn’t be happier with the outcome of the Iraq war on multiple levels – (1) the domestic situation in the US; (2) the turmoil it has created in Iraq, which forces the US to continue throw much of its might into the country, as opposed to going after terrorists; and (3) internationally.

  20. There is also the practical question of whether al-Asad could even get into the US; would his country’s designation as a terrorist supporting state allow him access to anything beyond the UN building and its environs, and JFK? As I recall, when Castro came to the US a few years ago he was prohibited from leaving a specific area of NYC.

  21. Isn’t it obvious what Friedman is doing here? Taken literally, things like apologizing to Bashir al-Asad for mistreatment of prisoners are ridiculous. This is actually an allegory.

    He is actually criticizing the inadequate response of the Times to its plaigarism and bias problems, and of the UN to the oil-for-whatever program and to the Human Rights Commission, which is used more to protect abusive governments than to make them change.

    “Eat crow, apologize for his mistakes and make clear that he is turning a new page”?

    We should expect no less from Pinch Sulzberger and Kofi Annan.

  22. “But if it came to that, then yes, we certainly could accomplish our objectives alone.

    The non-coalition nations of Europe aren’t going to offer a significant quantity of money or military forces, period. If they wanted to, they would have already.”

    So Dan’s theory is that, with enough money and military forces, we can overcome the insurgency and achieve our political ends. Where have I heard that before?

    It’s a sad fact of politics that adults eventually have to admit; sometimes, being right just isn’t enough, and you need to line up support from people you’d prefer not to be in bed with. Don’t like it? Too f—ing bad – you shouldn’t have invaded in the first place.

    It’s odd that killing thousands of innocent civilians is considered an appropriate price for a stable Iraq, but making nice with France isn’t.

  23. I’ll start reading Friedman’s column again when he decides to, well, “eat crow, apologize for his mistakes and make clear that he is turning a new page.”

  24. It’s odd that killing thousands of innocent civilians is considered an appropriate price for a stable Iraq, but making nice with France isn’t.

    That’s because killing Iraqi civilians doesn’t bother George Bush, but making nice with France does.

    (And for those about to accuse me of partisanship for that statement–please, prove me wrong.)

  25. While I had several problems with Friedman’s column, like other posters I do typically agree with him; because, he does understand the Middle East better than most writers on the topic.

    The one thing Friedman was absolutely correct about is that Bush should fire Rumsfeld. Rummy is an idiot, he should have listened to his generals who stated we would need 500,000 troops. It has become clear that we never had sufficient forces to secure Iraq. Sure a 1000 special ops guys and the might of our Navy and Airforce piolets could have defeated Saddam’s army of incompetents. But it takes men on the ground with APC’s and M-16’s to secure it.

    Reports have been clear, are men in uniform have not had sufficient body armor, armored personel carriers, or the other materials necessary to fight this conflict. I place the Blame squarely on Donald who convinced the President that this war could be fought on the cheap.

    Finally, Bush is losing my support, not because he chose to fight this war, but because he did not learn the lesson his father taught us. That lesson being, wars are fought by soldiers, so when you decied to go to war, listen to the guys who will have to fight it. Thus, strategic decisons about wars should be made by those who are actually going to fight it, not by idiots like Rumsfeld, who don’t know one end of an M-16 from another.

    Rumsfeld reminds me of Lyndon Johnson, who spent time in the oval office choosing target to bomb in North Vietnam, stupid.

    Regards

    Joe

  26. While I had several problems with Friedman’s column, like other posters I do typically agree with him; because, he does understand the Middle East better than most writers on the topic.

    The one thing Friedman was absolutely correct about is that Bush should fire Rumsfeld. Rummy is an idiot, he should have listened to his generals who stated we would need 500,000 troops. It has become clear that we never had sufficient forces to secure Iraq. Sure a 1000 special ops guys and the might of our Navy and Airforce piolets could have defeated Saddam’s army of incompetents. But it takes men on the ground with APC’s and M-16’s to secure it.

    Reports have been clear, are men in uniform have not had sufficient body armor, armored personel carriers, or the other materials necessary to fight this conflict. I place the Blame squarely on Donald who convinced the President that this war could be fought on the cheap.

    Finally, Bush is losing my support, not because he chose to fight this war, but because he did not learn the lesson his father taught us. That lesson being, wars are fought by soldiers, so when you decied to go to war, listen to the guys who will have to fight it. Thus, strategic decisons about wars should be made by those who are actually going to fight it, not by idiots like Rumsfeld, who don’t know one end of an M-16 from another.

    Rumsfeld reminds me of Lyndon Johnson, who spent time in the oval office choosing target to bomb in North Vietnam, stupid.

    Regards

    Joe

  27. “(And for those about to accuse me of partisanship for that statement–please, prove me wrong.)”

    Don’t need to. Present a valid argument first.

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/ignorant.html

  28. I’m left wondering, even if GW were to come to Chirac on bended knee, what good would come of it? It seems to me that France is bent out of shape because the US invasion means – (1) there’s no way the loans they made to Saddam are going to be repaid; (2) the oil field development deals they signed with Saddam are void; and (3) a bit of embarrasment is being visited on some French leaders for their role in the Oil For Food scandal.

    Why can’t we just accept that US and French interests on Iraq are diametrically opposed for reasons of both nation’s self interest? And how much help would the French really BE, anyway?

  29. I’m left wondering, even if GW were to come to Chirac on bended knee, what good would come of it? It seems to me that France is bent out of shape because the US invasion means – (1) there’s no way the loans they made to Saddam are going to be repaid; (2) the oil field development deals they signed with Saddam are void; and (3) a bit of embarrasment is being visited on some French leaders for their role in the Oil For Food scandal.

    Why can’t we just accept that US and French interests on Iraq are diametrically opposed for reasons of both nation’s self interest? And how much help would the French really BE, anyway?

  30. Why can’t we just accept that US and French interests on Iraq are diametrically opposed for reasons of both nation’s self interest?

    And therein lies the rub-a-dub. As I’m sure Jean Bart might attest to should he be so inclined, France’s self-interest does not lie in sending troops to Iraq.

  31. Frogbasher,

    “I’m left wondering, even if GW were to come to Chirac on bended knee, what good would come of it?”

    It would likely depend on the nature of the support; a 10-20k French troops would by themselves be able to take over border patrol from the US, thus freeing up American soldiers to fight in the Sunni triangle (if that’s how they wanted to distribute them – they could also simply be sent into the Sunni trianble). Plus there is the FFL and their expertise, as well as other French SF units that the US would dearly love to be in Iraq. Indeed that’s also true of Canadian and German SF units as well.

    “…(1) there’s no way the loans they made to Saddam are going to be repaid…”

    Well given that they’ve already agreed to restructuring some of it and forgiving the rest, that argument appears to be a nullity.

    “…(2) the oil field development deals they signed with Saddam are void…”

    Well, any “deals” were void anyway; furthermore, no “deals” were ever signed, since France pissed off Iraq in 1998 by backing “smart sanctions.” What you have in Iraq are bunch offers and counter-offers over particular oil rights; there was nothing on paper, particularly because any signed agreement could not be honored as valid until the sanctions regime was lifted.

    “…(3) a bit of embarrasment is being visited on some French leaders for their role in the Oil For Food scandal.”

    Which would of course have been easily covered up if the French had just gone along with the US.

    I do agree that the interests are opposed, but not for reasons of money. This is all about geo-politics, the nature of power and those sorts of things.

  32. What is it with these constant demands that Bush apologize? Tell you what, Mr. Friedman, let’s put them all in a big room, and we’ll go in alphabetical order:

    Kofi Annan can apologize for helping his cronies bilk the poor people of Iraq out of billions of dollars while giving substantial support to keeping their oppressive dictator in power.

    Assad can apologize for the myriad atrocities he’s responsible for.

    Chirac can apologize for French brutality in Africa.

    Mubarek can apologize for the totalitarian nature of his government.

    Putin can apologize for the crackdowns in Chechnya and assorted scandals therein. Oh, and for his moves away from open democracy.

    The Representative from Saudi Arabia can then apologize for unleashing Wahabbist nutbars on the world, thereby kicking off this whole shin-dig.

    Then Bush can apologize for the bad behaviour of a few people so far down the chain of command you need a telescope to see them.

    After all this, we can all get together and sing Kumbayah.

    And for an expert on the Middle east, Friedman is totally tone-deaf on this one. Arabs respect strength. If Bush started off negotiations by admitting he failed and has lost control of the situation, they’d all run home and start scheming about how best to take advantage of the situation. It would make it worse, not better.

    Here’s a better plan. Bush gets together with the leaders of Jordan, Syria, and Iran and says, “Hey, see how messy Iraq is? That ain’t nothing compared to what I’m going to do to your sorry countries unless you stop letting terrorists infiltrate the borders. And Iran, you keep your freaking military advisors and your money far away from Muqtada al-Sadr, or we might accidentally have to start straying across your border ourselves.”

  33. Ian-
    I’d say the proof that Bush doesn’t care about the lives of Iraqi civilians can be found in pretty much any news story about the horror we’re raining down on them from the skies. We turned the entire city of Fallujah into a wasteland as revenge for the actions of, at most, a few dozen criminals; does that sound like the actions of an army controlled by a man concerned with justice for Iraqi civilians?

    But I don’t wish to sidetrack anyone.

  34. What’s with this whole Arabs only respect strength meme? If they do, it’s no more than any other group of human beings. Americans don’t respect strength? Last I checked, pacifism isn’t a very popular movement, and action is preferred to diplomacy.

    I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but to say that the Arabs are unique in their respect for strength is ludicrous.

  35. Gary,

    You mentioned some of the ways in which France could help us – I agree with all of that (since I am not one to believe the cheese eating surrender … stuff as for as the French military and DGSE are concerned).

    The question is you are assuming they would want to help us. This is a situation where the interests of the US and some of our “allies” are not aligned. That goes double for the UN and its corrupt filth.

    Knowing we have to do whatever we do by ourselves (+ the coalition of Brits/Aussies/Poles/Spain etc) we selected the last possible moment in the window of opportunity (before the onset of the brutal summar – much like the brutal Afghan winter:-)

  36. zorel,

    “The question is you are assuming they would want to help us.”

    I don’t think its beyond the realm of the possible; given the French a lot of control over what happens there; maybe have a Franco-American summit this summer; and there is a good chance they would send the forces I mentioned. I just don’t see Bush going that route. And to be blunt, it costs France (or Germany) nothing to just sit in the position that they are. Hell, I’m surprised, in light of the nature of the occupation and the problems associated with it, that Chirac, de Villipen, etc. have held their tongue. I know I’d be tempted to say “I told you so.”

  37. Talk about firewalls.
    How thick is the firewall between Tom and Maureen?
    Pretty thick I’m thinking.
    He’s a moth being consumed by the flame.

    She, shrewder, continues to dance around.
    Come to think of it, she’s a firefly.

  38. And fourth, he needs to explain that he is ready to listen to everyone’s ideas about how to expand our force in Iraq, and have it work under a new U.N. mandate, so it will have the legitimacy it needs to crush any uprisings against the interim Iraqi government and oversee elections

    Legitimate to whom?
    Germany? Big Deal. China?hahahaha. Russia?Screw them. France?Double plus screw them.

    To the insurgents ALL infidels are illegitimate.

  39. Gary,

    I can’t speak from an insider perspective, but I think that is what Bush/Powell did when the US went to the UN and got that 16th (or 17th) resolution which threatened severe consequences; but when Saddam didn’t play ball, Bush ‘assumed’ he would get automatic support of the UN, but France and Russia wanted to start the discussion afresh (for the really final resolution).

    When crap hit the fan in Ivory Coast (or some such place) France sent their troops – I don’t think US was trying to raise stink over that. In Haiti, both countries co-operated. But in Iraq, their interests were divergent.

    I am not saying France wouldn’t ever have supported us; but looking at what happened and what was going on with the UN corruption, it was not probable that we could have gone in before the hot season with the UN support. By the time weather permitted, it would be Fall and within the election cycle – I am sure such things play a role in the decision-making.

    I would rather we erred on the side of pre-emption – if anyone doubts that this is the conventional wisdom all across America, you only need to listen to the 9-11 commission and all those jokers asking why we didn’t preempt the 9-11 threat.

  40. (if) we quit Iraq, and it will then become Afghanistan-on-steroids, which will threaten everyone.

    Ha! Friedman provides no evidence for the “threaten everyone” bit. (He argues in that assumptive mode a lot. He just wants the US military to stay in Iraq, and to make the case he will issue pronouncements with the same certainty as he did concerning WMD, pre-war.)

    And how ironic, the characterization, “Afghanistan-on-steroids”, since Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, right after 9/11, pounded the table for going directly after Iraq instead of Afghanistan!

    This is consistent with the long held neo-con advocacy. Both were signatories on a letter to then Pres. Clinton, along with other leading lights of the neo-con establishment including Bill Kristol, advocating an attack on Iraq.

    Friedman actually wants to “expand our force in Iraq”. For what? How many more lives would it be worth? How many more American lives would it be worth–to have an Iraqi government on par with say, the brutal Egyptian Regime?– to which our government commits three or four billion dollars every year. Or, on par with the Jordanian government that receives US tax support, or the Palestinian’s situation, whose brutal occupation by the racist Sharon regime is the US government’s most expensive foreign aid commitment by far.

    Is it realistic to expect that our government can “make” the Iraqis any more free than the Egyptians? How many lives and American lives is it worth?

    We need to not fund any more troop commitments by our government. We need to set a time table and negotiate a withdrawal. This mission was sold to us as a “get the WMD before they get us” task. The American people never would have approved it for any other reason.

    If our government stays in Iraq, the people that played this bait and switch game on us will be rewarded for their duplicity.

  41. God, Friedman is such a retard. Kudos on not using another car metaphor, though.

  42. “Feralgenius” (Jennifer) has been taking it on the chin lately.

    Feral? Maybe.
    Genius?
    Heh.

  43. I’m not impressed with Friedman’s understanding of the Middle East. For one thing, he was one of the people claiming the resistance was nothing but Saddam’s die-hards and would settle down once he was captured.

  44. “I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but to say that the Arabs are unique in their respect for strength is ludicrous.”

    Absolutely right, Mo. All human interaction has a baseline of implied violence that keeps things running smoothly.

    The dominant features of the implicit threats between western countries and those in the middle east are: 1) Government interests are not in any way related to populace interests in dictatorships, and every damn country over there is run by a despot. 2) Arabs of a certain flavor hit on what they beleived to be a type of violence that would never be responded to by western democracies.

    The people who only understand violence are the governments-of-one that control the region. The collected enough thugs with AK-47s to steal all national resources, and they maintain control by instilling fear. The bad thing about this is that such a powerful single personality has no incentive to care how many of ‘his people’ get killed, and so he uses them as a shield. The good thing is that to deter a tyrant, you only have to make one person fear for his life – as in Lybia.

    Once upon a time, there was a tyrant who thought that his traditional military was big and scary enough that he could do what he wanted without fear of reprisal. He found out otherwise when he tried to take Kuwait by force. All of the other despots saw this, and also remembered getting their asses handed to them by the Israelis not too long ago. After this lesson, the tyrants began to see an interesting dynamic in Israel. No matter how many Israeli civilians were killed in bombing attacks, the international community screamed ‘war crime!’ if the IDF did ANYTHING to defend themselves. A border that was established became a ‘cage’, military incursions into areas where bombs were being made were oppression, and so on. Someone had figured out how to tie the hands of the most significant regional military since the Turks. Yes, borders were built and yes, incursions were made, but the international outcry and potential for large scale Palestinian civilian deaths made a comprehensive response impossible. As long as you don’t have soldiers wearing uniforms, no one can prove you are coordinating attacks- and the world demands that your soldiers are treated as criminals. The mere fact that Arafat isn’t dead like fried chicken makes that point very clearly. To save your bacon, but still fight who you want to fight, tyrants should be like Arafat.

    That is, unless someone doesn’t care what the UN says, and they don’t care to treat terrorists as criminals, and they do not distinguish the bomber from the man who funded him from a country that tolerates his presence. That someone may have found a way to pierce the shield that has protected supporters of terrorism for years. The credible threat of violence to the one person who matters may be re-established.

  45. While the United States, like the Arabs, respects strength, the United States, UNlike Arabs, will accept a compromise against interest as part of a negotiated settlement. Arabs will not.

  46. I was going to say something pithy but the image of Jennifer “taking it on the chin” has corroded my synapses.

  47. …and while it is not proven that lack of state sponsors for terror will drastically reduce terror, I think it is worth trying.

  48. Jennifer —

    “raining horror”, “fallujah into a wasteland”….

    Nice hyperbole, Jennifer. But it doesn’t pass the smell test as rational discourse.

  49. Jason Ligon:

    A border that was established became a ‘cage’

    But, the Palestinians are caged in now. And, what are the settlements? Observation centers?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.