Thomas Friedman Asks "Should We Be Arming ISIS?" Better Q: Why Are We Reading Thomas Friedman?


What is it that Don Draper tells Peggy in that episode of Mad Men when she gives birth to an unintended baby? Something like "Don't look back, there's nothing for you there. Keep moving forward."

I thought of that moment while reading Thomas Friedman's column about the Islamic State and the Middle East in The New York Times. Friedman writes

I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?

In 2002, we destroyed Iran's main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran's main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran's proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad.

As it happens, I largely agree with the point that Friedman is making here. Not about arming ISIS, of course, but the other observation: The United States has in fact spent the first dozen or so years of this awbserful century occupying and "nation building" in such a way that Iran is mostly free of large, regional rivals.

Oddly, Friedman is absolutely uninterested in pausing for a second and asking his assistants to rummage through his own archives. There, he would find voluminous words from the man himself pushing for the very courses of action he now tut-tuts.

While Friedman has voiced concerns over the course of U.S. actions in Afghanistan, he also counseled early on  (in November 2001) to "Give war a chance." In January 2002, he proclaimed, "I have no problem with nation-building in Afghanistan."

Then, in 2003, he appeared on Charlie Rose (is that even a thing any more?), went full-metal pundit and actually said:

What they [Islamic extremists] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house—from Basra to Baghdad—and basically saying:

Which part of this sentence don't you understand?: You don't think we care about our open society? You think this [terrorism] fantasy [you have]—we're just gonna let it grow? Well, suck. on. this. That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We coulda hit Saudi Arabia….We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

God, the old "suck. on. this." gambit! To paraphrase Talleyrand on the death of the Turkish ambassador, I wonder WTF Friedman meant by that? But I'm pretty sure he wasn't counseling deep concern about the U.S. military's doing Iran's dirty work.

As for ISIS? Well, Friedman is "all-in on destroying ISIS. It is a sick, destabilizing movement." True, he does worry about Iran, but still it's a vital U.S. goal to go about "'searching and destroying' ISIS in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq."

Even a stopped clock is right a couple of times a day. And so even Tom Friedman stumbles into truth once in a while.

But the real questions aren't the ones he poses occasionally in his columns. No, they are why the hell did this guy ever count as a wise man, especially when you add his bizarre embrace of authoritarians regimes when it suits his fancy

NEXT: Tunisia Arrests 9 in Deadly Museum Attack; ISIS Claims Responsibility

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  1. This is no different than how the various Rothbardites and paleocons claim we should have been helping Hitler defeat Stalin.

    1. This is no different than how the various Rothbardites and paleocons claim we should have been helping Hitler defeat Stalin.


      I think the Rothbardian approach is to not fight either… Where the hell do you get the idea that he ever advocated for allying with Hitler?

      1. Buchanan has. And when you consider Rothbard’s view of Britian and France, it is pretty obvious he thinks the right side won in 1940. I am not seeing a how “I am glad they were winning and we should have done nothing to stop it” is that much better than “we should have sent them arms”.

        1. Buchanan is definitely not a Rothbardian, though.

    2. Yeah I’m confused. Didn’t Rothbard himself regard the Soviet Union’s foreign policy as less bellicose than the US’s?

    3. This is no different than how the various Rothbardites and paleocons claim we should have been helping Hitler defeat Stalin.

      Got a cite for that?

      1. That’s our John! (cue laugh track and theme music).

        1. Martin Short – “Oh That Rusty”

          1. All-right-tee! Whoa-ho-ho!

        2. Someone has to try and pick off the flees Rothbard gave you guys.

            1. Fleeing a flea is only a fleeting solution.

              1. Fleeing a flea is only a fleeting solution.

                Unless you are fleet of foot.

                1. Escape the flea through a crack in the chimney….a flaw in the flue.

                2. Or you’re fleeing on a fleet of merchant vessels that primarily transport fleece.

                  1. A fleet as white as snow ?

                    1. *narrows gaze at all of you dorks, especially Swiss, the King of the Narrow Gazers*

                    2. I DID IT! I MADE KING!!!!

                      *gives regal wave*

                    3. *narrows gaze at Swiss further – eyes implode – screams – jumps off cliff*

                    4. *widens gaze as new shirt is covered in Almanian fluids*

                    5. Fuck yes! Smear it on my titties!

                    6. I didn’t vote for you.

                    7. True narrow gaze power derives from overdeveloped ocular musculature, not some farcical commentariat ceremony.

      2. I don’t have a cite for that but I’ll post my “favorite” paleocon claim:

        “I have a hard time believing the average Russian would have been worse off under Hitler than under Stalin.”…..nt_5104620

        1. They would have been worse off. As bad as Stalin was, he didn’t plan to murder the entire population and replace it with Germans, which is what Hitler wanted to do.

        2. You know who else…wait, this is a Hitler thread.

          Carry on.

        3. Yeah, that’s pretty insane.

          As it turns out, Ukrainians (definitely no friend of the USSR) had exactly that choice, chose in favor of the Nazis during the initial invasion — and defected in droves afterwards for partisan units after experiencing Nazi governance firsthand.

        4. “I have a hard time believing the average Russian would have been worse off under Hitler than under Stalin.”

          He may very well be right, as John states below, and I have no idea whether Jordon is a paleocon or not. But I do not see him calling for “helping Hitler defeat Stalin.”

          1. See the very beginning of my post: “I don’t have a cite for that…”

            1. grrizzly, I saw the beginning of your post, which is why I only addressed the part you posted.

        5. That’s the equivalent of picking between a molesting parent and a physically abusive one. Does it really matter?

          1. I’m not even going to pretend to have an answer. And one doesn’t generally get to choose their parents or the government that they are subject to.

        6. Ok, so since you dug up that thread, the argument that I was trying to get across (albeit quite poorly) was that if conscription was “necessary”, then it was only so because Soviet communism had destroyed the economies of Russia etc. In other words, the communists caused the very problem that they “had” to use conscription to solve.

          1. It seems that conscription was necessary everywhere, not just in the Soviet Union. Every country in WWII resorted to it: US, Britain, Canada, France. It was in place among the countries that initially fell to the Nazi invasion, Poland and France, and among those that withstood the Soviet invasion, Finland, and among those that eventually defeated Hitler’s Germany, USSR, USA, Britain, Canada. Communist Russia wasn’t an outlier.

            1. You argued that conscription was necessary to repel the Nazi invasion of the USSR; the US was not invaded by the Nazis.

              While still not justified, conscription in the UK and US was largely a formality. The British forces had volunteers from across the globe and, after Pearl Harbor, the US had no shortage of willing manpower either. Conscription was not decisive for either country.

              The only thing US conscription really accomplished was distracting people from the dismal failure of FDR’s economic policies.

            2. Are you sure? Although I did only a brief scan, I couldn’t find any information on Indian, Chinese, or Egyptian conscription.

    4. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do,

    1. Cursed thief!

  2. Proposition: while past history makes it political impractical, Iran would be a better ally to the US than Saudi Arabia, as their policy goals are actually more inline with ours.

    1. Semi-rejoinder: neither one is a worthwhile ally.

      1. True, not being involved in the Middle East at all would be the best option, but that’s even less likely than the US allying with Iran. ;P

    2. Also culturally speaking,I am of the opinion that there is a greater compatibility between Persian culture and the cluster of American cultures than exists between Arab cultures and the American ones, particularly the Bedouins.

      1. Bedouins eat camel shit to cure dysentery.

        1. And the rich ones pay pretty blonde wimminz in the US and Europe tens of thousands of dollars to fly out to Dubai on private jets and get deficated on and gangbanged by multiple bedouin men simultaneously. Check out TagYourSponser for more info.

          1. Somebody posted a link to that the other day.

            1. In my “favorites”. I’m doing research on Shreek.

          2. Yeah…I think I will skip that – thanks for the warning, however.

            1. Why, are you a pretty blonde woman?

      2. I love Persian girls.

        1. protip: Don’t marry them (there are exceptions, but such that they prove the rule).

          But otherwise I generally agree and have shown this weakness more times than I care to admit.

          1. My wife comes from a family of 5 girls. 4 of them are really hot, and one of them looks like a dude.

            What I’m trying to say here is that 20% of Persian chicks look like dudes.

            1. Ages of the hot ones?

              Am I invited over for Nowruz?

              1. You can have the dude.

                The rest are taken.

                Nowruz? Her dad is a Persian of the Jewish variety.

                1. My understanding was that Nowruz was a largely secular holiday (except for Zoroastrians, for whom it is religious) and that as a result Iranian Jews also celebrated it (albeit with some overlap with Purim).

                2. So Persian of the fleeing-for-his-life variety?

                  1. Yeah. The whole family is over here now. It kept getting worse and worse.

                    My father-in-law, being a nuclear weapons scientist, can never go back. Ever.

                    1. Ken is going to show up any minute and accuse you of cowardice and seeking to subvert the constitution. *ducks for cover*

                    2. As long as he doesn’t make me listen to his music.

                    3. Wait, what?

                    4. Ken fronts a Pat Benatar cover band. I thought everyone knew this. He certainly talks about it enough.

        2. Catherine Bell is Iranian and Scottish. Just sayin….

          1. So, TRULY a soulless ginger.

      3. And the cologne sales alone would keep our trade gap virtually nonexistent.

        1. And plush purple drapes, and roman columns. It’s time to get in on the ground floor.

          1. Don’t forget the gold curtain rods.

    3. Israel-Iran-US-Pakistan makes a certain sort of sense.

    4. Somebody was making this point on the Twits very recently. Maybe Friedersdorf?

  3. I believe what Friedman was trying to ask in a roundabout way is this:

    “Who would China arm?”

    1. DAMMIT!

      Mere seconds…

  4. Maybe China should be.

  5. Friedman’s theory here is simply a more bloodthirsty form of the classic balance-of-power doctrine: don’t keep them even with each other, keep them actively and endlessly killing each other in droves. Divide without the conquer.

  6. What’s up with that pic, is he doing the swim?

    1. For those of you under the age of 50, the swim was a dance, briefly popular with young “hep cats” in the mid 20th century.

      1. I’m under 50.

        1. Approved Cultural Reference for our generation: Pulp Fiction*

          *eventhough I still maintain Tarantino is mostly a hack

          1. Yeah, I was going to say that young people know lots of 60s references, thanks to baby boomers constantly reminding us in pop culture (I’m not that young but I’m still technically a Millenial) that it was the GREATEST DECADE EVAR

            1. We boomers suck, agreed.

              1. Worst. Generation. Ever.

              2. Every generation sucks. I don’t know why Boomers get singled out. The 70s sucked, the 80s sucked, the 90s sucked, the 00s really sucked, whatever stupid decade we are in now sucks. Honestly, I’d rather hear about the 60s some more than have another fucking 80s music dance party, or some stupid nostalgia show about the 90s and how awesome grunge was.

                1. I agree with you completely…

                  …except the 80s didn’t suck at all.

            2. Have we surveyed you Millenials? on your opinions of 60’s kulture? Can we get Emily Ekins on that, please!?

              1. Not a millennial, but 60s was great culturally. It’s when rock music got awesome. And movies got tits.

        2. I’m well past 50 and a smart ass.

          1. I am just under 50 and a smart ass.

          2. It’s not my fault you fart dust.

            1. smart ass, not smarties

              1. I’m 53
                and I don’t mind dyin’.

                /Who Do You Love

      2. Knowing Friedman, he’s actually trying to dance the Batsui and fucking it up.

        1. I think he’s just admitting that he just shit his pants on Meet The Press.

          1. I believe the term is “sharted.

            /Al Roker

            1. Shitting and farting occasionally combine to make that phenomenon, but sometimes shitting your pants is more of an oozing.

  7. We should begin arming them in six months.

  8. Iran is mostly free of large, regional rivals.


  9. OT: Holy feeding frenzy Batman!…..-meat.html

    1. That’s badass

    2. Awesome. A couple guys in college kept a small shark in a tank in their dorm room. They used to invite people over to party, turn off the main room light, turn on the fishtank light, and then RELEASE THE KRAK….GUPPIES!

      It was pretty cool, to tell you the truth.

      But those piranhas are WHACK! Holy shit!

      1. I had a neighbor who had a couple piranhas in a tank. He fed them goldfish. My they were messy eaters. They’d dart forward and bite the goldfish in half, leaving a twitching other half to sink to the bottom. One day in cooking school we got a flat of crawdads/crashfish/mudbugs, so I brought one home. The fish didn’t mess with it and it got fat cleaning up the mess. Before long it learned to get on its tip-toes at feeding time, and the goldfish would run under it to hide. Then CHOMP it would get a live meal. Pretty cool.

        1. ain’t nature kewl?!!

        2. I got a stray baby alligator snapping turtle in a bag of live crawfish once. It stymied us when it didn’t eat regular turtle food until we figured out it liked FLESH!!

    3. That is Warty’s aquarium, isn’t it really?

  10. Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?

    Because we’re idiots…?

    1. Maybe because Iran’s enemies are the only ones who goad/threaten us, unlike Iran itself.

  11. Didn’t we already arm the shit out of ISIS when they took Mosul?

    1. That doesn’t count since it wasn’t intentional.

      1. Oh, *now* you’re arguing that people get a pass for a mistake that results in blood being spilled!

    2. Well that stuff breaks down pretty regularly. Maybe we can arrange some kind of Sharia-compliant lend-lease?

    3. You’re thinking Yemen…oh wait..

  12. Thomas Friedman: The One-Man Clownshow?

  13. “we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran,”

    Because that was *totally going to work*, too. Just like all the other self-sustaining, pluralistic governments in that region of the world, where pretty much everyone is funding fund proxy wars with their neighbors.

    I’m sure obama could have pulled it off. Which makes me wonder…. what was Friedman’s view on the Libya intervener-helpout-bombing-thing?

    “??We have to build democracy in the Middle East we’ve got, not the one we want ? and this is the one we’ve got. That’s why I am proud of my president, really worried about him, and just praying that he’s lucky.

    ??Which is why, most of all, I hope President Obama is lucky. I hope Qaddafi’s regime collapses like a sand castle, that the Libyan opposition turns out to be decent and united and that they require just a bare minimum of international help to get on their feet. Then U.S. prestige will be enhanced and this humanitarian mission will have both saved lives and helped to lock another Arab state into the democratic camp.

    Dear Lord, please make President Obama lucky”

    So, basically he was shooting for “Bush, but luckier“. Check out the big brain on Tom!

  14. Why Are We Reading Thomas Friedman?

    Who’s ‘we’, paleface?

  15. “What is it that Don Draper tells Peggy in that episode of Mad Men when she gives birth to an unintended baby? Something like “Don’t look back, there’s nothing for you there. Keep moving forward.””

    Youtube exists, Nick. You don’t have to guess what he said. The answer is readily available.

    1. It’s a rhetorical flourish, fartface.

      1. Don’t be insulting, friend.

        1. Irish had his moment in the sun on Tuesday. Now he is just meat for the beast. Imma gonna fuck them big ol’ titties!

          1. I..uh…yeah .(walks away, hands in pockets, head down, whistling tunelessly)

          2. What did I do Tuesday and why are my titties about to get fucked?

            1. Your titties know what they did.

    2. He probably did look it up and just wanted to appear to have an excellent memory.

      1. Or maybe he has memorized every Mad Men line but he doesn’t want to look like a dork.

        “What is that line? Something like…*recites it exactly*”

  16. I’m pretty sure Thomas Friedman dies several years ago and they just use the Thomas Friedman column generator instead.

      1. You were right the first time. Several years ago, Friedman began to die each night and is brought back to life the first time any idiot in the Eastern Time Zone has his or her first stupid idea of the day.

        That Which Is Stupid May Never Die

        1. But rises again stupider than before!

        2. It all makes sense now. Thank Sean Connery we have SugarFree here to keep ‘splainin’. Oh, and writin’ teh pr0n.

  17. Reuters takes note =

    Recent Poll Shows Weakening Support for Hillary – And More Dems Want Her Investigated

    “Support for Clinton’s candidacy has dropped about 15 percentage points since mid-February among Democrats, with as few as 45 percent saying they would support her in the last week, according to a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll. Support from Democrats likely to vote in the party nominating contests has dropped only slightly less, to a low in the mid-50s over the same period.

    There was also sizable support among Democrats for the Republican-controlled congressional committee’s effort to require Clinton to testify about the emails. Forty-one percent said they backed its efforts to force Clinton’s testimony”

    No mention such poll exists @ NYT …. (aka ‘Hillary 2016 Campaign HQ’)

    1. 2013 Sudden said: Hillary will implode well before the election and Liz Warren will be the nominee because the Dems only have one trick left in their book: identity politics.

      You all doubted me. But I look more like a seer with each passing day.

      1. I was seared by your seeing.

      2. I think it might be too early to call “implosion”

        I think this might be a short term bump which might at least make Hillary look less a ‘shoo-in’ winner; what would be more significant is if there were any actual people in the Dem group who were actually talking seriously about running against Hillary. There currently aren’t, AFAIK

      3. I’ve been saying all along that Hillary won’t get elected and probably won’t get the nomination. I don’t think Warren will either. She has no appeal outside of the true believers.

        1. She has no appeal outside of the true believers.

          Au contraire monfrair

          She has the same appeal outside of true belief that the last party nominee did:

          HISTORIC VOTE!
          CHECK THE BOX!

          1. It’s harder when the person in question has a record to go by. It was easy to imagine Obama would be a reasonable centrist. Warren, not so much. And I think that most of the people who would get out and vote for the first woman just because it is the first woman are people who always vote anyway. Obama had a lot more appeal for young people and black people. He was kind of the perfect candidate. Not too black, but black enough to make it official, no real record to drag him down and people think he is cool. Warren has none of that.

  18. Someone here showed me this review of Friedman’s particular genius years ago.


    It’s beautiful.

    1. Its Taibbi

      on the surface, you find it pleasing because he shits all over Tom Friedman

      however, if you actually parse what he’s saying, half of what he hates about Tom Friedman is that he’s giving one big blowjob to capitalism and globalization in his book “the world is flat”

      Oh, he’d hate it (and so would I) no matter what it was about.. but the fact that the book is ‘pro capitalism’ on any level is part of Taibbis criticism.

  19. I know there’s never any point posting this late on a thread, but can anyone explain “awbserful”?

    Is it a simple typo I simply can’t decipher? An attempted witty coinage? What?

    1. absurd + awful

      1. Could be! It really needs the d to work, but it’s plausible enough to scratch my itch, for which I can’t thank you enough.

  20. So.. like Saudi Arabia, that large oil nation with a population on a par with Iraq and all the latest US military toys or Turkey, a country with a population equal to Iran’s and also having a lot of US military toys are not “regional rivals”. M’ OK.

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