Sunday, September 9, 2012

New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman Makes the Classic Mistake –

Remakes Mitt Romney in the Image Mr. Friedman Would Like Him to Be

The once great columnist for the New York Times, Tom Friedman is trying to get his A game back, except blinded by Mitt Romney supposed intelligence he makes a classic mistake.  Here is Mr. Friedman commenting on Mr. Romney’s foreign policy as Mitt has expressed it during the campaign.

I know Romney doesn’t believe a word he’s saying on foreign policy and that it’s all aimed at ginning up votes: there’s some China-bashing to help in the Midwest, some Arab-bashing to win over the Jews, some Russia-bashing (our “No. 1 geopolitical foe”) to bring in the Polish vote, plus a dash of testosterone to keep the neocons off his back.

There are, of course, two problems with this.  The first is that Mr. Romney probably does believe this stuff, or at least has convinced himself that what he is saying is correct.  Second, even if Mr. Romney does not believe this stuff, his base will not allow him to backtrack on this if he is elected.  So with the Romney foreign policy, what you see is what you get.

Mr. Friedman’s naivete and blind spot is reminiscent of his problems with the Iraq war.  He was a supporter long after it became clear to everyone else that the war was not going to produce an independent secular country.  Mr. Friedman appears to be an optimistic, naïve liberal, exactly the type that can be taken in by politicians who spin things their own way.

This is too bad because Mr. Friedman’s main theme here is absolutely correct.  He argues that because the world has become interdependent, what other countries do is critical to the United States.  And more importantly, the world is far more complex than simply dividing it into friends and enemies.  Sometimes your friends are your enemies, and vice versa.

In this increasingly interdependent world, we have few pure “enemies” anymore: Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Al Qaeda, the Taliban. But we have many “frenemies,” or half friends/half foes. While the Pentagon worries about a war with China, the Commerce Department is trying to get China to buy more Boeing planes and every American university worth its salt is opening a campus in Beijing; meanwhile, the Chinese are investing in American companies left and right. President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela is the biggest thorn in America’s side in Latin America and a vital source of our imported oil. The U.S. and Russia are on opposing sides in Syria, but the U.S. supported Russia joining the World Trade Organization and American businesses are lobbying Congress to lift cold war trade restrictions on Russia so they can take advantage of its more open market.

Mr. Friedman wants to believe that because of his background, education and intelligence (?) Mr. Romney might understand this.  For the rest of us, this smacks of another Friedman wishful thinking scenario, like Mr. Friedman’s belief that the “next six months will be critical for the success in Iraq”.  The problem, Mr. Friedman wrote that same thought every six months for several years.

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