Doubting Thomas

Dedicated to pointing out the inconstitencies and biases that mar the work of Thomas Friedman.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Tony Blair for President, again

Once again Thomas Friedman expresses his preference for Tony Blair over George W. Bush in "Repairing the World." The central theme of Friedman's essay is expressed like this:
Contrast that with Mr. Bush. His White House declaration about resuming the peace process was delivered with all the enthusiasm of someone about to have his teeth drilled. On the environment, the president has never appreciated how damaging it was for him to scrap the Kyoto treaty, which was unimplementable, without offering an alternative. Nothing has hurt America's image more than the impression Mr. Bush has left that when it comes to terrorism — our war — there must be a universal crusade, but on the environment — the universal concern of others — we'll do whatever we want.
Friedman is purposely distorting Bush. When I've heard Bush talk about freedom for all people I hear enthusiasm. Friedman is being too partisan to give Bush any credit. And even if one accepts Friedman's judgment, there's still reason for the President to be selfish about our war: the consequences of not acting are a lot more immediate than a failure to act on Friedman's Kyoto concerns. (If there is indeed global warming.) But even if Bush had put forward some sort of environmental proposal - which he actually did in his State of the Union address - it would never pass muster with Friedman because it would never be enough. Remember he wants Tony Blair's environmentalism, which would be more radical than Kyoto.

I wonder though, if Friedman is implicitly striking out against American Democrats. He realizes that there no tough minded Democrats, who can articulate the need for deposing Saddam the way Blair can. He also realizes that Bush's concerns are indeed the most pressing right now. He just can't bring himself to say that. When Clinton dispatched American troops to fight in Kosovo, he never bothered to make a case. Friedman didn't demand that Clinton attack any deeper meaning to his defense of the Kosovar Albanians. Of course not. He agreed with most of Clinton's agenda. He disagrees with most of Bush's so he demands that Bush show his sincerity by adopting Friedman-approved policies. Friedman's inability to credit Bush for doing the right thing is perverse.

Frankly there's little to fault Bush for. Ron Dermer of the Jerusalem Post explains
"Why America has few allies on Iraq:"
MANY HAVE maintained that if the president were "more articulate" (like Clinton) or if his administration were "less arrogant" (like the Clinton administration), America would be more successful at winning international support.

Nonsense. The Clinton administration was better liked not because it knew how to win friends and influence people but because it failed to wield American power. You cannot compare the world's feelings toward a US administration that assiduously - and sometimes negligently - tried to avoid conflict with America's enemies with one that is determined to preemptively confront them.

The resentment of American power is today unavoidable because nations that have no power, particularly those who have had it in the past, have always resented those who have it. In an age when America is a lone superpower, this old resentment is made more acute by a postmodernist philosophy that regards all forms of power as morally suspect.

To some degree Friedman buys this argument:
Yes, some people and nations are just jealous of America's power and that's why they oppose us on Iraq. But there is something more to the opposition.
No there isn't. That's about the main reason for the opposition. After all as Bret Stephens notes:
The second reason is that the UN has become the principal vehicle for expressing, if not outright opposition to, then a certain distance from, the American view of the world. Before even the Bush administration, America and the majority of UN members were at odds over the establishment of an International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, a protocol banning land mines and, not least, Israel. Nations too weak to stand up to the US militarily or economically find the UN a useful platform to amplify their political and cultural differences. So too do many non-governmental organizations, who turn to the UN for moral comfort and legal support. "Together, we are a superpower," goes the NGO mantra. Frequently, their weapon of choice is a Security Council or General Assembly resolution.
These differences existed at the time of Clinton too. They were not reasons for opposing Clinton's wars in Bosnia, Kosova or Iraq. It's only those like Friedman who make excuses for the cowardly French, Germans and Belgians who perputuate the idea that there is any nobility in their oppostion to war or that Bush is somehow at fault for alienating them.


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