Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thomas Friedman: Double-Reverse Chickendove

Jules Crittenden's got a killer take-down of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in a post today at Forward Movement.

Friedman's bummed out over U.S. progress in Iraq. He's sad that congressional Democrats have finally acquiesced to the reality of victory on the ground (or at least publically, while they squeeze-in on the side their underhanded Armenian genocide votes to sabotage Turkish support for the mission).

what Friedman says:

Boy, am I glad we finally got out of Iraq. It was so painful waking up every morning and reading the news from there. It’s just such a relief to have it out of mind and behind us.

Huh? Say what? You say we’re still there? But how could that be — nobody in Washington is talking about it anymore?

I don’t know whether it was the sheer agony of the debate over Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony, or the fact that the surge really has dampened casualties, or the failure by Democrats to force an Iraq withdrawal through Congress, or the fact that all the leading Democratic presidential contenders have signaled that they will not precipitously withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, but the air has gone out of the Iraq debate.

That is too bad. Neglect is not benign when it comes to Iraq — because Iraq is not healthy. Iraq is like a cancer patient who was also running a high fever from an infection (Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia). The military surge has brought down the fever, but the patient still has cancer (civil war). And we still don’t know how to treat it. Surgery? Chemotherapy? Natural healers? Euthanasia?

To the extent that the surge has worked militarily, it is largely because of what Iraqis have done by themselves for themselves — Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders rising up against pro-Qaeda Sunni elements, taking back control of their villages and towns, and aligning themselves with U.S. forces to do so. Some Shiites are now doing the same.

There has been no equivalent surprise, though, in Iraqi politics, yet. If you see that — if you see Iraqi politicians surprising you by doing things they’ve never done before, like forging a self-sustaining political compromise and building the fabric of a unified country, then you can allow yourself some optimism.

So far, though, too many of Iraq’s leaders continue to act their part — looking out for themselves, their clans, their hometowns, their militias and their sects, and using the Iraqi treasury and ministries as looting grounds for personal or sectarian gains.

As a result, what you have today is more of a spotty truce, with U.S. soldiers still caught in the middle. That is a quiet strategy, not an exit strategy.
Now, here's Crittenden on Friedman's claim of an "unhealthy," "cancerous," "feverish" Iraq:

Actually, Iraq is more like a tortured, politically traumatized nation of 25 million people desperate for a chance in life, after decades of being cynically abused by everyone from Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda to the Iranian mullahs, a plague of viruses that have infected the entire region. The cure? Determined, patient counter-insurgency in Iraq. Airstrikes targeting Iran’s capability to project trouble. A long war. Diplomacy with honest partners, when they emerge.
And here's Crittenden on Friedman's outburst, "to the extent that the surge has worked militarily," the Iraqis have done it themselves:

Now that’s supporting the troops. Apparently Friedman missed the part about the Iraqis recognizing the Americans aren’t leaving, that Americans can fight and won’t quit, that the Americans, as they have bled, are actually trying to help them, while al-Qaeda was just bleeding them. That the American “strong horse” represents their interests. That the Americans represent order and prosperity, and will leave when Iraq is on that path. That al-Qaeda represents chaos, death and violently enforced Sharia. Clearly the Americans had nothing to do with this uprising.

This is interesting. It dovetails with the line some in Washington and the news media have been pushing: Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a homegrown organization, all Iraqi anti-invader resistance, no links to bin Laden. The same people will tell you that al-Qaeda in Iraq, now that it’s on the ropes, never really was that big a deal. Not the enemy. That’s just Bush trying to hoodwink America with a new version of the old Saddam hearts al-Qaeda thing four years later.

Friedman bemoans the fact that Iraqi politicians have not yet followed their people. In fact, some have made moves in that direction, but they’ve turned out by and large to be every bit as self-interested, gutless, ineffective and divisive as … American politicans. Friedman bemoans that fact that Washington isn’t bickering about Iraq anymore. He observes that after a summer of squawking about it, a year spent doing everything they can to undermine it, the Democrats are spent. They failed, in the face of logic, hope, achievement. They and their candidates have had to recognize that America prefers to win and sees a chance to do that. He neglects to observe that it hasn’t stopped the House speaker from running a cynical campaign to derail supply lines into Iraq with an Armenian genocide resolution … a bid to unsupport the troops and usher in a new Iraqi genocide. And if Friedman is patient, he’ll get all the Iraq bickering he wants soon enough. Bush needs more money for his war.

The politics aside, there is something particularly loathsome about Friedman’s snide screed this morning.

I know that Friedman travels a lot, talks to a lot people. He’s visited war. Thirty years ago he spent some time in Beirut, and he’s been to Baghdad, met with the big players. But I’m not sure he’s travelled enough to make the arguments he’s making and crack wise about it. Correct me if I’m wrong. Has this guy spent any time in combat with American troops? If not, then he hasn’t met enough big players. Hasn’t sweated enough. Hasn’t counted his last hours and minutes enough. Hasn’t come under enough fire. Hasn’t seen enough bits of people lying around afterward.

People who talk up war without going get slapped with chickenhawk slurs. Clearly Friedman’s no chickenhawk, at least not anymore. Chickenhawk slurs are slapped on people who support war and haven’t gone. ”Chickenhawk” gets tossed around by people who don’t feel the need to lift a finger in support of the peace they profess to love. Not a human shield among them.

Friedman presents us with something different. The double-reverse chickendove. War supporter turned surrender enthusiast makes ironic funny about how painful this war has been for him. The terrible barrage of headlines, slogging through all those long, bitter thumbsuckers. News is hell. But apparently, he hasn’t been reading it.
Now that is a takedown!