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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Friedman Fudges the Friedman Unit (TM Atrios)
Posted by Jill | 5:57 AM
Thomas Friedman has been saying that the next six months are critical since 2003:

"The next six months in Iraq—which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there—are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time."
(New York Times, 11/30/03)

"What I absolutely don't understand is just at the moment when we finally have a UN-approved Iraqi-caretaker government made up of—I know a lot of these guys—reasonably decent people and more than reasonably decent people, everyone wants to declare it's over. I don't get it. It might be over in a week, it might be over in a month, it might be over in six months, but what's the rush? Can we let this play out, please?"
(NPR's Fresh Air, 6/3/04)

"What we're gonna find out, Bob, in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war."
(CBS's Face the Nation, 10/3/04)

"Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile."
(New York Times, 11/28/04)

"I think we're in the end game now…. I think we're in a six-month window here where it's going to become very clear and this is all going to pre-empt I think the next congressional election—that's my own feeling— let alone the presidential one."
(NBC's Meet the Press, 9/25/05)

"Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time."
(New York Times, 9/28/05)

"We've teed up this situation for Iraqis, and I think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse into three parts or more or whether it's going to come together."
(CBS's Face the Nation, 12/18/05)

"We're at the beginning of I think the decisive I would say six months in Iraq, OK, because I feel like this election—you know, I felt from the beginning Iraq was going to be ultimately, Charlie, what Iraqis make of it."
(PBS's Charlie Rose Show, 12/20/05)

"The only thing I am certain of is that in the wake of this election, Iraq will be what Iraqis make of it—and the next six months will tell us a lot. I remain guardedly hopeful."
(New York Times, 12/21/05)

"I think that we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding. In which case, I think the American people as a whole will want to play it out or whether it really is a fool's errand."
(Oprah Winfrey Show, 1/23/06)

"I think we're in the end game there, in the next three to six months, Bob. We've got for the first time an Iraqi government elected on the basis of an Iraqi constitution. Either they're going to produce the kind of inclusive consensual government that we aspire to in the near term, in which case America will stick with it, or they're not, in which case I think the bottom's going to fall out."
(CBS, 1/31/06)

"I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq."
(NBC's Today, 3/2/06)

"Can Iraqis get this government together? If they do, I think the American public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent, stable Iraq. But if they don't, then I think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole Iraq endeavor. So one way or another, I think we're in the end game in the sense it's going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there's an Iraq there worth investing in. And that is something only Iraqis can tell us."
(CNN, 4/23/06)

"Well, I think that we're going to find out, Chris, in the next year to six months—probably sooner—whether a decent outcome is possible there, and I think we're going to have to just let this play out."
(MSNBC's Hardball, 5/11/06)

It's astounding, really, when you look at these quotes all in one place. It makes you wonder why on earth anyone still thinks Friedman knows anything. And yet today, it's as if he never said these things:

we need to face our real choices in Iraq, which are: 10 months or 10 years. Either we just get out of Iraq in a phased withdrawal over 10 months, and try to stabilize it some other way, or we accept the fact that the only way it will not be a failed state is if we start over and rebuild it from the ground up, which would take 10 years. This would require reinvading Iraq, with at least 150,000 more troops, crushing the Sunni and Shiite militias, controlling borders, and building Iraq’s institutions and political culture from scratch.

Anyone who tells you that we can just train a few more Iraqi troops and police officers and then slip out in two or three years is either lying or a fool. The minute we would leave, Iraq would collapse. There is nothing we can do by the end of the Bush presidency that would produce a self-sustaining stable Iraq — and “self-sustaining” is the key metric.


On Feb. 12, 2003, before the war, I wrote a column offering what I called my “pottery store” rule for Iraq: “You break it, you own it.” It was not an argument against the war, but rather a cautionary note about the need to do it with allies, because transforming Iraq would be such a huge undertaking. (Colin Powell later picked up on this and used the phrase to try to get President Bush to act with more caution, but Mr. Bush did not heed Mr. Powell’s advice.)

But my Pottery Barn rule was wrong, because Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there — broken, it seems, by 1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism, three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule, and a crippling decade of U.N. sanctions. It was held together only by Saddam’s iron fist. Had we properly occupied the country, and begun political therapy, it is possible an American iron fist could have held Iraq together long enough to put it on a new course. But instead we created a vacuum by not deploying enough troops.

That vacuum was filled by murderous Sunni Baathists and Al Qaeda types, who butchered Iraqi Shiites until they finally wouldn’t take it any longer and started butchering back, which brought us to where we are today. The Sunni Muslim world should hang its head in shame for the barbarism it has tolerated and tacitly supported by the Sunnis of Iraq, whose violence, from the start, has had only one goal: America must fail in its effort to bring progressive politics or democracy to this region. America must fail — no matter how many Iraqis have to be killed, America must fail.

This has left us with two impossible choices. If we’re not ready to do what is necessary to crush the dark forces in Iraq and properly rebuild it, then we need to leave — because to just keep stumbling along as we have been makes no sense. It will only mean throwing more good lives after good lives into a deeper and deeper hole filled with more and more broken pieces.

And your point, Mr. Friedman, is -- what? For three years, you've been saying that what Bush is doing is just fine, that we just need to wait six months....and six months....and six months.... -- and now you dredge out not these quotes, but the "Pottery Barn Rule" (which Pottery Barn disavows) as a shining example of your knowledgeable punditry.

Why do people still believe these guys actually know anything? Friedman. Broder. Buchanan. Every week on the Sabbath Gasbag shows, it's the same old faces, blathering on and on, as if they actually knew what they're talking about. Nick Kristof may piss me off at times, but he's at least out there in Darfur talking to the actual people who are affected by the genocide there. Michael Ware is actually in Iraq. And yet every week, every night on cable TV, these same morons are trotted out, news anchors hanging on their every word.

It's guys like Thomas Friedman who continued to support this war long after it was clear that it was a disaster who need to do some soul-searching and think about the thousands of American kids who have died because they sat snugly at their typewriters and in their studios and insisted that we just need six months....six months....six months. In every one of the six month periods that Friedman has talked about, Americans have died, Iraqis have died, and the reputation of this country is tattered just a bit more.

If Thomas Friedman won't get out of his ivory tower and report on reality, maybe it's time for him to find a new line of work.

(hat tip for Friedman quotes: Rad Geek
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