Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tom Friedman again

From the archives: September 5, 2004

It was vintage Friedman in Tom's column of May 6. Perhaps you will recall those times in the nineties when the robustly confident Friedman was forever imagining himself to be a confidential advisor to some world statesman or other, and would dash off "memos" to Yeltsin or the president of China. The champ of that genre came when Clinton, Netanyahu, and Arafat were huddled at the Wye River Plantation and Tom wrote a "Memo to Bill, Bibi, and Yassir."
The column of May 6 isn't formally titled a memo, but that's what it is, this one to George W. Bush. However, from the sharp tone taken with the president, it might better be called a "Marching Order." Bush must fire Rumsfeld "today, not tomorrow or next month, today." Next, he needs to invite to Camp David the five permanent members of the Security Council (whether heads of government must show up, or foreign ministers would do is not specified), heads of both NATO and the UN, and Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Whew! One's mind goes back to 1979, when Jimmy Carter got Sadat and Begin to cabins in that leafy retreat and pushed through the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai (Sadat and Begin got Peace Prizes, and Carter the back of the Nobel Committee's hand).
But Tom's plan is much more ambitious. Imagine the logistics of it, the protocol problems! All there at Camp David at once: the president of China, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, Lord Robertson, Kofi Annan, Mubarak of Egypt, Assad of Syria, Crown Prince whoever of Arabia, and King Abdullah of Jordan. Camp David's capacity stretched beyond any conceivable limit! It would be like the stateroom scene in "A Night at the Opera"! And what a security nightmare for the Secret Service ("Mr. President, I must warn you, sir, that one well-placed bomb...").
One oddity here: How come Ariel Sharon hasn't been invited? Is Tom hinting that Bush needs to go behind Sharon's back and make some sort of deal with the Arabs? Or is Tom implying that Israel has played no role in creating the current Middle East mess we find ourselves in? Or is it simply that Tom, writing at fever pitch, just forgot about Israel? Likely the last, scrupulous care in composition not being Friedman's strong point.
Now that he's gathered them all in one room, what must the president do? Simple. "He needs to eat crow, apologize for our mistakes..." What mistakes would those be, Tom? Friedman really doesn't specify (one suddenly recalls that he's been none too attentive to Iraq for months, instead positioning himself ahead of everyone else's curve by focusing in a dozen columns on what a bang-up job India is doing globalizationwise). But you may be sure those mistakes don't include invading Iraq in the first place. Above all, whatever rough patches we encounter in the next few weeks, Bush must keep uppermost in mind that "America's aspirations for Iraq and those of the Iraqi silent majority..are still aligned." So there.
But what would be the reaction to such good news of all those summoned to Camp David? I very much fear it would be, "That's what you called us here to say, you silly fuck-head?"
Another Friedman column that might better have gone in the waste basket. There have been so many.