Friday, December 01, 2006

The Tom Friedman Disease

Glenn Greenwald argues that the famous New York Times columnist Tom Friedman bears heavy responsibilty for "selling the [Iraqi] war to centrists and liberal 'hawks' and thereby creating 'consensus' support for Bush's war." But Greenwald goes even further and accuses Friedman of being "truly one of the most frivolous, dishonest, and morally bankrupt public intellectuals burdening this country" not just because he has steadfastly supported the war, but, more importantly, because he has supported it even when he knew that it was wrong.

Greenwald characterizes Friedman's position as follows:

(1) If the war is done the right way, great benefits can be achieved.
(2) If the war is done the wrong way, unimaginable disasters will result.
(3) The Bush administration is doing this war the wrong way, not the right way, on every level.

(4) Given all of that, I support the waging of this war.

Greenwald accuses others, including David Frum and John McCain, of the same "repugnant game." He represents the "logic" of McCain's position thusly:

(1) It is immoral to stay in Iraq if we don't send in more troops.
(2) We are not going to send in more troops.
(3) I oppose withdrawal and think we should stay in Iraq.

Greenberg argues that no politician or so-called pundit is likely to be taken seriously by the mainstream media and therefore the public unless he, at least initially, supported the war even if he now favors withdrawal from it. Chuck Hagel is one such person, and the Baker Commission is stocked with them. Greenberg says:

"It is not merely the case that having been pro-war doesn't count as a strike against anyone. That is accurate. But far worse, the opposite is also true. It is still the case in Establishment Washington that having been pro-war in the first place is a pre-requisite to being considered a "responsible, serious" foreign policy analyst. And having been anti-war from the start is the hallmark of someone unserious. The pro-war Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are serious national security Democrats but Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha are the kind of laughable losers whom Democrats need to repudiate."

Greenberg argues that this is because:

"Establishment Washington really is not interested in how to end this horrendous and despicable debacle we unleashed in Iraq. They are not interested in how to maximize U.S. interests. They are only interested in how to find a way to bring this disaster to some sort of slow resolution that looks as though it is a respectable and decent outcome -- anything that makes it seem like it wasn't a horrendous mistake in the first place."

I believe that not everyone who opposed the war in the beginning or supports withdrawal now was or is motivated by a clear-eyed perception of the facts and by strong principles. Some may do so simply out of reflexive hatred for George Bush and the Republican Party. But it's as difficult for me, as it apparently is for Greenwald, to believe that those who supported the war in the beginning and, certainly, those who oppose withdrawal now could do so with open eyes and strong, commendable principles. How could anyone look at the facts and embrace decent principles and believe that the Bush administration would and will ever pursue the Iraqi war in a manner that won't bring the disaster to America and Iraq that it clearly has?

I applaud Greenwald for penetrating the verbal artifice of "public intellectuals" like Friedman to expose the twisted logic that underlies their support for the unsupportable, and I agree with him that those we should REALLY be listening to with the utmost respect are those who opposed the war from the very beginning for good, solid reasons.

(Cross-posted to Thoughts Chase Thoughts)

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