For many Democrats, Afghanistan was always the “good war,” as opposed to Iraq. I think Barack Obama needs to ask himself honestly: “Am I for sending more troops to Afghanistan because I really think we can win there, because I really think that that will bring an end to terrorism, or am I just doing it because to get elected in America, post-9/11, I have to be for winning some war?”
And ends up writing the same column he has been writing since 2002:
The truth is that Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Pakistan are just different fronts in the same war. The core problem is that the Arab-Muslim world in too many places has been failing at modernity, and were it not for $120-a-barrel oil, that failure would be even more obvious. For far too long, this region has been dominated by authoritarian politics, massive youth unemployment, outdated education systems, a religious establishment resisting reform and now a death cult that glorifies young people committing suicide, often against other Muslims.
The humiliation this cocktail produces is the real source of terrorism. Saddam exploited it. Al Qaeda exploits it. Pakistan’s intelligence services exploit it. Hezbollah exploits it. The Taliban exploit it.
The only way to address it is by changing the politics. Producing islands of decent and consensual government in Baghdad or Kabul or Islamabad would be a much more meaningful and lasting contribution to the war on terrorism than even killing bin Laden in his cave.
This was Friedman’s reason for supporting the war in Iraq in 2003: he thought that by going to war and bombing the shit out of Iraq, we could somehow start off a cultural chain reaction sweeping across the Middle East leading to its New Englandization. You say Baghdad, I say Biddeford. And I’m not getting dramatic. It was pretty much the same column in 2002:
I think the chances of Saddam being willing, or able, to use a weapon of mass destruction against us are being exaggerated. What terrifies me is the prospect of another 9/11 — in my mall, in my airport or in my downtown — triggered by angry young Muslims, motivated by some pseudo-religious radicalism cooked up in a mosque in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Pakistan. And I believe that the only way to begin defusing that threat is by changing the context in which these young men grow up — namely all the Arab-Muslim states that are failing at modernity and have become an engine for producing undeterrables.
So I am for invading Iraq only if we think that doing so can bring about regime change and democratization. Because what the Arab world desperately needs is a model that works — a progressive Arab regime that by its sheer existence would create pressure and inspiration for gradual democratization and modernization around the region.
Did Thomas Friedman receive a new payment in 2008 from the New York Times for this recycled column? He really shouldn’t have.
Thanks to the war in Iraq that Friedman supported as a trial for his theory, we have a pretty good answer to his question. Is going to war against a country in order to end authoritarianism, erase unemployment, reform an outdated educational system and replace that nation’s religious leadership a good idea?
Friedman still hasn’t figured out that the answer is no. He’s spent five years lingering at the stage of utter bewilderment that the people we’ve bombed and invaded and shot at aren’t on board with our program for social re-engineering.
Good Lord, Tom Friedman, move on. Ask yourself the next question. If war won’t accomplish these aims, what else might? Who knows, it might not even have a price tag of a trillion dollars.