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Apr. 14 2010 - 7:09 am | 385 views | 2 recommendations | 10 comments

Thomas Friedman types a lot of words about Afghanistan

thomas friedman

Suck. On. This. Image by Charles Haynes via Flickr

I’m experiencing a tornado of emotions reading Suck. On. This’s latest column about Afghanistan and Iraq.

Anger/Confusion:

As I have said before, friends don’t let friends drive drunk — especially when we’re still in the back seat alongside an infant named Democracy.

and happiness:

Maureen Dowd is off today.

The rest is Friedo’s normal Avatar approach to foreign policy. The natives can’t lead their own society, so the wise men must come forth and not “let friends drive drunk”.

In the past, Friedo has compared Afghanistan to a special needs baby

This is nation building. This is nation building 101 in the most fragmented country in the world. Fareed, we’re talking about Afghanistan. And we’re talking about America in the middle of the great recession. I feel like we’re like an unemployed couple who just went out and decided to adopt a special needs baby. You know, I mean, that’s really kind of what we’re doing. And that’s like, whoa, y’know, that terrifies me.

And again on Chris Matthews:

Chris, as a country, we’re like two out-of-work parents who just adopted a special-needs baby.

Apparently, not having heard the screams for him to please, please stop bellowing from the blogosphere, Friedo repeated the dreadful metaphor once more on Fareed Zakaria’s show.

I feel like we’re like an unemployed couple who just went out and decided to adopt a special needs baby. You know, I mean, that’s really kind of what we’re doing. And that’s like, whoa, you know. That terrifies me.

And he has repeatedly made the condescending “baby-sitting,” and “adoption” references when describing the Afghan people.

Friedo’s unparalleled ability to mangle a metaphor has been discussed extensively, but there is still some great guilty entertainment aspect of his terrible writing. The part I find disgusting — and not the least bit amusing — is the utterly schizophrenic quality of his ideologies.

His tirades fluctuate between machismo ejaculations (the famous “Suck. On. This“) to momentary concerns about domestic nation-building, which suddenly trump his bloodlust.

In one moment, Friedo claims Saddam Hussein is the reason God created cruise missiles, and cruise missiles are simply the only way to deal with him, and in the next moment, he states with 100% seriousness that he did not embrace the “neo-con drumbeat to invade Iraq”. The US had to confront Saddam, and the only people arguing against that are “knee-jerk liberals and pacifists.” Still, maybe we should behave conservatively now and scale back in Afghanistan, but not before declaring war on Iran.

First he praises the use of the internet in the Muslim world (h/t PM)

What is fascinating to me is the degree to which in Iran today — and in Lebanon — the more secular forces of moderation have used technologies like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, blogging and text-messaging as their virtual mosque, as the place they can now gather, mobilize, plan, inform and energize their supporters, outside the grip of the state.

For the first time, the moderates, who were always stranded between authoritarian regimes that had all the powers of the state and Islamists who had all the powers of the mosque, now have their own place to come together and project power: the network. The Times reported that [Iranian opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein] Moussavi’s fan group on Facebook alone has grown to more than 50,000 members. That’s surely more than any mosque could hold — which is why the government is now trying to block these sites.

…then criticizes it 6 months later.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to U.S. national security, the ‘Virtual Afghanistan’ now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist Web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West.

He’s either a shitty liar, or genuinely doesn’t know what he believes. I’m being generous and calling him confused.

There is Friedo The Lion and Friedo The Lamb. His amorphous philosophy depends on the cycle of the moon — and his mood — which is apparently shaped by whatever random taxi driver Friedo speaks to on his way to golf before he bangs out 900 words of truthagain. You’re welcome, Earth.

In this latest column, Friedo types a lot of words about Afghanistan, but ultimately leaves the reader with an impression that he is utterly overwhelmed and confused by the messy occupation. In honor of Friedo’s love of inappropriate metaphors, he’s like a special needs child who has been put in charge of a nuclear reactor. This complex nation-building stuff is a bit over his head. It’s much more fun to act like a tough guy and taunt poor foreigners to suck his dick.

There are many differences between Iraq and Afghanistan, but they do resemble each other in one critical way. In both countries, the “bad guys,” the violent jihadists, are losing. And in both countries, it still is not clear if the “good guys” will really turn out to be good.

What does that mean? The bad guys are jihadists, unless they’re disguised as the good guys, which they might be. You know what? Let’s just bomb everyone to be sure we kill the baddies.

This is what happens when fools rush into war. It’s so easy to destroy a society, but it sucks rebuilding it. Who would have known installing puppet leaders would backfire? Friedo is simply shocked — shocked! — that there are vote-rigging and coalition failures occurring in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And the big question the Obama team is facing in both countries is: Should we care?

What kind of stupid question is this? I assume Friedo believes we should care because he’s typed a whole column about this subject unless, of course, he’s just trying to take up space, which is a distinct possibility.

The Bush team took this kind of “neo-realist” approach to Afghanistan. It had no desire to do state-building there. Once Karzai was installed, President Bush ignored the corruption of Karzai and his cronies. All the Bush team wanted was for Karzai to hold the country together so the U.S. could use it as a base to go after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Frankly, this low-key approach made a lot of sense to me because I never thought Afghanistan was that important. But, unfortunately, the Karzai government became so rotten and incapable of delivering services that many Afghans turned back to the Taliban.

Yes, why would a country with a population of 28 million people, located in a critical geo-political region that borders Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Tajikistan, which served as the last battleground between the Soviets and Muslims — in a conflict that eerily mirrors the current US-led quagmire — be of the slightest bit of importance? General Friedo says to not consider the consequences of our actions and swing wildly in the dark, so keep a’swingin’, soldiers!

It all gets very confusing when he claims the solution to the woeful puppet Karzai is to install more parochial puppets.

So the Obama team came with a new strategy: We have to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan if we are going to keep Al Qaeda in check there and in Pakistan — and the only way to do that is by clearing them out of the towns and installing decent Afghan police, judges and bureaucrats — i.e., good governance — in the Taliban’s wake.

Immediately following Friedo’s declaration of support for intrusiveness is this statement: “I still wish we had opted for a less intrusive alternative; I’m still skeptical about the whole thing.”

But also, this is important, “What matters in Obama’s war in Afghanistan is whether the Afghan people are allied with their own government and each other.”

…their own government that the US installed.

And remember, kids: “Unlike Afghanistan, the war in Iraq was, at its core, always driven more by idealism than realism. It was sold as being about W.M.D. But, in truth, it was really a rare exercise in the revolutionary deployment of U.S. power.”

“Idealism” is one way to put it. “War crime” is probably a more accurate description, but when you were the guy screaming “Suck on it!” as the bombs dropped, it probably behooves Friedo to put a shiny coat on the whole invasion.

Friedo closes by insisting that the US must not let friends drive drunk, which I guess is a plea for more intervention…even though he doesn’t appear to condone intervention…unless he gets riled up in a few months and feels he needs to prove his masculinity again.

Doesn’t the Times need to sell more ad space? I have a suggestion how they could make some quick cash.


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  1. collapse expand

    I don’t see what you’re complaining about.
    It could have been much worse. For one thing, there is zero product placement in any of these metaphors. He could very well have compared Afghans to the assorted bits of chicken scraps before they’re processed into McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and suggested that instead of trying to make a happy meal we should instead be drinking Slim Fast. Imagine the sheer number of products he could have draped the democracy kid in as we the people swerve to and fro in our Ford Taurus.
    H.P. Lovecraft would be at a loss to describe the horrors that each successive Friedman column can potentially unleash. I think we got off easy.

  2. collapse expand

    Ditto on the “got off easy” part. The Friedmaniac is getting a run for his money from the new resident aliens: The T-Baggers. He must be tongue tied or otherwise orally indisposed to have come up with such weak comedic shit. Perhaps Bobo stole his slime this week. Have faith, the Friedmaniac will return, just like Jason.

  3. collapse expand

    38 Americans and allies died in afghanistan in march….while obama and the other clowns were pushing thru the un-necesary health bill….15 so far in april…..all wasted lives…

  4. collapse expand

    It’s interesting to me that he’s backed off of his “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” line of thinking in which he makes what I thought was a very good (albeit verbose) argument for using green technology as a means to cure our Middle East ills. He makes some very compelling arguments in that book but I think no one is really listening, particularly not in this Administration. I really don’t understand our objective in Afghanistan other than to keep the war machine profitable.

    • collapse expand

      I was going to go into this, but it would have ended up being a long tangent. I have no idea why Friedman keeps wandering into foreign policy territory when he so clearly doesn’t understand most of it, and has been so terribly wrong (so many times) in the past.

      As you point out, he was making good headway on the green energy business. He sometimes even made sense! People liked him, everything was gravy. He should stick with that stuff. It’s important and doesn’t involve bombing people.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I really don’t want TF to have a platform for any subject. As fa

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Whoops.
          Anyway– as far as speaking on green technology– he does not seem to be particularly coherent on this subject either. On one hand, he will occasionally make pronouncements on our need to conserve. On the other hand he is really caught up in the fantasy that we can innovate and buy our way out of the climate crisis.
          He also made the curious suggestion that we should set a floor for gas prices. Why a floor Tom? How about something such as a gas tax which takes into account the real cost of gasoline on society? It seems some artificially set floor will only benefit oil companies.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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