Blog post

Belén Fernández on Tom Friedman's self-satire

Ryan Healey27 July 2012

On the occasion of what appears to be one of Tom Friedman's most batshit crazy Times columns yet—its title: "Syria is Iraq"—Belén Fernández, author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, curates the history of Friedman's imperious gut and what crises and hypocrises arise when we follow foreign policy initatives bred from organs unrelated to cognition.

At Jacobin, Fernández demonstrates how Friedman oscillates between promoting American military power abroad as a "well-armed external midwife” or a babysitter for civil wars they've only chanced upon. When the only person who sees his column before press is a copy editor checking for grammar, the combination of Friedman's cocksure directives with internally inconsistent logic and poor veracity would go dangerously unchecked without Fernández's painfully intimate knowledge of Friedman's oeuvre. She complements a long tradition of Friedman-bashing that was enriched by the late Alexander Cockburn: "Friedman's is an industrial, implacable noise, like having a generator running under the next table in a restaurant. The only sensible thing to do is leave."

The "silliest man on the planet" is made undone by Fernández's nearly talmudic recall of Friedman's career, by juxtaposing the trajectory of his thought and its contradictions. For instance:

"I don’t know Libya, but my gut tells me that any kind of decent outcome there will require boots on the ground." - 2011

"The only reason Iraq has any chance for a decent outcome today is because America was on the ground with tens of thousands of troops to act as that well-armed midwife, reasonably trusted and certainly feared by all sides, to manage Iraq's transition to more consensual politics. My gut tells me that Syria will require the same to have the same chance." - 2012

Thankfully Fernández is here to critically factcheck, or just simply remember, what Friedman writes in a superlatively problematic column with wide US influence. Refer all questions directed to Friedman here

Visit Jacobin to read the article in full.