Why Thomas Friedman Speaks For Me

Why Thomas Friedman Speaks For Me

New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman is a liberal whose support of the American efforts to liberate Iraq should give pause to all conscientious humanitarians who understand the dangers that the tyrannies in the Middle East pose to Western civilization. Consider his three best selling books:

From Beirut to Jerusalem
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11
These books and his other writings reveal a keen mind and a depth of insight about the human condition hardly characteristic of an ideologue.

In a university speech on September 30 Friedman stuck to his guns, reiterating the points he had been making in his NYT columns for the last ten months: The terrorism harbored by hostile Middle Eastern regimes is threat to open societies in the West, and a military response was required along with coordinated efforts to build liberal democracy in the region. [Friedman has been an administration critic on our failures to make progress on the nation building phase.]

According to Thomas Friedman, our recent actions represent a clear post 9-11 signal to these regimes and their terrorist allies: “We’ve spent 250 years building our open society…We are not going to sit on our hands and let you take it away.”

I vividly recall being in Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and for ten days afterward. It was viscerally apparent to me that the stakes were just as Thomas Friedman has described them. On my return to the San Francisco area, I was sickened by those naïve people who proudly displayed the bumper sticker—“Barbara Lee Speaks For Me” because I knew this Berkeley-based Congressional delegate to be a disciple of Congressman Dellums for whom all military operations had become a rerun of Vietnam. When Lee was the sole vote against the first anti-terrorist resolution in the wake of 9-11, I was frankly ashamed to be associated with her views.

In Friedman’s analysis, “Islamism” ranks with the other two totalitarian ideologies spawned in the last century, Nazism and Communism. [I prefer the term Islamofascist.] Ultimately, “This war is a war of ideas,” he said. But Friedman’s optimism seems tempered by recent events. “This may be a fool’s errand, but I’d rather go down hoping and trying” instead of listening to people who say Muslims “can never be democratic, can never have what we have.” I’d put it differently: Failure is not an option.

I’m now looking for a new bumper sticker:


I append links to the archival copies of his major Iraq editorials in the New York Times.

Jay B. Gaskill

Links to the NYT Archives

1-22-03 Thinking About Iraq I


1026-03 Thinking About Iraq II


1-29- 03 III Thinking About Iraq III


4-27-03 Meaning of a Skull


5-21-03 Postcard from Iraq


7-4-03 Because We Could


7-16-03 Winning the Real War


8-17-03 Telling the Truth in Iraq


8-20-03 No Time to Lose in Iraq


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