A Ringing Endorsement, Sort Of

In yesterday’s New York Times, Tom Friedman offered a ringing endorsement of President Bush’s foreign policy:

I believe the tensions between us and the Muslim world stem primarily from the conditions under which many Muslims live, not what we do. I believe free people, living under freely elected governments, with a free press and with economies and education systems that enable their young people to achieve their full potential, don’t spend a lot of time thinking about who to hate, who to blame, and who to lash out at. Free countries don’t have leaders who use their media and state-owned “intellectuals” to deflect all of their people’s anger away from them and onto America.
So I don’t want young Muslims to like us. I want them to like and respect themselves, their own countries and their own governments. I want them to have the same luxury to ignore America as young Taiwanese have – because they are too busy focusing on improving their own lives and governance, running for office, studying anything they want or finding good jobs in their own countries.

Exactly. And Friedman has good words, too, about the forthcoming election in Iraq, the most important current element in President Bush’s plan to convert the Arab world into “free people, living under freely elected governments, with a free press and with economies and education systems that enable their young people to achieve their full potential.”
As we’ve said before, Friedman is knowledgeable about the Middle East, but his overriding loyalty to the Democratic Party prevents him from drawing the conclusions that flow from his own premises, and thereby being a useful commentator. So, instead of acknowledging that the policy he advocates is the one being pursued by the Bush administration, Friedman takes his obligatory partisan shots at the President, implicitly contradicting the rest of his column:

The Bush team is certainly not fostering all this when it mismanages a war it launched to liberate the people of Iraq. Its performance has been pathetic, and I understand anyone on the right or the left who wants to wash his hands of the whole thing.

Democrats accuse the Bush team of “mismanaging” the Iraqi war in their sleep, but, as usual, Friedman offers no specifics as to wherein the “mismanagement” lies. For a considerable time, the standard liberal criticism was that the administration should not have disbanded the Iraqi army. Knowing what we now know about the number of former Iraqi soldiers who were (and are) committed to preventing the formation of a freely elected government, and knowing that the Iraqi army was dominated by the very Sunni Baathists who are now leading the terrorist “insurgency,” no one could now make this argument with a straight face. And almost no one does.
What’s the alternative source of “mismanagement”? Nowadays, the usual theory is that the administration hasn’t committed enough troops to Iraq. This is a debatable point. But I have no reason to doubt the truth of President Bush’s statement that the military officers in command in Iraq say they have enough men. And, more fundamentally, does Friedman, or anyone else, actually believe that the Democrats, were they in power, would commit more troops to Iraq?
Of course not. And if Friedman were not such a loyal partisan, he would admit that President Bush’s program of bringing democracy and reform to the Middle East is the only plan on the table to deal with the long-term threat of Islamic terrorism.


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