But if Democrats really want to be taken seriously on foreign affairs, they need to recognize that they have only half a policy on Iraq.I don't know about you, but my jaw just about hit the floor when I read that. Can you think of anyone less entitled "to be taken seriously on foreign affairs," less qualified to be giving foreign policy credibility lessons in the wake of the Iraq debacle, than Thomas Friedman?
But hey, "don't play with matches" is good advice, even when it comes from an arsonist, right? So let's see if Friedman has a point, despite having served as one of the most influential cheerleaders for the disastrous Iraq war and notwithstanding his near-perfect record of total misjudgments concerning Iraq since 9/11.
Here is Friedman's first paragraph, in its entirety:
I’m glad Democrats are keeping the pressure on President Bush for a withdrawal date from Iraq. It’s the only way to keep him and Iraqis focused on the endgame. But if Democrats really want to be taken seriously on foreign affairs, they need to recognize that they have only half a policy on Iraq. And it’s the easy half.So Democrats need to come up with the "other half" of the Iraq policy in order to be taken seriously on foreign affairs. And what would that be? Friedman purports to answer his question in the following paragraph:
You can’t be in favor of setting a date to withdraw from Iraq without also being in favor of a serious energy policy to radically reduce our dependence on oil — now. To call for withdrawing from Iraq by a set date, no matter what the situation is on the ground there — without a serious energy plan here — is reckless. All we would be doing is making ourselves more dependent on an even more unstable Middle East, because any U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is likely, in the short run, to be destabilizing.Sorry, but that doesn't make any sense.
First, "being in favor" of a serious energy plan to "radically reduce our dependence on foreign oil" is very different from actually reducing America's dependence on foreign oil in the near-term. The Democrats -- who have just re-taken the House and the Senate and do not control the White House-- don't have the ability to implement a radical change in energy policy in the short term. Can Friedman really not understand this? I am tempted to think that Friedman's emphasis on Democrats "being in favor" of his preferred energy plan is a concession to this reality.
Incredibly, Friedman never makes clear whether he is saying that (1) Democrats cannot credibly advocate withdrawal unless they also advocate Friedman's energy plan, or (2) any credible Iraq plan must make withdrawal contingent on first implementing Friedman's energy plan. But it doesn't really matter, since both arguments are basically absurd, for essentially the same reason.
For either of the arguments Friedman might be making (i.e., (1) or (2)) to make sense, it would have to be the case that staying in Iraq somehow mitigates the effects of lacking Friedman’s preferred energy policy. In other words, not having (or not advocating) Friedman’s preferred energy policy only counts as a reason not to leave Iraq (or not to advocate leaving Iraq) if staying in Iraq somehow compensates for not having (or not advocating) Friedman’s energy policy.
After all, Friedman isn’t just saying “Hey, I have a good idea for a new energy policy.” Rather, he’s saying, “It doesn’t make sense to leave Iraq unless you also implement (or advocate) my ideas for a new energy policy.” But… why? Whether or not Friedman’s ideas about energy policy are good ones, why should accepting them be pre-conditions for leaving Iraq? Here’s the best that Friedman can manage:
All we would be doing is making ourselves more dependent on an even more unstable Middle East, because any U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is likely, in the short run, to be destabilizing.But how would leaving Iraq make the United States more dependent on Middle East oil? It's almost certainly true that any U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is likely to be destabilizing in the short run. But how does short term destabilization entail increased dependence on foreign oil? Put differently: how is it that staying in Iraq makes the United States less dependent on Middle East oil than it otherwise would be? None of this makes sense.
Thomas Friedman, ladies and gentlemen. Still a clown when it comes to Iraq.