Thomas Friedman: A Hole in the Head

Thomas Friedman‘s latest column, “A Hole in the Heart,” argues that the nation and the world are exceedingly polarized and that it’s largely President Bush’s fault.

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn’t mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions – it’s also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

Friedman is a bright and learned man. I’m stupified by the ahistoricism of that paragraph.

When exactly was it that the world liked Ronald Reagan? Certainly, not while he was in office. Remember all the protests about his plan to put Pershing II’s into Europe? The controversy over Star Wars? The business about him being a stupid cowboy?

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, was wildly popular in Europe. But how exactly did that translate into U.S. power? He was unable to secure UN backing for Kosovo and a myriad of other military operations, having instead to go it alone or with coalitions of the willing. The good will toward Clinton didn’t exactly translate into freedom from terrorism, either, as al Qaeda formed and perpetrated numerous attacks on American targets under his watch.

The second thing that is necessary to heal the hole in the world is a decent Iraqi election. If such an election can be brought off, the Europeans, the Arabs and the American left will have to rethink their positions. I know what I am for in Iraq: a real election and a decent government. The Europeans, the Arabs and the American left know what they are against in Iraq: George Bush and his policies. But if there is an elected Iraqi government, it could be the magnet to begin pulling the moderate center of the world back together, because a duly elected Iraqi government is something everyone should want to help.

I would point out that, were Al Gore or John Kerry president, there would be absolutely no question about the outcome of the next Iraqi election. Saddam Hussein would have won 100% of the votes. Again.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    Quite so.

  2. Mark says:

    James, you’re wrong. Saddam only got 99.99% of the vote.

  3. Tiger says:

    Mark may be correct in that there was always a small anti-Saddam contingent to be found, but the dissent was quickly quashed by the most vile and violent means possible.

  4. Remy Logan says:

    “Saddam Hussein would have won 100% of the votes. Again.”

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who call themselves Liberals, Progressives, and Humanitarians, who would be very happy with that result.

  5. Paul says:

    Hell of a post James.