As I noted in an article at the time, "it's as if Official Washington has become a sinister version of Alice in Wonderland. Under the bizarre rules of Washington's pundit society, the foreign policy 'experts,' who acted like Cheshire Cats pointing the United States in wrong directions, get rewarded for their judgment and Americans who opposed going down the rabbit hole in the first place earn only derision."
Instead of a well-deserved dismissal from the Times and journalistic disgrace, Friedman has continued to rake in big bucks from his articles and his speeches. Meanwhile, his record for accuracy (or even sophisticated insights) hasn't improved. Regarding foreign policy, he still gets pretty much everything wrong.
As for the supposed madness of America's "designated enemies," Friedman refuses to recognize that they might see defensive belligerence as the only rational response to U.S. hostility. After all, Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi both accepted U.S. demands for disarmament and both were subsequently attacked by U.S. military force, overthrown and murdered.
So, who in their right mind would accept assurances about the protections of international law when Official Washington and Tommy Friedman see nothing wrong with invading other countries and overthrowing their governments? In view of this recent history, one could argue that the leaders of Iran, Syria and even North Korea are acting rationally within their perceptions of national sovereignty -- and concern for their own necks.
Similarly, Russia and China have searched for ways to resolve some of these conflicts, rather than whipping up new confrontations. On the Iranian nuclear dispute, for instance, Russia has worked behind the scenes to broker a realistic agreement that would offer Iran meaningful relief from economic sanctions in exchange for more safeguards on its nuclear program.
It has been the United States that has vacillated between an interest in a negotiated settlement with Iran and the temptation to seek "regime change." Recently, the Obama administration spurned a Russian push for genuine negotiations with Iran, instead favoring more sanctions and demanding Iranian capitulation.
It should be noted, too, that the Iranian government has renounced any desire to build a nuclear weapon and that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded, since 2007, that Iran ceased work on a nuclear weapon in 2003, a decade ago. Friedman could be called irrational -- or at least irresponsible -- for not mentioning that fact. And you might wonder why his Times' editors didn't demand greater accuracy in his column. Is there no fact-checking of Friedman?
Seeking "Regime Change"
Of course, the Times and Friedman have a long pattern of bias on Iran, much as they had on Iraq. For instance, the newspaper and its star columnist heaped ridicule on Turkey and Brazil three years ago when those two U.S. allies achieved a breakthrough in which Iran agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for some medical isotopes. To Friedman, this deal was "as ugly as it gets," the title of his column.
"I confess that when I first saw the May 17  picture of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Ina'cio Lula da Silva, and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms -- after their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran's nuclear weapons program -- all I could think of was: Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?
"No, that's about as ugly as it gets."
Though Friedman did not call Lula da Silva and Erdogan crazy, he did insult them and impugned their motives. He accused them of seeking this important step toward a peaceful resolution of an international dispute "just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table."
In the column, Friedman also made clear that he wasn't really interested in Iranian nuclear safeguards; instead, he wanted the United States to do whatever it could to help Iran's internal opposition overthrow President Ahmadinejad and Iran's Islamic Republic.
"In my view, the 'Green Revolution' in Iran is the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades," Friedman wrote. "It has been suppressed, but it is not going away, and, ultimately, its success -- not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics -- is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal."
Just three years later, however, it's clear how wrongheaded Friedman was. The Green Movement, which was never the mass popular movement that the U.S. media claimed, has largely disappeared.
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