There are few people who can claim the dubious honor of becoming an Urban Dictionary entry. But Thomas Friedman, who endlessly assured Americans that 'victory' (as yet, still undefined) in Iraq was just six months away, has exactly that claim. By all rights, this clueless, neocon cheerleading for a deceptive and ill-defined invasion and occupation should disqualify Thomas Friedman--allegedly an expert in economics--from being asked his opinion on foreign policy ever again.
David Gregory, who has yet to meet a neocon war monger he didn't validate, thinks asking Mr. Friedman Unit how he feels about a potential new front in Syria is a good idea, conveniently with the Beltway amnesia of his past work. Putatively, Friedman's op-ed this week sparked this discussion and Friedman did an excellent job of parroting his own talking points again:
So this will not be done by imperial powers from the top down. It will be done by the people from the bottom up.
I think the issue the president is struggling with-- we’re struggling with as a country is so what to do about Syria. And I’ve just come from Syria and-- and Yemen and-- and Turkey. And I would say, you know, what I seem to see in the debate here is no one saying what is the outcome we want. And people say, well, the rebels are being hurt, you know, and Lord knows that resonates with me. But we’ve got to say what is the outcome we want.
Do we want to preserve a multiethnic-- produce a multiethnic unified democratic Syria? If that is the case, then you don’t just have to arm the opposition. Because once the opposition topples Assad, there’s two more civil wars coming. There’ll be one between Sunnis and Alawites, Assad’s community. And then there’ll be one between Sunnis and Sunnis between secular and Islamists. So if you want to arm the rebels to topple this regime to produce a unified Syria, you’re going to have to have international peacekeepers on the ground.
If your goal is just to bloody Iran and Syria, our opponents, just feed the rebels arms. Let them defeat Hezbollah, all these bad guys. Then the issue is going to have to be you’re going to be-- be ready for the breakup of Syria. And, lastly, if you’re arming the rebels just in order to create a stalemate so they’ll negotiate, ultimately there’s no deal Assad and the rebels are going to reach that, again, won’t require international peacekeeping force to somehow maintain. So, please do not will the ends without willing the means. We tried that in Iraq. It didn’t end well. (credit: NBC News)
That Friedman has a point about the inherent no-win scenarios and unintended consequences of trying to control a Syrian civil war to our best advantage is really irrelevant. He clearly thinks that war (or in his Orwellian phrasing, "peacekeeping forces") is inevitable, because we must shape Syria as we see fit, just as he did in Iraq. And just as his continual promise of a resolution in Iraq just six months away ignored the thousands of deaths and billions of dollars wasted in the past six months, his understanding has been so mean and so wrong in the past that he deserves no such platform on national television (or in the nation's paper of record) to continue to offer up any platitudes.
For a viewpoint not wholly dissimilar, see Thinking About Syrian Spillover by former C&L contributer Steve Hynd.