18 November 2007

Calling Crap Crap

LATE UPDATE: Rereading the entry, I realized the earlier update ought to be punctuated like this: "Glenn Greenwald and I are of like minds, only his boasts a greater historical perspective. Check out his take on today's Friedman."

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald and I are of like minds. Only his boasts a greater historical perspective, so check out his take on today's Friedman.

Today's Tom Friedman: Barack Obama will be a great diplomat if he takes Dick Cheney with him to meet Tehran.

When negotiating with murderous regimes like Iran’s or Syria’s, you want Tony Soprano by your side, not Big Bird. Mr. Obama’s gift for outreach would be so much more effective with a Dick Cheney standing over his right shoulder, quietly pounding a baseball bat into his palm.

Essentially, Friedman is saying that sticks and carrots should continue to be the modus operandi of American diplomacy, especially in the most delicate situations such as relations in the Middle East. The problem is that the pendulum has already swung in favor of developing nations to stand against the US: Iran, North Korea (we still can't tell where that's going) and Venezuela. Friedman's suggestion that a "bad cop" Dick Cheney lurking in the shadows just over "good cop" Obama's shoulder reveals that the author himself has failed to recognize the larger, world-wide assessment of America's falling star. Though American diplomacy still holds some clout--and it can only improve in 2009, unless we hire Rudy Giuliani--watch for fewer rogue nations to really care what America might offer or threaten.

In the meantime, the notion that Democrats are waiting for a candidate who can "dial up" the appropriate level of Dick Cheney as they assemble their foreign affairs teams is preposterous. One big beef against Hillary among liberal Dems is that she's playing this game of keeping "all options on the table," (one of the more painfully overexposed phrases of our decade). In the meantime, both Jimmy Carter, to whom Friedman specifically points as an example of what Obama does not need to bring to the negotiations table, and Al Gore are enjoying terrific resurgences in popularity for their unapologetic commitment to improving the human experience on earth--a claim few, if any, will ever make about Dick Cheney.

So my response when I read Tom Friedman today is "Why am I still reading Tom Friedman?"