Category Archives: Thomas Friedman


Geo-Green Perspective,” by Thomas Heckroth, My Side of the Story,, 20 February 2005.

Tom Barnett writes:

Meanwhile, Friedman’s rerunning his get-off-oil op-ed for like the 20th time. Really good stuff showing he’s basically out of ideas since 9/11. He wants to be a serious thinker on security but he doesn’t know how to be. So he shoots for the moon on economics, hoping it sounds really profound. It doesn’t. It sounds like pie in the sky.

TMLutas isn’t much more hopefully

This Geo-Green strategy is one that will put these societies in a corner and when they lash out at us (perhaps in another 9/11?) we’ll have to kill them off. Instead of doing that, we need to lead them out of their current dead end and give the elite an exit strategy that makes lashing out to retain power highly unattractive. I don’t see how $18 a barrel oil is going to get us there.

But as I have written, Tom Friedman’s geo-green strategy is wise. States that do not evolve beyond subsidies, be they government-to-government or God-to-government (natural resources) end up failed states. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are perfect examples of this.

So, I am happy that fellow blogspiriteur Thomas has discovered the movement

Geo-Green is the combination of environmentalism and geopolitics. As Friedman says, “As a geo-green, I believe that combining environmentalism and geopolitics is the most moral and realistic strategy the U.S. could pusruse today.” We have a need to promote environmentalism, which will free us from the stranglehold of Saudi Arabia and other “dealers” we addicts can’t say no to. We have a need to promote economic freedom and a strong global economy inorder to truly transform those same undemocratic nations. When we combine geopolitics and environmentalism we in turn get a focus on human rights, world peace, and the advancement of freedom and liberty.

So to get to the point. Towards the end of Friedman’s Op-Ed he points out that this change of focus must start at the grassroots level, and he asks where the typical leaders, the college students, are. So because of that, I have a desire to stand up and say, RIGHT HERE! I would like to start a group whose focus is to change the debate within this country toward one of the “Geo-Green Perspective”. If there is ANYONE who would like to join me in this effort, please feel free to comment. Send me your thoughts and your ideas. I am in the process of trying to start a student organization here at the University of Iowa. Right now the ultimate vision would be a national non-profit organization, but to get there we must start small and local.

Good luck to you Tom!

Baghdad Rules

Hama Rules,” by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times,, 17 February 2005.

I am a fan of Tom Friedman. His Geo-Green strategy is right-on, and he recognizes we are currently fighting an Iraqi Civil War. His latest column on the assassination of former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri is perfect. Excerpts below:

About two weeks ago, a friend of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri stopped by my office to update me on Lebanon and pass on a message from Mr. Hariri, whom I have known since reporting from Beirut in the late 1970’s. The message was that the Lebanese opposition to the Syrian occupation was getting united – inspired both by the example of Iraq and by the growing excesses of the Syrian occupation. Mr. Hariri, his friend said, was planning to use the coming Lebanese parliamentary elections, and a hoped-for victory by the opposition front, to send a real message to the Syrians: It’s time for you to go.

There is no excuse anymore for Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, other than naked imperialism and a desire to siphon off Lebanese resources. If the U.S. government and media really care about democracy in the Arab world, Mr. Hariri’s envoy said, then the U.S. has to get behind those trying to rescue the oldest real Arab democracy, Lebanon, from the Syrian grip.

When Syria’s Baath regime feels its back up against the wall, it always resorts to “Hama Rules.” Hama Rules is a term I coined after the Syrian Army leveled – and I mean leveled – a portion of its own city, Hama, to put down a rebellion by Sunni Muslim fundamentalists there in 1982. Some 10,000 to 20,000 Syrians were buried in the ruble. Monday’s murder of Mr. Hariri, a self-made billionaire who devoted his money and energy to rebuilding Lebanon after its civil war, had all the hallmarks of Hama Rules – beginning with 650 pounds of dynamite to incinerate an armor-plated motorcade.

Message from the Syrian regime to Washington, Paris and Lebanon’s opposition: “You want to play here, you’d better be ready to play by Hama Rules – and Hama Rules are no rules at all. You want to squeeze us with Iraq on one side and the Lebanese opposition on the other, you’d better be able to put more than U.N. resolutions on the table. You’d better be ready to go all the way – because we will. But you Americans are exhausted by Iraq, and you Lebanese don’t have the guts to stand up to us, and you French make a mean croissant but you’ve got no Hama Rules in your arsenal. So remember, we blow up prime ministers here. We shoot journalists. We fire on the Red Cross. We leveled one of our own cities. You want to play by Hama Rules, let’s see what you’ve got. Otherwise, hasta la vista, baby.”

What else can the Lebanese do? They must unite all their communities and hit the Syrian regime with “Baghdad Rules,” which were demonstrated 10 days ago by the Iraqi people. Baghdad Rules are when an Arab public does something totally unprecedented: it takes to the streets, despite the threat of violence from jihadists and Baathists, and expresses its democratic will.

Nothing drives a dictatorship like Syria’s more crazy than civil disobedience and truth-telling: when people stop being intimidated, stand up for their own freedom and go on strike against their occupiers. The Lebanese can’t play by Hama Rules and must stop playing by the old Lebanese Rules. They must start playing by Baghdad Rules.

Read the whole thing.

Friedman on Vasco da Gama

No Mullah Left Behind,” by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times,, 13 February 2005.

After laying the groundwork with a tale of fraid connectivity

The Wall Street Journal ran a very, very alarming article from Iran on its front page last Tuesday. The article explained how the mullahs in Tehran – who are now swimming in cash thanks to soaring oil prices – rather than begging foreign investors to come into Iran, are now shunning some of them. The article related how a Turkish mobile-phone operator, which had signed a deal with the Iranian government to launch Iran’s first privately owned cellphone network, had the contract frozen by the mullahs in the Iranian Parliament because they were worried it might help the Turks and their foreign partners spy on Iran.

Why? High oil prices

The Journal quoted Ali Ansari, an Iran specialist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, as saying that for 10 years analysts had been writing about Iran’s need for economic reform. “In actual fact, the scenario is worse now,” said Mr. Ansari. “They have all this money with the high oil price, and they don’t need to do anything about reforming the economy.” Indeed, The Journal added, the conservative mullahs are feeling even more emboldened to argue that with high oil prices, Iran doesn’t need Western investment capital and should feel “free to pursue its nuclear power program without interference.”

Friedman then lays out the possible Vasco de Gama Projects, and the costs for not building them

This is a perfect example of the Bush energy policy at work, and the Bush energy policy is: “No Mullah Left Behind.”

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit’s automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is – as others have noted – financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?

I’ve blogged before on the oiltyrant nexus. We need to cut it. We need to force reform. We need to bring freedom to the oil despotisms of the world.

Friedman, Flit(tm), and Oil

Corner and Kill Friedman,” by “TM Lutas,” Flit(TM),, 5 February 2005.

Tom Friedman is reviving his fly me to the moon dream, and TM Lutas isn’t having any of it

In reality, productive reform requires more capital flowing into a society, not less.

If productive reform requires more capital, then we can only sanction regimes we have given up on transforming.

The spur of peaceful reform in South Africa was a growing international sanctions regime.

But more relevantly, why do the Gulf Emirates have better governments than mainland Arab states? It is because they have come to grips with limited oil. They realized they could no longer buy internal support from oil revenues.

Cornering a regime and killing off an economy leads people straight into the arms of the extremists, in this case the Islamists. Under crushing, punitive sanctions in the ’90s, Saddam started getting awfully religious for a secular tyrant. He changed the national flag to include a religious saying in arabic script. He famously gave enough blood to write out an entire Koran, and he also went on a mosque building spree with some really unusual architecture cropping up. If an authoritarian regime doesn’t have money to stay in power anymore, fanaticism is cheap, if dangerous.

This Geo-Green strategy is one that will put these societies in a corner and when they lash out at us (perhaps in another 9/11?) we’ll have to kill them off.

The Iraq analogy is poor. Oil is perfectly fungible and it is extremely hard to have an effective oil sanctions regime. Iraq subverted UN sanctions and our “allies” to buy loyal Sunni elements we are fighting now.

“Fanaticism” may be financially cheap, but it is very dangerous for the regime itself. Regimes guided by fanatics do not last. This is why there are so few of them, even in the Gap. And fanatics experiments with fanaticism have proven so dangerous (Salafist elements are complicated the Ba’ath 4GW war) it further undermines the “Fanaticism = Cheap” argument.

Instead of doing that, we need to lead them out of their current dead end and give the elite an exit strategy that makes lashing out to retain power highly unattractive.

If they wanted out of their end, a “shrink the Gap” GWOT would not be needed. We could rely on the Global Herd and Golden Straightjacket and all the other wonderful talk of the 1990s. But too many leaders do not want to lose power and too many societies cannot handle the content flows.

I don’t see how $18 a barrel oil is going to get us there.

Emerging Core states will require a lot of energy. This will require oil unless a disruptive technology is exploited. High prices would make that more likely. Why build a substitute when the original good is just as cheap?

Tom Friedman on Iraq

Ballots and Boycotts,” by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times,, 13 January 2005.

Tom Friedman is a genius. Author of both From Beirut to Jerusalem and The Lexus and the Olive Tree, his take is always fascinating. He so understands and explains the world than even people who disagree with him, or don’t even care about his beliefs, end up using his terminology.

This week he has a more practical piece in Nyt calling for the elections to be held as scheduled

It is on the basis of these rules that I totally disagree with those who argue that the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections should be postponed. Their main argument is that an Iraqi election that ensconces the Shiite majority in power, without any participation of the Sunni minority, will sow the seeds of civil war.

That is probably true – but we are already in a civil war in Iraq. That civil war was started by the Sunni Baathists, and their Islamist fascist allies from around the region, the minute the U.S. toppled Saddam. And they started that war not because they felt the Iraqi elections were going to be rigged, but because they knew they weren’t going to be rigged.

They started the war not to get their fair share of Iraqi power, but in hopes of retaining their unfair share. Under Saddam, Iraq’s Sunni minority, with only 20 percent of the population, ruled everyone. These fascist insurgents have never given politics a chance to work in Iraq because they don’t want it to work. That’s why they have never issued a list of demands. They don’t want people to see what they are really after, which is continued minority rule, Saddamism without Saddam. If that was my politics, I’d be wearing a ski mask over my head, too.