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Friedman: "9/11 Is Over"

The most linked article in the blogosphere is currently Thomas Friedman's New York Times column "9/11 Is Over," which can be accessed for free now.

9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 mine included has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.
Many arguments are similar to those Friedman made more than two years ago, see Atlantic Review post Europeans want "their" America back.

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SC on :

Well, I chuckled when I read Friedman's piece the other day; vintage Friedman. He writes, “9/11 has made us stupid”: Pretty definitive. He later writes in seeming seriousness, “I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans.” Now I am unaware that any candidate for President, US Senate or House, or State Senator or Representative, City, County . . . well, of anyone actually, who has pledged themselves to this gem of a platform item. He may be casting precious few votes next year, as I suspect there won’t be many making the “Friedman pledge”. It occurred to me that this might be the “stupid” Tom Friedman writing. However, this raises the larger question and the nub of my problem: How do I know when I am reading the “stupid” Tom Friedman in any of his columns past or present? Maybe Pinch was wise to keep ol’ Tom and his compatriots buttoned up for awhile behind the iron curtain of Times Select. However, I rather doubt that Friedman is sincere when he includes himself among the stupid. Friedman writes well enough and makes some good points even in this oped; but, over the years, I've found the experience of reading him to be like listening to a musician who plays just a few notes very well. After a time, it becomes boring. You have the sense in this piece of a man who longs for the world he knew in "From Beriut to Jerusalem" or "The Lexus and the Olive Tree". However that Fukayama end state no longer seems as clearly in view, I suspect.

Sue on :

Friedman: "If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can’t America?" I'm sorry, SC, but Friedman is not a good writer. This closing statement exemplifies his glib trademark method of argument-by-analogy. Disney World is nice because people have to pay a lot to get into the park, and then they have to pay a lot for food and services while they are there. If we are to follow Friedman's Disney World analogy, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (i.e. the ticket booths as Disney) should raise the admissions price (visa fees, etc.) to, say, $1000 per foreign "guest" to pay for the extra bureaucracy and law enforcement that this wonderful invisible-security state will require, because the amusement park employees (i.e. taxpayers) certainly don't want to cough up the money. Somehow I don't think that's quite what Friedman has in mind. He scores some real hits: yes, immigration and work visa regulations are a mess, and yes, our infrastructure is 50 years old and we have to face the huge expense and effort of replacing it (and we are in denial about this, I'm afraid). But all of these problems pre-dated 9/11.

Don S on :

I beg leave to disagree, Sue. Friedman is an excellent writer, but sometimes his eminent position as NY Times commentator (and probably the best one at that) leads him to write stupid things because he has to produce brilliance on demand weekly. Sometimes he fails - and sometimes he succeeds. If he stuck to writing books his income would decline but he'd avoid this kind of hooter. Just compare him with his colleague Krugman. Krugman is actually an excellent economist (or was one) and if he limited himself to what he knows and wrote onece a week he'd be within spitting distance of my favorite columnist of them all - Robert Samuelson of the WaPo. Instead Krugman writes mostly about politics - and poorly. A great shame....

SC on :

Sue, While I agree with Don that Friedman is capable of good writing, I also agree with you that this was far from his best effort - and for substantially the same reasons you've identified. In a response to Joerg below, I expand upon that point and should have nodded in your direction when I wrote for having made several of the same points here.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ SC "You have the sense in this piece of a man who longs for the world he knew in "From Beriut to Jerusalem"" Well, yes, but Friedman has seen war. The book you mentioned is based on his time in Beirut during the civil war. He describes how people have dinner parties in the middle of the civil war. There is a crazy normalcy. Perhaps his memories of Lebanese reactions to this civil war make him conclude that Americans have (over)reacted "stupidly" to 9/11. Perhaps he concludes that Americans have no right to use 9/11 as excuse any longer. I don't know. I might be reading too much into his piece.

SC on :

Joerg, In citing his two books, I was citing the time period in which they were written rather than the experiences that he had, for example, in Lebanon that formed that basis for "From Beriut to Jerusalem". Now you may be correct to think that his experience in Lebanon leads to think that America, in his words, has been made "stupid" in reaction to the attack on 9/11, but that might be a difficult case to make based on the content of this article. In part because he's not explicit in stating your thesis, but more because he's flying off in different directions, and not for the first time, I think, when addressing this topic. For example, he points to current problems with the travel industry due in part to increased security measures, but he also points to the opening of a Microsoft center in British Columbia and to infrastructure problems in Minneapolis and New York City. The first example certainly is related to process changes since 2001, mostly, I would argue, due to the massive reorganization of government that took place in coordination with creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security. The problems about which Microsoft complains, and the infrastructure needs and the problems in addressing those needs are symptomatic of long standing issues that predate 2001. The problems, in the particular case of infrastructure, have as much or more to do with political issues at the state and local level. Have these problems been exacerbated by the events since 2001. To some degree, perhaps. But, would Microsoft's problems and the infrastructure problems to which he refers be problems today in the absence of the 9/11 attacks? Most assuredly they would because globalization and its counter current would still be a problem for Microsoft in the first instance, and in the second, stuff deteriorates and people remain reluctant to finance the upgrades: Pretty ordinary dynamics, really. Friedman is experienced enough to know all of this. Which is why the column as a whole reads, for me, as if written as an extended cry of "Please, just make all of this go away."

Pat Patterson on :

So he's demanding a new hospital in Miami Beach for all the Cuban immigrants?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

David A. Bell, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, asks in the Los Angeles Times: "Was 9/11 really that bad?" His answer: "The attacks were a horrible act of mass murder, but history says we're overreacting:" [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/572-Responding-to-Al-Qaedas-Revival.html[/url]

Elisabeth Bathory on :

Joerg, are you trying to stimulate conversation by being outrageous? Who is David Bell?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. See link. I am just wondering if there are more and more folks who think that 9/11 is "over," but Americans did not get "over" it...

Pat Patterson on :

Only two soldiers, on both sides, were killed when the Confederacy seized Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor leading to the Civil War. Only 2,388 civilians and servicemen were killed at Pearl Harbor at the onset of America joining WWII. Both must be examples of America "overreacting" compared to the casualties to come?

Elisabeth Bathory on :

The point was the man is a non-entity as a public intellectual. Never heard of him. I followed the link and saw he is a contributor to the New Republic, which firmly marks his politics. It is common practice in American academic circles to take a radical stand against the perceived consenual opinion of the day to market oneself. Once you have a Ph.D, Joerg, you fight against hundreds of qualified applicants from a global talent pool for advancement and this struggle continues until you achieve your sinecure. There is no gradual professorial advancement of habilitation and professional acclimitatization. Makes for crazy stuff at times; there are more books published on great American politicans who may or may not have been a bender than I care to think of. To get "over" presupposes that Americans were suffering some psychic malady over the attacks that clouded the nation's collective judgment. Some case for that, but hardly consistent with the European meme of a nation traumatized you read in the Spiegel or FAZ, where housewives are afraid to go shopping b/c of Achmed selling pears on the corner. Friedman thinks the same thing, but that is not corroborated, in my experience, anywhere; this lapse into collective irrationality is a democratic mainstay for the far-left and Besserwisser. If Hilliary gets elected, American foreign policy is not going to change. Hilliary will be even more hawkish that Bill.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I am not a fan of Friedman either, but I think he is good in capturing certain trends among some groups in the US. He wrote about changes in the US after 9/11. He was one of the most outspoken Iraq war supporters that got published in the "liberal" NYT and appeared on TV all the time in run up to the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003. If a mainstream guy like Friedman says similar thinks to this US professor, then that's something. Besides, as I wrote, the Friedman piece is the most frequent linked news item according to Technorati. At least it was in the morning, when I last checked. If articles like Friedman's column were published in Germany they might be considered Anti-Americanism by many on the right in the US. "where housewives are afraid to go shopping b/c of Achmed selling pears on the corner." ???

Elisabeth Bathory on :

Joerg, Friedman has not been a mainstream commentator since 2004 when what once was a sane if opinated view-point morphed into a sadistic orgy of national self-flagellation—his artistic approximation of war facts and his continued use of tired democratic talking points eroded whatever credibility he might have had. Sadly since from Beirut to Jerusalem is a great primer for the complexities and insoluble hatreds of our beloved Middle East. Joerg-- Friedman is not an intellectual; he is a pundit. He gives good copy and is somewhat eloquent for the CNN/PBS roundtables. That’s a little snarky perhaps, but really how pedestrian was the whole world is flat shtick? It is an interesting working thesis, considering the huge number of global prerequisites that would have to taken place before this world of free competition was birthed. As for Friedman’s mentioning of intellectual to bolster his own ideas, that means nothing. The only school, in the continental sense, we have I can think of is the Chicago school. There is no Frankfurter Schule or disciples of so and so’s analytical historiography running around and presenting a solid, ideological front to a hostile, misunderstanding world. Clinton in ’95 at the height of PCness wanted to put a law professor by the name of Lani Granier on the Sup Ct bench. She’s a gender-obsessed neo-Marxist fanatic who wanted to institute shifting procedural and evidentiary paradigms based upon the party’s gender, race and economic situation (think PC Volksgericht). She made Bork look like Kennedy. Clinton threw her under the bus, when she became political inconvenient. Friedman is an opportunist. Only the remaining NYT readers and foreigners care.

David on :

"Only the remaining NYT readers and foreigners care" Last I checked, there were still more subscribers to the NYTimes than to the (Moonie)Washington Times. It never ceases to amaze me how the right-wing crazies think they are in the majority, when ever poll in the US shows the exact opposite. Elizabeth, did you happen to check Bush's lastest approval numbers? Positively Nixonian....

Elisabeth Bathory on :

Check the numbers, David, pre-Pinch and currently. If Pinch, didnt have a golden share option the institutional investors would have taken the company away from him. The demise of 'Times select' ring a bell. By any objective measure, the NYT is a ghost of its former self and I greatly resent the fact that Pinch ran into the ground my home paper. What does Bush have to do with anything? Why are the two connected in your mind? Who reads the WaTimes? No one mentioned politics but you--other than Lani Granier.

Mr. Bingley on :

If Bush at 27% or so shows just how incompetent he is, what does the 18% approval rating for the Democrat-controlled Congress say for them?

Pat Patterson on :

Since the WSJ and USA Today have substantially more subscribers than the NYT then by David's reasoning we should only rely on them for our news.

influx on :

Also curious about the Achmed comment. Where did you get that? Housewives in Germany are afraid to go shopping? That's just nonsense. If you have to make up stuff like that, it doesn't shed too bright a light on the rest of the things you have to say.

Elisabeth Bathory on :

Influx--I did not say that Germans were afraid of Achmed on the corner. What I said was that the Pitzkes of the world at one time attempted to portray the American public as traumatized and security-obsessed to the point where they would alter their routines to avoid any contact with Muslims. They stopped the characterization when Iraq happened, but I found it curious.

influx on :

You're right, I misread your comment, my bad. I am still curious why you chose to lump together Der Spiegel and the FAZ. Did they both print articles suggesting that US Americans are scared of Muslims, to the point where they are afraid of leaving their houses?

Elisabeth Bathory on :

Influx- there were not articles expressly addressing the topic, but for a period of 18th months before the brou-haa at the SC and Schroeder’s grandstanding filled the headlines. I remember FAZ because previously I had always held it in high regard and felt really miffed at their degeneracy into yellow journalism. Now an NZZ man

Kevin Sampson on :

I note that Friedman fails to address what to do with the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Ramzi bin Al Shibh. ‘I am just wondering if there are more and more folks who think that 9/11 is "over," but Americans did not get "over" it...’ Maybe they need to “get over” the fact that “their” America was one of the casualties of 9/11.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"“their” America was one of the casualties of 9/11." Doesn't that mean that the terrorists won?

VinceTN on :

A new America that takes the killing to their countries? That has thrown a wrench into all the decadent incompetent machinery of the UN/EU? No. Terrorists didn't win. There can be more than one loser in all this. Lets say the terrorists and the socialists(fey communists) have both lost in the face of a much more awakened America. America has lost a past sense of well being but you can't have everything. Not in this bitter and psychotic world, anyway. If everyone got to start over, would the terrorists still attack the world trade center? Would "intellectuals" in Europe and America still be optimistic that this attack would finally humble America and bring her crawling to the UN in submission? Islamists are riled but still humiliated and the UN and EU are impotent and rattled. As the Spartans said in 300. "Good start." Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Imperial Japan, Japan Inc - how many nations/forces have promised to kick our ass and destroy the American dream? Where are they now? I know, China is the Great Yellow Hope of the Left but Japan looked universal and dominating - twice! The EU? The Arabists? Keep 'em coming children.

Kevin Sampson on :

LOL The Japanese delivered a similar paradigm shift at Pearl Harbor, do you think they won?

Don S on :

"Doesn't that mean that the terrorists won?" No. One of the iron rules of life is 'adapt or die', but frequently this argument is trotted out to against all or some adaptation. In this POV, the only way to 'win' is not to react to the events on the ground.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Juan Cole's point is similar to mine: "The column is significant because it argues that Bushism- Cheneyism is bad for business. The United States is the world's foremost business society, and virtually everything in the society (low taxes on the wealthy, no health care for the middle classes and poor, no protections for labor organizers, favoring of certain kinds of international trade over lower middle class job security, etc.) is arranged for the convenience of the business classes. If Friedman's conviction becomes widespread in that community, the pressures to abandon the 'War on Terror' will be irresistible." Source: [url=http://www.juancole.com/2007/09/end-of-bonapartism-and-war-on-terror.html][u]Informed Comment: The End of Bonapartism and the War on Terror[/u][/url]

ADMIN on :

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