Friday, January 12, 2007

Friedman on the Surge

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman tells us what it should take to get American's to support the President's surge:

My reaction to the president’s speech was to recall a line from Bill Maher’s book about the war against terrorists: “Make them fight all of us.”

Mr. President, you want a surge? I’ll surge. I’ll surge on the condition that you once and for all enlist the entire American people in this war effort, and stop putting it all on the shoulders of 130,000 military families, and now 20,000 more. I’ll surge on the condition that you make them fight all of us — and that means a real energy policy, with a real gasoline tax, that ends our addiction to oil, shrinks the flow of petro-dollars to bad actors and makes America the world’s leader in conservation.

But please, Mr. President, stop insulting our intelligence by telling us that this is the “decisive ideological struggle of our time,” but we’re going to put the whole burden of victory on 150,000 U.S. soldiers...

You need to tell Iraqis that by calling for a surge in troops you’re giving them one last chance to reconcile, otherwise we’re gone by Dec. 1. And you need to tell Americans that you’re creating a $45-a-barrel floor price for imported oil, so investors can safely finance alternatives without worrying that they’ll be undercut by OPEC.

By not setting a hard date to leave Iraq, we are only putting a floor under bad behavior and allowing Iraqi leaders to pay wholesale, not retail, for their tribal politics. If Sunnis or Shiites want it “all” in Iraq, they have to pay for it all...

And by not setting a hard floor price for oil to promote alternative energy, we are only helping to subsidize bad governance by Arab leaders toward their people and bad behavior by Americans toward the climate.

Make them fight all of us, Mr. President, or don’t do it at all! If we made ourselves energy independent, we would bring down global oil prices, which would not only shrink the resources for mischief by our enemies and limit Saudi Arabia’s ability to transform Islam all over the world into its most intolerant Wahhabi form, but also, more important, would force the Arab world to reform. It would force Arab leaders, including Iraqis, to organize their societies in ways that would tap their people, not just their oil wells — whether our troops were there or not. Also, if the rest of the world saw all of us sacrificing to win this war, we might actually be able to enlist them to help a little.

Friedman is one of those who supported the war and now blames the President for bungling the war effort. The war effort has certainly been mismanaged in every possible way, but we should have never gone to war in the first place. And for all of his globe-trotting inspired expertise on the Middle East, Friedman has been wildly naive about the possibility of transforming Iraq and the Middle East into functioning democracies. Still, this post gets it right about what it would have taken to make something salvageable come out of the whole operation: clear deadlines with clear markers for the Iraqis, and most importantly, a call for sacrifice from all Americans and a war-footing-like effort to get us off Middle East oil once and for all. But it is too late now.

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