Saturday, 8 March 2003

Friedman on Russert

Tom Friedman was on the CNBC Tim Russert show, not to be confused with Meet The Press, this evening. I was only paying half-attention (I was fighting with the modem on my laptop, which seems to not like this hotel's phone line), but it was quite an interesting interview. At points, Friedman sounded like Steven Den Beste, for example when he described the existing regimes in the region as “failures.”

However, Friedman was critical of the administration for failing to make the case for war, and described the upcoming conflict as “the most elite-driven war in American history.” On that point, I'm not sure any war in American history hasn't been driven by elites, with the possible exception of the Indian wars of the 19th century. Absent a direct threat to America's borders, I'm not sure a war driven by mass opinion is likely.

Having said that, I do think the Iraq war is probably about the hardest war to explain to the American public; the underlying theory — using Iraq as a waypoint to establishing a stable order in the Middle East — doesn't collapse to a nice soundbite, and the surface justifications (the tenuous links from Saddam Hussein to terror, the human rights situation within Iraq, the need for WMD disarmament, Iraq's pattern of evasion with the U.N.) don't make a clear-cut case for going to war. On the other hand, Kosovo exhibited many of the same characteristics, but it too was very elite-driven.