Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tom Friedman and the elite point of view, revisited

Tom Friedman had another column out this week on Communist China - although it was somewhat disguised as a rant against the "War on Terror." Friedman makes it clear he would simply prefer the war go away; I prefer the term Wahabbist-Ba'athist-Khomeinist War, but that's not entirely relevant here. More to the point, Friedman's column reveals two things: first, the viewpoint of the Washington "elite" - which usually is very close to his own thinking - and second, the complete ignorance he, and they, have of the world around them.

We'll begin with an issue I normally don't discuss - the chimera of "energy independence." Friedman insists that "nothing would make us more secure" than becoming "independent of imported oil." This is a near-universal error among the chattering classes - and, sadly, much of the American people. It is, however, based on two seriously mistaken assumptions. The first is that most of America's oil imports come from the Middle East, and therefore enabling our enemies (the Wahabbists, Ba'athists, and Khomeinists, hence the term I use for this war). In fact, the our largest source of foreign oil has been - for six years and counting - Canada. Moreover, if present trends continue, by mid-decade the Great White North will export more oil to us than all of the Middle Eastern nations put together.

Secondly, and far more troubling, is Friedman's ignorance (shared by far too many people) of just where al Qaeda has received support over the years. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party has been an armer or funder of the Iranian mullahcracy, al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and Stalinist North Korea. Yet for some reason, Friedman ignores this, and he's not alone. Hardly anyone in the corridors of power in the free world have paid proper attention to the role the CCP has played in this war - namely, as a benefactor of our enemies. Then again, if more of them accepted the fact that it is a war, they might pay more attention.

The important point is this: the United States of America could stop importing oil tomorrow, and it wouldn't even slow our enemies down. It could, however, knock the Canadian economy back into recession. Good thinking there, Tom!

Having gotten so much about the geopolitical realities of the world wrong, Friedman's other mistakes really shouldn't surprise. Still, amidst the wreckage, there is one jaw-dropper:

Has anyone noticed the most important peace breakthrough on the planet in the last two years? It’s right here: the new calm in the Strait of Taiwan. For decades, this was considered the most dangerous place on earth, with Taiwan and China pointing missiles at each other on hair triggers. Well, over the past two years, China and Taiwan have reached a quiet rapprochement — on their own. No special envoys or shuttling secretaries of state. Yes, our Navy was a critical stabilizer. But they worked it out. They realized their own interdependence. The result: a new web of economic ties, direct flights and student exchanges.

A key reason is that Taiwan has no oil, no natural resources. It’s a barren rock with 23 million people who, through hard work, have amassed the fourth-largest foreign currency reserves in the world. They got rich digging inside themselves, unlocking their entrepreneurs, not digging for oil. They took responsibility. They got rich by asking: “How do I improve myself?” Not by declaring: “It’s all somebody else’s fault. Give me a handout.”

So many errors, so little time.

First of all, despite the sweet talk of Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao, the CCP is still aiming hundreds of missiles at Taiwan. The island democracy is just as threatened today as it was before Ma was elected two years ago. In fact, the Taiwanese people themselves seem to understand that better than their President - confronted with Ma's rose-colored-glasses policy, they have actually done the unthinkable and resurrected the much-maligned Democratic Progressive Party as a functioning opposition.

More to the point, the Taiwanese people have, in fact, depended upon the United States for decades. Two generations ago, President Eisenhower threatened nuclear war with Mao Zedong to protect Taiwan. A quarter-century later, the Taiwan Relations Act compelled America to ensure Taiwan had the ability and strength to defend itself.

I don't want to be too hard on Tom. He seems to be coming to the realization (however slowly), that the CCP is a genuine threat. He's not there yet, but I can see him making the journey. Unfortunately, his ignorance of the globe's past and present is hindering his ability to make the trip. More ominously, most of the free world's decision makers have the same blind spots that he does. That is a problem the electorates (i.e., you and me) need to fix - and quickly.

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