I heard China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, address an international conference here in Dalian, and what impressed me most was how boring it was — a straightforward recitation of the staggering economic progress China has made in the last two decades and the towering economic, political and environmental challenges it still faces.Yes, it would be just horrible to have an "isolationist" foreign policy -- you know, one where America's foreign policy doesn't involve decennial invasions of darker-skinned countries.
How nice it must be, I thought, to be a great power and be almost entirely focused on addressing your own domestic problems?
No, I have not gone isolationist. America has real enemies that China does not, and therefore we have to balance a global security role in places like the Middle East with domestic demands.
After 9/11, we tried to effect change in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world by trying to build a progressive government in Baghdad. There was, I believed, a strategic and moral logic for that. But the strategy failed, for a million different reasons...Reasons 1 through 999,990 being "it was a stupid fucking strategy, and Thomas Friedman was too stupid to see that from day 1." Reason 999,991 being that Friedman's description of this strategy cannot be accepted as gospel -- America's war aims are far, far too obscure to give them this most generous gloss. The alternative explanation -- that America wanted a friendly regime in Baghdad more than it cared about democracy, ice cream, and puppies is frankly just as supportable, given existing evidence.
Now, the actual good part of the column is that he explores what China is doing while America wastes blood and treasure in Iraq -- new energy research that has exploded in the last five years. Of course, one of the fundamental antiwar criticisms of Iraq was that it was a strategic distraction -- America has rivals in the world, and even some honest enemies, and wars cost money and lives, and maybe America shouldn't be wasting them with rivals waiting in the wings.
Thomas Friedman famously dismissed that by basically saying Iraqis had to be killed by the thousands because Afghanistan wasn't gratifying his American Imperialist ego enough.
And the rage returns....