That's what Chris Floyd calls it at Empire Burlesque. Friedman's column appears in today's Star Tribune and start out lamenting those idiot Iraqis, who can't even seem to run a civil war!
Here is the central truth about Iraq today: This country is so broken it can’t even have a proper civil war.
Oh, Tom! You're such a card.
This column was printed in Thursday's NYT, and it is reproduced at the foot of the Empire Burlesque link above. (You can't get it from the Strib site, and you need a subscription to read it behind the NYT firewall.)
Since this stinker has been out for a while, some of the blogosphere's lesser lights (kidding), like Chris Floyd above, and Glenn Greenwald here and here, have already commented at length. Spot urges you, boys and girls, to read what Floyd and Greenwald have to say.
Friedman continues in his column:
On Feb. 12, 2003, before the war, I wrote a column offering what I called my “pottery store” rule for Iraq: “You break it, you own it.” It was not an argument against the war, but rather a cautionary note about the need to do it with allies, because transforming Iraq would be such a huge undertaking. (Colin Powell later picked up on this and used the phrase to try to get President Bush to act with more caution, but Mr. Bush did not heed Mr. Powell’s advice.)
But my Pottery Barn rule was wrong, because Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there — broken, it seems, by 1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism, three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule, and a crippling decade of U.N. sanctions. It was held together only by Saddam’s iron fist. Had we properly occupied the country, and begun political therapy, it is possible an American iron fist could have held Iraq together long enough to put it on a new course. But instead we created a vacuum by not deploying enough troops.
Did Rudyard Kipling have a moustache like Tom? Why Spot believes he did:
Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
This is, of course, the first stanza of White Man's Burden, a poem that Kipling wrote on the takover of the Phillipines by the US in the Spanish American War.
Here's what Chris Floyd has to say about Friedman and his pottery store rule:
Yes, yes, the "Pottery Barn Rule" says that if we are responsible for those broken pieces, then we own them. But never let it be said that Friedman lacks the moral courage and mental elasticity to admit that he is wrong. Not about his advocacy of the war, of course. Nor about the idea that murdering 600,000 civilians (and counting) is a jim-dandy way to advance "progressive politics or democracy." Heavens to Betsy my word, no. All of that still goes, and we can only hope to see this course followed again elsewhere, and soon -- and done right this time. No, what Tom manfully admits is wrong is his "Pottery Barn Rule" itself. It turns out that "Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there." So none of what has happened is our fault. The blame lies with those "1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism." (So much more corrosive than the European authoritarianism that overlaid the White-Folk homeland for, oh, say 3,000 years or so.) The blame lies with "three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule" -- that would be the Sunni Baathist rule that was put in place by means of not one but two CIA-assisted coups, and maintained with lavish help from Ronald Reagan and George Humpty Dumpty Bush. The blame also lies, it seems, with a "crippling decade of UN sanctions," screwed on ever tighter by those champions of humanitarian intervention, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
Spot read somewhere (he can't find a link, but he thinks the author was Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution) that there are three stages in any imperial initiative: first, my God, we must help these people; second, inexplicably, these people don't seem to want our help; and third, we must kill these people. Friedman is clearly at stage three.
It is fortunate that historians will have Friedman's scribbling in "the newspaper of record" to help them understand the thinking behind one of, if not the, premier foreign policy blunders of American history.