Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thomas Friedman, on the Election of Barack Obama as President

by Hersch Bernkovsky

Thomas L. Friedman starts his column, “Show Me the Money” (published in the New York Times on November 9, 2008) in the fashion of a puff piece: “It is ... a blessing that so many people in so many places [the whole wide world over] see something of themselves reflected in Obama, whether in the color of his skin, the religion of his father, his African heritage, his being raised by a single mother or his childhood of poverty. And that ensures that Obama will probably have a longer than usual honeymoon with the world.”

But he immediately dashes what seems to be uncontained exuberance with a quick dose of, can call for a moment of, reality: “But I wouldn’t exaggerate it. The minute Obama has to exercise U.S. military power somewhere in the world, you can be sure that he will get blowback.” Mr. Friedman points out that, due to “... his biography, demeanor and willingness to at least test a regime like Iran’s with diplomacy ...” Mr. Obama will be “... more difficult to demonize than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.” In support of this, Mr. Friedman quotes Mr. Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment who asks, “How are you going to implore crowds to chant ‘Death to Barack Hussein Obama’?” (That question makes reference to the famous Iranian chant from the time of the seizure and holding of hostages from the US Embassy in Iran, “Carter, Carter nabudas.”)

But Mr. Friedman knows that eventually, it will be possible. Addressing the world, he says, “Show me the money!” He again bursts the celebratory balloon, “Don’t just show me the love. Don’t just give me the smiles. Your love is fickle and, as I said, it will last about as long as the first Obama airstrike against an Al Qaeda position in Pakistan.” Knowing that Russia, China, Venezuela, the Taliban, Iran, and others are not going to forestall testing President Obama, his resolve and his foreign policy.

And he calls on America’s allies, “... show me the money. Show me that you are ready to be Obama stakeholders, not free-riders — stakeholders in what will be expensive and difficult initiatives by the Obama administration to keep the world stable and free at a time when we have fewer resources.”

Then, perhaps naively, he states that “... surely everyone in the world has an interest in helping Obama, who opposed the [invasion of Iraq], bring it to a decent and stable end, especially now that there is a chance that Iraq could emerge as the first democracy, albeit messy, in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.” Yet there is no proof whatsoever that “everyone in the world” has such an interest. Does Iran have such an interest, or does it have an interest in instability in that area? Does Iran really have an interest in seeing the establishment of a stable democracy on its borders?

In closing, he again admonishes America’s allies, “... thanks for your applause for our new president.... If you want Obama to succeed, though, don’t just show us the love, show us the money. Show us the troops. Show us the diplomatic effort. Show us the economic partnership. Show us something more than a fresh smile. Because freedom is not free and your excuse for doing less than you could is leaving town in January.”

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