Tom Friedman is the oracle of this crowd, the tormented fat kid with a wedgie who got smart in his high school years and figured out that all he had to do to be successful was shamelessly and relentlessly flatter his Greatest-Generation parents, stroke their outdated prejudices, sell them on the idea that the entire aim of the modernization process is the spreading of their amazing legacy through the use of space-age technology.
So he goes into America's sleepy suburbs with his seventies porn-star mustache and he titillates the book clubs full of bored fifty- and sixty-something housewives with tales of how the internet is going to turn Afghanistan into Iowa. The suburban guys he ropes in with a half-baked international policy analysis -- whats "going on" on "the Street," as Friedman usually puts it -- that he cleverly makes sound like the world's sexiest collection of stock tips: "So I was playing golf with the Saudi energy minister last week, and he told me..."
This is just a modern take on the same old bullshit rap that traveling salesmen all over America have been laying on wide-eyed yokels at 99 Steak Houses and Howard Johnsons hotel bars for decades: So I was having lunch with Jack Welch at the Four Seasons last week when I heard about this amazing opportunity... And these middle-manager types who live in Midwestern cubicles or in the bowels of some federal bureaucracy in Maryland eat it up; they buy every one of Friedman's books, treat his every word like gospel, and before you know it they're all talking about Israeli politics and "the situation" in Yemen or Turkey or wherever like they're experts.
This is as good a job at nailing Friedman's shtick as I've read. The sad thing is that I usually agree with where Friedman says we need to go as a nation, it's just that I virtually never agree with how he thinks we should get there. Today's column is a fine example. Friedman suggests that we need new alternative energy initiatives, but for those he is willing to trade surging in Iraq. What the fuck does A have to do with B? Especially when you're never going to get B.
Taibbi goes on to make this comparison about the surge. From Alternet:
The whole war has been characterized by this kind of behavior. The Americans continually make ghastly mistake after ghastly mistake, and they keep responding to their mistakes by digging down and seeking the aid of the same homespun American pseudo-folk wisdom that got them into this mess in the first place. Our foreign policy initiatives in the area resemble attempts to mend fences with a neighbor whose lawn has been mussed by bringing him a tuna casserole cooked specially by wifey; only in Iraq, when casserole-presenting Dad ends up with his eyes gouged out and his skull charred black, hanging upside down from a telephone wire and impaled on the shards of the casserole dish, the neighborhood committee convenes and... decides to bake a bigger casserole.