Jul
01
2006

Tom Friedman's Flexible Deadlines

The long six months in Iraq

New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman is considered by many of his media colleagues to be one of the wisest observers of international affairs. “You have a global brain, my friend,” MSNBC host Chris Matthews once told Friedman (4/21/05). “You’re amazing. You amaze me every time you write a book.”

Such praise is not uncommon. Friedman’s appeal seems to rest on his ability to discuss complex issues in the simplest possible terms. On a recent episode of MSNBC’s Hardball (5/11/06), for example, Friedman boiled down the intricacies of the Iraq situation into a make-or-break deadline: “Well, I think that we’re going to find out, Chris, in the next year to six months—probably sooner—whether a decent outcome is possible there, and I think we’re going to have to just let this play out.”

That confident prediction would seem a lot more insightful, however, if Friedman hadn’t been making essentially the same forecast almost since the beginning of the Iraq War. A review of Friedman’s punditry reveals a long series of similar do-or-die dates that never seem to get any closer.

“The next six months in Iraq—which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there—are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time.”

(New York Times, 11/30/03)

“What we’re gonna find out, Bob, in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war.”

(CBS’s Face the Nation, 10/3/04)

“Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won’t be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile.”

(New York Times, 11/28/04)

“I think we’re in the end game now. . . . I think we’re in a six-month window here where it’s going to become very clear and this is all going to pre-empt, I think, the next congressional election—that’s my own feeling— let alone the presidential one.”

(NBC’s Meet the Press, 9/25/05)

“Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won’t, then we are wasting our time.”

(New York Times, 9/28/05)

“We’ve teed up this situation for Iraqis, and I think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse into three parts or more or whether it’s going to come together.” (CBS’s Face the Nation, 12/18/05)

“We’re at the beginning of, I think, the decisive I would say six months in Iraq, OK, because I feel like this election—you know, I felt from the beginning Iraq was going to be ultimately, Charlie, what Iraqis make of it.”

(PBS’s Charlie Rose Show, 12/20/05)

“The only thing I am certain of is that in the wake of this election, Iraq will be what Iraqis make of it—and the next six months will tell us a lot. I remain guardedly hopeful.”

(New York Times, 12/21/05)

“I think that we’re going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding—in which case, I think the American people as a whole will want to play it out—or whether it really is a fool’s errand.”

(Oprah Winfrey Show, 1/23/06)

“I think we’re in the end game there, in the next three to six months, Bob. We’ve got for the first time an Iraqi government elected on the basis of an Iraqi constitution. Either they’re going to produce the kind of inclusive consensual government that we aspire to in the near term, in which case America will stick with it, or they’re not, in which case I think the bottom’s going to fall out.”

(CBS, 1/31/06)

“I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq.”

(NBC’s Today, 3/2/06)

“One way or another, I think we’re in the end game in the sense it’s going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there’s an Iraq there worth investing in. And that is something only Iraqis can tell us.” (CNN, 4/23/06)