York Times columnist Thomas Friedman outlined his support for U.S.
military action in Iraq and highlighted some of his suggestions
for the successful rebuilding of this pivotal Middle East country,
during the Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture Sept. 29 in Koury Center.
Pulitzer recipient told the audience of 2,000 that his support for
the war came after a great deal of personal struggle. He said that
while he did not believe the Bush administration's claims that Iraq
had weapons of mass destruction, the war was justified because regime
change is the best way to secure Iraq's future and it is one way
to help diminish the threat of terrorism.
that war was no way to midwife democracy in any country, yet I knew
that the Iraqi people alone had no chance of standing up against
the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein," Friedman said.
affairs columnist said western cultures' ignorance and lack of effective
grassroots policy in the Middle East were the impetus for the September
11 terrorist attacks and added that "doing nothing was not
how difficult it was for him to take a stand and defend the U.S.
military deployment in Iraq, saying that while his wife opposed
the war, he was bolstered in his decision to support it by letters
and e-mails from young people in the Middle East. "In the end,
those voices were probably that one percent that tipped me over,"
he said. "Every column was a struggle, but in the end, I let
hope triumph over experience."
the Middle East is a fertile recruiting ground for terrorist groups
like al Qaeda due to a wheel of consistent negativism that has held
that part of the world back in technology and economics. He said
the entire region is run by illegitimate, unelected leaders who
stay in power by limiting educational opportunities, stifling free
speech and progressive ideas, and limiting women's rights.
Laden finds his followers, Friedman said, by recruiting from "a
large pool of young, frustrated, angry, humiliated Arab youth. Always
remember that 9/11 was not about the poverty of money. It was about
the poverty of dignity."
the leaders of the 9/11 hijackings were in Europe shortly before
the attacks and experienced "cognitive dissonance." He
explained that these young people had been indoctrinated to believe
that their culture was superior to others, and found themselves
disappointed and confused when encountering a culture that was thriving
yet did not follow Islam. He said this made it easy for a powerful
personality such as Bin Laden to convince them to unleash terror
on America to "level the playing field."
terrorism one of the "three great bubbles" of the 1990s,
falling after the technology bubble and the Enron-corporate-ethics-trouble
bubble. He said the real reason we went to war with Iraq was to
"burst that bubble" and prevent terrorism from threatening
Iraq for one reason: because we could," Friedman said. "We
did burst that bubble and everyone in that neighborhood got the
message." The challenge now, he added, is to keep the terrorism
bubble from re-inflating. "Because if it re-inflates we will
have accomplished nothing at all."
How can this
be accomplished. Friedman proposed his ideas, saying that first,
Arab leaders need to establish and support progressive Islamic governments.
"We need a war within Islam. We cannot fight the war of ideas
with Osama bin Laden. Without that vision there will be no war of
ideas within Islam." Second, Friedman said, we have to be "the
very best global citizens we can be." The U.S. cannot continue
to oppose environmental reforms and other key global movements and
expect the support of other nations in the war against terrorism.
Third, he said, the U.S. must help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, which Friedman called "toxic" and a threat to
Israel and American interests in the Middle East. And his final
point: America needs to "get back to who we are. Since 9/11,
we've gotten into the habit of exporting our fears and not our hopes.
As a result we are importing everyone else's fear back."
critical of the Bush administration's pre- and post-war planning,
which he called "pathetic." The Iraq the U.S. inherited
was more impoverished than our government projected. "Folks,
we defeated the Flintstones and we inherited Bedrock," he said.
"We have dug ourselves into a mighty, mighty deep hole."
He said the U.S. must spend the billions needed to build a strong
technology, education, water and power infrastructure in Iraq in
order to keep the terrorism bubble deflated.
He added that
the way America is viewed by the world in the future will depend
on what happens in Iraq. "We have got to get Iraq back,"
he said. "I am an optimist, and I'm still an optimist about
said liberals and conservatives must join forces to save Iraq to
ensure the safety of future generations.
a long-term project," he said. "I supported this war for
(Compiled from University Relations
and student reports.)