Thomas Friedman

Thomas Lauren Friedman (born July 20, 1953) is an American journalist, columnist and author. He is an op-ed contributor to The New York Times, whose column appears twice weekly and mainly addresses topics on foreign affairs. Friedman is known for supporting a compromise resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, modernization of the Arab world, environmentalism and globalization. Although an early supporter of the invasion of Iraq, he later became an outspoken critic of the war and the Bush administration.


Thomas Friedman was born in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. As a child, he once attended a Jewish summer camp where Abe Foxman was a counselor. He attended St. Louis Park High School, where he wrote articles for his school's newspaper, including one in which he interviewed Ariel Sharon, an Israeli general who later became Prime Minister of Israel. Friedman graduated in 1971.

In 1975, Friedman received a bachelor of arts in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University, where he first arrived as a transfer student in 1973. He then attended St Antony's College at the University of Oxford on a Marshall scholarship, earning an M.Phil. in Middle Eastern studies. He names Professor Albert Hourani among his important academic influences.

Friedman's wife, Ann, is a graduate of Stanford University. Her father, Matthew Bucksbaum, is the chairman of the board of General Growth Properties, the real estate development group that he co-founded with his brother in 1954. The Bucksbaums helped pioneer the development of shopping centers in the United States. As of 2007, Forbes estimated the Bucksbaum family's assets at $4.1 billion, including about 18.6 million square meters of mall space.

Ann and Thomas Friedman live in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The July 2006 issue of Washingtonian reported that they own "a palatial house, currently valued at $9.3 million, on a 7½-acre parcel just blocks from I-495 and Bethesda Country Club." They have two daughters: Orly Friedman (b. 1985), who attended Yale University; and Natalie Friedman (b. 1988), who attends Williams College. Both were born in Israel while Friedman served as a correspondent for The New York Times. Friedman has dedicated many of his published works to his daughters.


Upon graduating, Friedman joined the London bureau of United Press International. He was dispatched a year later to Beirut, where he stayed until 1981. He was then hired by The New York Times as a reporter, and was redispatched to Beirut at the start of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Friedman's coverage of the war, particularly the Sabra and Shatila massacre, won him the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. With David K. Shipler, he also won the 1982 George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting.

He was assigned to Jerusalem from 1984 to 1988, and received a second Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the First Palestinian Intifada. Afterwards he wrote a book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, describing his experiences in the Middle East.

Friedman covered Secretary of State James Baker during the administration of United States President George H. W. Bush. Following the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, he became the White House correspondent for the Times. In 1994, he began to write more about foreign policy and economics, and moved to the op-ed page of The New York Times the following year as a foreign affairs columnist.

Friedman is the recipient of the 2004 Overseas Press Club Award for lifetime achievement, and has been named to the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Opinion and stances


Friedman first discussed his views on globalization in the 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. In 2004, a visit to Bangalore and Shanghai gave Friedman new insights into the continuing trends of globalization and the forces behind the process, leading him to write a follow-up analysis, The World Is Flat.

One of Friedman's theses is that individual countries must sacrifice some degree of economic sovereignty to global institutions (such as capital markets and multinational corporations), a situation he has termed the "golden straightjacket".

While Friedman is an advocate of globalization, he also points out (in The Lexus and the Olive Tree) the need for a country to preserve its local traditions, a process he termed 'glocalization', although the term was already in use by most social anthropology theorists.

Friedman expresses a strong stance on America's need to become more energy independent and to lead in technologies concerning environmental compatibility. He believes this will cause the authoritarian rulers in the Middle East to be coerced out of power, as their petrodollar reserves are depleted, by a growing population of young people. He also believes this is the best way to spread stability and modernization in an autocratic and theocratic region. Friedman also argues that energy independence will strengthen America's economy by basing its energy infrastructure on domestic products (such as E85 and biodiesel), and ease the world tensions caused by burgeoning energy demand, exacerbated by emerging economies such as those of India and China.

David Sirota of the San Francisco Chronicle described Friedman as the "high priest" of free trade fundamentalism, in an article arguing for stronger trade barriers for the USA. The article quotes him as saying "I wrote a column supporting CAFTA. I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.

Opponents of free trade charge that Friedman does not consider the purchasing power of domestic labor as a key driver in economic output. However, Friedman argues that by exporting low-skill and low-wage jobs to foreign countries, more advanced and higher-skilled jobs will be freed up and made available for those displaced by the outsourcing. He theorizes that as long as those whose jobs are outsourced continue to further their education and specialize in their field, they will find better-paying and higher-skilled jobs.

He also views American immigration laws as too restrictive and damaging to economic output:

"It is pure idiocy that Congress will not open our borders -- as wide as possible -- to attract and keep the world's first-round intellectual draft choices in an age when everyone increasingly has the same innovation tools and the key differentiator is human talent."


After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Friedman's writing focused more on the threat of terrorism and the Middle East. He was awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary "for his clarity of vision, based on extensive reporting, in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat". These columns were collected and published in the book Longitudes and Attitudes. For a while, his reportings on post-9/11 topics led him to diverge from his prior interests on technological advances and globalization, until he began to research into The World Is Flat.

After the 7 July 2005 London bombings, Friedman called for the U.S. State Department to "shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears," create a quarterly "War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others." Friedman said the governmental speech monitoring should go beyond those who actually advocate violence, and also include what former State Department spokesperson Jamie Rubin calls "excuse makers." In his 25 July column, Friedman wrote against the "excuses" made by terrorists or apologists who blame their actions on third-party influences or pressures.

After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us...why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous. "It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism" Mr. Rubin said, "and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them."

In his September 30, 2007 column, Friedman declared that the era of "9/11 is over." Using the Giuliani campaign as a contrast, Friedman stated that he would support a candidate who was in tune with the post-9/11 world.

We can’t afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.

Kosovo War

During the 1999 NATO bombing in Yugoslavia, Friedman wrote the following in The New York Times:
"Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.
These statements were criticized by British media analysts David Edwards and David Cromwell, who wrote "The thrill of this for Friedman lies in discussing the devastation of a nation as if he were a salesman offering a range of services. Journalist Chris Floyd described the comments as "giddy cheerleading" and a "bone-chilling warning to the people of Serbia".

War in Iraq

Friedman supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, writing that the establishment of a democratic state in the Middle East would force other countries in the region to liberalize and modernize. In his February 9, 2003 column for The New York Times, Friedman also pointed to the lack of compliance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction:

The French position is utterly incoherent. The inspections have not worked yet, says Mr. de Villepin, because Saddam has not fully cooperated, and, therefore, we should triple the number of inspectors. But the inspections have failed not because of a shortage of inspectors. They have failed because of a shortage of compliance on Saddam's part, as the French know. The way you get that compliance out of a thug like Saddam is not by tripling the inspectors, but by tripling the threat that if he does not comply he will be faced with a U.N.-approved war.

In an interview with Charlie Rose in 2003, Friedman said:

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"

You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?

Well, Suck. On. This.

Since the invasion, Friedman has expressed alarm over the post-invasion conduct of the war by the George W. Bush administration. Nevertheless, until his piece dated August 4, 2006 (see below), his columns remained hopeful to the possibility of a positive conclusion to the Iraq conflict (although his optimism appeared to steadily diminish as the conflict continued).

In January 2004, he participated in a forum on called "Liberal Hawks Reconsider the Iraq War", in which he dismisses the justification for war based on Iraq's lack of compliance with the U.N. Resolutions:

The stated reason for the war was that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction that posed a long-term threat to America. I never bought this argument...

The WMD argument was hyped by George Bush and Tony Blair to try to turn a war of choice into a war of necessity.

Friedman wrote that regime change was the proper justification for the war:

The right reason for this war, as I argued before it started, was to oust Saddam's regime and partner with the Iraqi people to try to implement the Arab Human Development report's prescriptions in the heart of the Arab world. That report said the Arab world is falling off the globe because of a lack of freedom, women's empowerment, and modern education. The right reason for this war was to partner with Arab moderates in a long-term strategy of dehumiliation and redignification.

In his September 29 2005 column in The New York Times, Friedman entertained the idea of supporting the Kurds and Shias in a civil war against the Sunnis:

If they [the Sunnis] won't [come around], we should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind.

In his August 4, 2006 column for The New York Times, Friedman finally stated that the effort to transform Iraq by military invasion had failed, and that it was time for the United States to admit failure and disengage:

Whether for Bush reasons or Arab reasons, democracy is not emerging in Iraq, and we can't throw more good lives after good lives.

As of August 16, 2007, Friedman supports setting a date for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Controversies and criticisms

Edward Herman complains that Friedman uses denigrating remarks against Arabs and the Arab world:

Bill Bonner, the author of Empire of Debt, has said:

Some of Friedman's environmental critics, such as author Jeff Biggers, question Friedman's support of still undeveloped "clean coal" technology and coal mining as emblematic of Friedman's less than "green" commitment to renewable energy.

In his New York Times column in Jan. 2007, Friedman referred to coal as his "favorite green lump," during a visit to a strip mine in Montana.

In a commentary on Huffington Post, Biggers also questioned Friedman's early support for ethanol, despite environmental problems.

Some of Friedman's critics have claimed that he is biased in reporting facts:

He is also accused of inconsistency:

On April 22 2008, two Brown University students threw green colored pies at him as he began a lecture entitled, Hot, Flat and Crowded in order to protest his support of solutions to climate change including Carbon trading. One student was apprehended.

"The next six months"

Critics of Friedman's position on the Iraq War have noted his recurrent assertion that "the next six months" will prove critical in determining the outcome of the conflict. A study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting first pointed out this phenomenon in May 2006, citing 14 examples of Friedman declaring the next "few months" or "six months" as a decisive or critical period, dating from in November 2003, describing it as "a long series of similar do-or-die dates that never seem to get any closer.

In a live television interview aired June 11, 2006 on CNN, Howard Kurtz asked Friedman himself about the concept: "Now, I want to understand how a columnist's mind works when you take positions, because you were chided recently for writing several times in different occasions 'the next six months are crucial in Iraq', the next six months." Friedman responded, "the fact is that the outcome there is unclear, and I reflected that in my column. And I will continue to reflect.

The blogger Atrios coined the neologism "Friedman Unit" to refer to this unit of time in relation to Iraq, noting its use as a supposedly critical window of opportunity.

Michael Hirsh: Friedman an advocate for war crimes

In an interview on the radio program, The Young Turks, Michael Hirsh, an editor for Newsweek, said:

Published works

Friedman's books have seen considerable commercial success. His book The World Is Flat, was on the New York Times Best Seller list from its publication in April 2005 until May 2007. Since July 2006, the book has sold more than two million copies.


The Chapter 18 Project

Hot, Flat, and Crowded contains 17 chapters; Friedman has asked readers to submit ideas for the expanded edition's 18th chapter. He will use these ideas in a forthcoming expanded hardcover edition or the paperback edition. Users can submit their ideas and vote on others' ideas online


Friedman has also hosted several documentaries for the Discovery Channel from several locations around the world. In "Straddling the Fence" (2003), he visited the West Bank and spoke to Israelis and Palestinians about the Israeli West Bank barrier and its impact on their lives. Also in 2003, "Thomas L. Friedman Reporting: Searching for the Roots of 9/11" aired on the Discovery Times Channel. This program investigated the reason for Muslim hatred of the United States, and how the Sept. 11th attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon were viewed in the Muslim world.

In "The Other Side of Outsourcing" (2004), he visited a call centre in Bangalore, interviewing the young Indians working there, and then travelled to an impoverished rural part of India, where he debated the pros and cons of globalization with locals (this trip spawned his eventual best-selling book "The World is Flat").

In "Does Europe Hate Us?" (2005), Friedman travelled through Britain, France and Germany, talking with academics, journalists, Marshall and Rhodes scholars, young Muslims and others about the nature of the strained relationship between Europe and the United States.

"Addicted to Oil" (2006) premièred at the Silverdocs Film Festival at 5:30 PM on June 16, 2006, and aired on June 242006, at 10 p.m. ET on the Discovery Times Channel. In it he examined the geopolitical, economic, and environmental consequences of petroleum use and ways that green technologies such as alternative fuels and energy, efficiency, and conservation can reduce oil dependence.

In "Green: The New, Red, White and Blue" (2007) Friedman elaborates on the green technologies and efforts touched on in "Addicted to Oil" and in doing so attempts to redefine green energy as "geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic". He explores efforts by companies and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint and save money with conservation, efficiency, and technologies such as solar, wind, biomass, nuclear, and clean coal.


External links

Talks and interviews






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