Thomas Friedman

American journalist and author

Thomas Lauren Friedman (born July 20, 1953) is an American journalist and columnist who joined The New York Times in 1981.

Thomas Lauren Friedman in 2005


After two years of traveling almost exclusively to Western Europe and the Middle East, Poland feels like a geopolitical spa. I visited here for just three days and got two years of anti-American bruises massaged out of me.
  • Only if you give the Palestinians something to lose is there a hope that they will agree to moderate their demands.… I believe that as soon as Ahmed has a seat in the bus, he will limit his demands.
    • The New York Times (10 December 1986).
  • Sooner or later, Mr. Bush argued, sanctions would force Mr. Hussein's generals to bring him down, and then Washington would have the best of all worlds: an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein.
  • 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.
  • No two countries that both have a McDonald's have ever fought a war against each other.... The question raised by the McDonald's example is whether there is a tip-over point at which a country, by integrating with the global economy, opening itself up to foreign investment and empowering its consumers, permanently restricts its capacity for troublemaking and promotes gradual democratization and widening peace.
  • The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
  • After two years of traveling almost exclusively to Western Europe and the Middle East, Poland feels like a geopolitical spa. I visited here for just three days and got two years of anti-American bruises massaged out of me. Get this: people here actually tell you they like America—without whispering. What has gotten into these people? Have all their subscriptions to Le Monde Diplomatique expired? Haven't they gotten the word from Berlin and Paris? No, they haven't. In fact, Poland is the antidote to European anti-Americanism. Poland is to France what Advil is to a pain in the neck. Or as Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign affairs specialist, remarked after visiting Poland: "Poland is the most pro-American country in the world—including the United States."
  • We need to send the message that anyone who orders suicide bombings against Americans, or protects those who do, commits suicide himself. And U.S. marines will search every cave in Afghanistan to make that principle stick. You order, you die—absolutely, positively, you die.
  • Reading Europe's press, it is really reassuring to see how warmly Europeans have embraced President Bush's formulation that an "axis of evil" threatens world peace. There's only one small problem. President Bush thinks the axis of evil is Iran, Iraq and North Korea, and the Europeans think it's Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Condi Rice.
  • You win the presidency by connecting with the American people's gut insecurities and aspirations. You win with a concept. The concept I'd argue for is "neoliberalism." More Americans today are natural neolibs, than neocons. Neoliberals believe in a muscular foreign policy and a credible defense budget, but also a prudent fiscal policy that balances taxes, deficit reduction and government services.
  • We needed to go over there, basically, and take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble.… What they [Muslims] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying "Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we're just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this!" That, Charlie, is what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia! It was part of that bubble. We could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.
  • Now we've entered Globalization 3.0, and it is shrinking the world from size small to a size tiny.
    • "Small and Smaller". The New York Times. March 4, 2004. Retrieved on November 13, 2007. 
  • I was speaking out in Minnesota—my hometown, in fact—and a guy stood up in the audience, said, "Mr. Friedman, is there any free trade agreement you’d oppose?" I said, "No, absolutely not." I said, "You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade."
    • Meet the Press (23 July 2006), referring to the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
  • The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.
  • One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.
  • The only engine big enough to impact Mother Nature is Father Greed.
    • "Off to the Races". The New York Times. December 19, 2009. Retrieved on December 22, 2009. 
  • You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century—when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all—and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?

"The next … months" in Iraq

  • 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.
  • What I absolutely don't understand is just at the moment when we finally have a UN-approved Iraqi-caretaker government made up of—I know a lot of these guys—reasonably decent people and more than reasonably decent people, everyone wants to declare it's over. I don't get it. It might be over in a week, it might be over in a month, it might be over in six months, but what's the rush? Can we let this play out, please?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Unidentified CBS program (January 31, 2006), quoted in American Armageddon (2008) by Craig Unger.
  • 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.
  • Can Iraqis get this government together? If they do, I think the American public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent, stable Iraq. But if they don't, then I think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole Iraq endeavor. So 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.
  • 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.

Quotes about Friedman

  • He won two Pulitzer prizes. He won for balanced and informed coverage. You may have noticed that it was announced on April Fools' Day, which was not by accident. For years the guy has been covering up for Israel, falsifying facts. When the Israeli press comes out with headlines saying "Arafat Calls for Negotiations, Peres Refuses", as they did in December of 1986, Tom Friedman will choose that occasion to write one of his many articles saying that Peace Now is losing credibility because there is no counterpart in the Arab World.
  • One might ask what the reaction would be if a prominent journalist urged South Africans to "give Sambo a seat in the bus," or proposed that Jews be granted something to lose, because "if you give Hymie a seat in the bus, he may limit his demands." Promotion to chief diplomatic correspondent, perhaps?
  • "green growth" advocates such as Thomas Friedman tell us that the process of developing new green technologies and installing green infrastructure can provide a huge economic boost, sending GDP soaring and generating the wealth needed to "make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive, and more secure."
    • Naomi Klein On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (2019)
  • "My heart is with the greens," Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times. "But my head says you can't transform our energy system and our social/economic one at scale all at once. We have to prioritize energy/climate. Because for the environment, later will be too late. Later is officially over." This assumes that the social/economic components of the Green New Deal are weighing it down. In fact, they are precisely what is lifting it up.
    • Naomi Klein On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (2019)
  • Energy independence is nice, but you need a planet to be energy independent on. Mysteriously enough, this seems to be a particularly hard point for smart people to grasp. Even in the wake of the disastrous Senate non-vote, the Nature Conservancy's climate expert told New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, "We have to take climate change out of the atmosphere, bring it down to earth, and show how it matters in people's everyday lives." Translation: ordinary average people can't possibly recognize the real stakes here, so let's put it in language they can understand, which is about their most immediate interests. It's both untrue, as I'll show below, and incredibly patronizing. It is, however, exactly what we've been doing for a decade and, clearly, It Does Not Work.
  • how do you control the oil? Nobody puts it more any than the New York Timer columnist Thomas Friedman. In an article called "Craziness Pays," he says the US has to make clear to Iraq and U.S. allies that...America will use force, without negotiation, hesitation, or UN approval." His advice was well taken. In the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the almost daily humiliation the U.S. government heaps on the UN. In his book on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman says, "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas.... And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps."
  • Thomas Friedman does not get [metaphors] right even by accident. It's not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It's that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it's absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of dialogue; Friedman will have him spout it.
  • Israel is now waging a war against civilians, pure and simple, although you will never hear it put that way in the United States. This is a racist war and, in its strategy and tactics, a colonial one as well. People are being killed and made to suffer disproportionately because they are not Jews. What an irony! Yet CNN never refers to “occupied” territories (always rather to “violence in Israel,” as if the main battlefields were the concert halls and cafés of Tel Aviv and not in fact the ghettos and besieged refugee camps of Palestine that have already been surrounded by no less than 150 illegal Israeli settlements). For the past ten years, the great fraud of Oslo was foisted on the world by the United States, with hardly an awareness that only 18 percent of the West Bank was given up, and 60 percent of Gaza. No one knows geography, and it’s better not to know, since the reality on the ground is so astonishing, considering the verbal hoopla and self-congratulation.
    And that pseudo-pundit—the insufferably conceited Thomas Friedman—still has the gall to say that “Arab TV” shows one-sided pictures, as if “Arab TV” should be showing things from Israel’s point of view the way CNN does, with “Mideast violence” the catchall word for the ethnic cleansing that Israel is wreaking on the Palestinians in their ghettos and camps. Has Friedman (or CNN, for that matter) ever tried to point out the difference between an attacking army fighting a colonial war on the territory of the people it has occupied for thirty-five years, and the people defending against that butchery? Of course not, for indeed why should Friedman ever bother to say honestly that there is no Palestinian occupation, there are no Palestinian F-16s, no Apache helicopters, no gunboats, no Merkava tanks, in short, no Palestinian occupation of Israel. So much for Friedman’s credentials as an honest commentator and reporter, who has utterly failed in unadorned terms both to explain the U.S. view and to understand the Arab and Palestinian cause. Can he not see that he and his writings are part of the problem, that in their maundering selfjustifications and their dishonesty, showing no sign of the self-criticism he keeps hectoringly expecting of others, he actually aggravates the ignorance and the misperceptions rather than reducing them? Poor journalist and educator, he.
    • Edward Said, "What Price Oslo?" (2002), published in From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map (2004)
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