Wimps! Sissies! Cowardly! Un-American! That’s what Cheney, Bush and co are, according to Times pundit Thomas Friedman, because they won’t embrace alternative energy. He says “green is the new, red, white and blue,” meaning that getting off our oil addiction is a “national security imperative” and that energy efficiency and conservation is “the most tough-minded, geostrategic and patriotic thing we can do.”
It pains me to say this, but Thomas Friedman’s op-ed in today’s Times is phenomenal and, potentially, phenomenally important.
Why does it pain me to say this? I have detested Friedman ever since his December 1999 “Senseless in Seattle” article ridiculed the global justice movement. He has a right to love globalization, but his condescension and disrespect for labor, environment and justice campaigners was infuriating. Even worse was his support for the war in Iraq. Friedman had high-minded reasons for liking the idea of invading Iraq, but they had little to do with Bush’s reasons. Yet Friedman persisted in the fantasy that Bush was running the war that he, Thomas Friedman, would have run if he were president (and Christopher Hitchens his Secretary of Defense.)
Friedman’s support for the war is a contradiction of his “Green is Patriotic” rhetoric, and I don’t forgive him for his martial cheerleading. Still, in the monumental struggle to get beyond oil, we need to take our allies where we can get them. Friedman’s article is important because he has articulated a position any Democrat, and maybe some brave Republicans, should be willing and anxious to take up.
Friedman’s analysis does have one serious blind spot. He says that “petrolism” is “the corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices…that result from a long run of $60-a-barrel oil.” He goes on to give an accurate description of the corrupting influence of oil on politics, citing Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Sudan and prime examples. But he does not contemplate the possibility that United States is a petrolist nation, that is, a country overly influenced by oil to the detriment of its people.
But Friedman does not fall into the trap of calling to “end dependence on foreign oil,” the dishonest phrase of those who would drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He knows this is illogical, since oil is sold in a global market. So he is really calling to “end dependence on oil.” Delete “foreign” from that phrase and you suddenly have a policy so sensible even veterans of Seattle will support it.