David Frum

01.23.13

Let's Not 'Break All the Rules'

Foreign Policy's Dan Drezner snaps after New York Times columnist Tom Friedman calls on American diplomats to "break all the rules" and seek to broadly negotiate with the Iranian and Palestinian people.

As the paper of record, your op-ed page is a natural target for snark, derision, and other forms of criticism. I'll certainly plead guilty to these venal sins. I've found flaws in more than a few of your columnist's writings on foreign affairs. Thomas Friedman, in particular, has invited a fair measure of scorn from your correspondent over the years -- though I'd note that I'm hardly the only one guilty of that sin. Let me stipulate that I have no doubt that Mr. Friedman can polish off an accessible 800 word column on foreign affairs better than 99.5% of the foreign policy community. And Friedman has locked down a certain Greatest Generation demographic, the one that emails their children with Ph.D.s in political science to say "Tom Friedman said something interesting in his column today. You should read it."

Friedman's prose style invites a certain kind of satire, which is occasionally unkind but pretty harmless. I write now, however, because in his latest column he has migrated from the merely foolish to the ill-considered and dangerous. This is his advice to incoming Secretary of State John Kerry: