Tom Friedman's Iraq Solution? Raise Your Taxes!
Tom Friedman is at it again. Whenever a reporter asks him how to fix the Middle East, Friedman's response is increasingly the same - increase taxes! On this morning's Today show NBC's Meredith Vieira brought on the New York Times columnist to discuss the Iraq debate on Capitol Hill. Setting up Friedman with his own premise, Viera asked: "Well you've said, 'We need to reshape the game board.' What do you mean by that?" Friedman then gave a long-winded response that eventually revealed his solution: "Oil tax." Below is the conversation as it occurred in the 7am half hour of the February 6 Today show:
Meredith Vieira: "Well you've said, 'We need to reshape the game board. What do you mean by that?'"
Thomas Friedman: "Well I would argue, you know with all humility, also this is a very confusing situation but it seems to me we need to change the dynamic fundamentally by setting a date to leave and setting a new oil price to live by. What I mean by that is we need to force choices on everybody there. Right now everyone's having their cake and eating it too at our expense. People have militias and they negotiate with us. The Sunnis have an insurgency and they negotiate with us. The Arabs support the Sunni insurgency and they negotiate with us. We need to create a situation, basically, where everyone has to make a choice. If they make the right choice we will continue to help them, if they make the wrong choice we will be out of there. By setting an oil price, and I'm talking about a oil tax that makes us energy independent we create an environment where they, if they make the right choice we win and if they make the wrong choice we are out of Iraq, we are not hostage to their madness and we have a stronger country."
Vieira: "Tom let me go back to that because I want to make sure that I understand. You think that we should set a price floor of $45 per barrel of oil. What does that mean and why would that have a great impact?"
Friedman: "We need to drive conservation in this country at a whole new level and stimulate alternatives so we will be independent of the madness of that part of the world if they make the wrong choices and if they make the right choices we will be nothing but a stronger country for having more alternative energy and basically more independence in our energy choices."
Vieira: "So at this point do you believe there's any leverage the U.S. has to bring these sectarian parties together in Iraq? The Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds?"
Friedman: "No that, that, that's the problem is that to negotiate in the Middle East, Meredith, you need leverage, alright? This is a region where to negotiate without leverages is like playing baseball without a bat. No one takes you seriously. And the only way we get leverage is if we tell everybody, we are gone by December 1st. All our people are gonna be home for Christmas or on the border of Iraq for Christmas, now you have to make a choice. Do you want to go on with your madness? Well if you do you're gonna have to pay retail for your madness, not wholesale. We're not gonna hold up the floor here any more. If you make the right choices we'll be there to help you but we've got to bring this thing to a head. It will drift forever. You know the old saying Meredith, that if you're in a poker game and you don't know who the sucker is, it's probably you? That's what I'm beginning to feel about Iraq right now."
Vieira: "On that note, Tom Friedman, once again thanks very much."