DATE March 30, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Tom
Friedman talks about Iraq, Iran and the Bush administration
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
After Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections early this year, New
York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote "Everything is now clear to me. What
a mess!" We're about to hear how Friedman's thinking has progressed with the
latest news. Tuesday, Israelis gave a majority of votes to the new centrist
Kadima Party. Yesterday the new Palestinian prime minister and his cabinet
were sworn in. We'll also see what Friedman has been thinking about Iraq,
Iran and the Bush administration.
Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner. His latest book about
globalization, "The World Is Flat," has been on the best-seller list for about
a year. A new updated and expanded edition will be published in mid-April.
Tom Friedman, welcome back to FRESH AIR. What's your interpretation of the
Israeli election this week?
Mr. TOM FRIEDMAN: Well, I think what you're seeing in Israel, Terry, is a
trend that's been at work for a while coming now to a head. And that is the
Israeli center really asserting itself. The Kadima Party, which won the most
seats in the next Israeli parliament, 28 seats, will be forming the government
under its leader Ehud Olmert who has been acting prime minister ever since
Ariel Sharon went into a coma. Really represents that Israeli center that
basically wants to get out of the West Bank as much as possible and which
supported Ariel Sharon's decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. And
it's an Israeli center that basically wants to disengage from the Palestinians
as much as possible, and from, I would say, the Arab-Muslim world as much as
GROSS: What do you think it will be like to proceed with a unilateral
withdrawal from the West Bank and with the defining of Israel's boundaries
with Hamas in power?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Much more difficult with Hamas in power, assuming Hamas does
not change. It doesn't embrace the basic principles of the peace process
which the Palestinian Authority has embraced in terms of recognizing Israel's
right to exist and being, willing to engage in a peaceful settlement. Then
Israel, although it will unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank with the
Hamas government there, it will withdraw from far less.
GROSS: I'm not sure I understand what the differences are in Israel between
the left, the right and the center now.
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, in that, you're certainly not alone, Terry. I was in
Israel a couple of months ago. I went right after the Hamas election, and I
really felt that I had to see this firsthand because this was such a sharp and
dramatic move. And after being there for a few days, I told everyone, `I'm so
glad I came. It's all clear to me now. What a mess!' And the mess is on both
sides really. You're seeing the deck reshuffled in Israel. You're seeing the
deck reshuffled among Palestinians.
Let me talk about each side for a second. I think, to me, the driving force
in Israeli politics today, the thing that can explain more things, is the
impact that three and a half years of suicide bombing had on the Israeli
psyche. I don't think, unless you've been to Israel during this period of the
second intifada began early 2000 and really lasted until just a few months
ago, unless you had been to Israel in this period and experienced the
incredible fear and anxiety that Palestinian suicide bombing injected into
Israeli society, the feeling that you couldn't go out your door, you couldn't
send your kids to school, you couldn't go to the market or to the mall without
worrying that a suicide bomb would explode in your midst, you cannot imagine
the impact that has had on the psyche of Israelis.
And the political impact of that deep scar has been the emergence of this
Israeli center which basically said, first Ariel Sharon and now in the last
elections, `We want to disengage from these people. We want to disengage from
the Palestinians in Gaza. We want to disengage from them in the West Bank,
and we want to build a wall a hundred feet high.' You can agree with it,
disagree with it, say it's rational, say it's irrational, but that to me,
Terry, is the driving force on the Israeli side today.
On the Palestinian side, what you're seeing are several factors at work. One
is the incredible atomization of Palestinian society that was the product of
Israeli retaliations for those suicide bombings. The targeted assassinations
which have removed certain leaders, the crushing of the Palestinian Authority
of its complicity in those suicide bombings and its unwillingness really to
confront the suicide bombers. And then, of course, the death of the
Palestinians' charismatic leader since the late 1960s, Yasir Arafat. So
that's also created an incredible vacuum politically in the Palestinian side,
which obviously has now been filled, first and foremost, by Hamas in the
GROSS: What does the Israeli left stand for now?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: What's really interesting about the Israeli left is that they
are really left. If you looked at, for instance, the Meretz Party which is
the, I think, most important left wing party today, headed by Yossi Beilin,
their campaign slogan was--their campaign bumper stick was "Beilin will divide
Jerusalem." Now you have to understand, Terry, 10 years ago if someone had
said Beilin will divide Jerusalem, he might have taken them to court for
libel, 10 years ago. Today, it's his bumper sticker. In other words, what
the Left is basically saying is not only do we want to disengage, we want to
disengage all the way right back to the 67 lines. Yes, ladies and gentlemen,
we're talking about even redividing Jerusalem.
GROSS: The Palestinian government is now led by Hamas. And many experts were
really surprised by the outcome. But last year when you were on our show,
when you were looking ahead to the Palestinian election, here's what you said,
quote, "Fatah is still perceived as a rather corrupt party and its governing
skills have been widely challenged and criticized. Hamas could do very well.
I personally welcome that. I would have no problem if Hamas swept these
elections because I believe the only way to really transform groups like Hamas
is by the burden of responsibility." Still feel that way?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah. There's a saying in journalism which I've tried to live
by, Terry, but have not always done so very successfully. And it goes like
this, "Never be smarter than the story. When the story is speaking to you,
listen." And a lot of stories I got wrong were because I was talking when I
should have been listening. And, right now, my advice, you know, to everyone
is let's just listen. The Palestinians, in a free and fair election, that we
the United States urged be held, have elected Hamas for a lot of very
complicated reasons. Some because of their reputation for not being corrupt.
Some for religious reasons. Some because people are proud of the way they
have been willing to engage in suicide bombing and the sacrifice they have
made. It isn't a single explanation, but for whatever reason, Palestinians
have elected Hamas.
Now, I am a big believer in the Newtonian law of gravity. And the fact is
Hamas is now responsible for the school system, the collecting the garbage,
the electricity. And anything that goes wrong in any of those areas is going
to be Hamas' responsibility. And I believe that is going to be a very heavy
burden, that the laws of Newtonian physics will apply to Hamas. I don't
believe they're going to come out tomorrow and sing "Hatikva" in perfect
Yiddish or Hebrew, but I do believe that the burden of that responsibility is
going to inevitably have to moderate their behavior. How much, I don't know.
How far it will go, no one can predict. But--I can't tell you the speed or
the length, but I think the direction is clear.
GROSS: OK. But one scenario goes like this. Because Hamas refuses to
recognize Israel, and because the United States and the European Union insist
that it does or else it won't recognize the Hamas government, then the United
States and the European Union are going to withhold financial aid to Hamas.
So the scenario goes, if that happens, then Hamas, if something goes wrong
with the schools or the local government of the potholes, whatever, they can
just turn around and say, `That darned United States isn't giving us money and
that's why we're in this predicament.'
Mr. FRIEDMAN: First of all, I understand the United States not wanting to
extend foreign aid, US tax dollars, to an organization that's an involved
terrorist organization. It's been proudly engaged in suicide bombings. So I
don't expect the United States to do that. I don't expect Israel to give
Hamas, sort of, Lord knows, any foreign aid. But there is the issue of tax
dollars. The fact is Israel collects tax money. This is Palestinian money,
by and for Palestinians, at the border and every month transfers, it's about
$60 million, that money to the Palestinian Authority. Israel has decided to
withhold that transfer of what is Palestinian money, tax dollars, to the
Palestinians because of the Hamas government. I personally think that is a
mistake. I would have said, `We're going to keep transferring the money, and
as long as there is no violence on your part, as long as there's no suicide
bombing, as long as we see you controlling the violence, we will continue
transferring the money. The minute you violate that, then we are not going to
transfer the money.'
But, why not, Terry, why not just once, let's try something new. Has the old
way been working so well? Why not give them a reputation to live up to and
make it entirely their responsibility. Because they are recidivous, because
they couldn't change, that they don't get the money. Why give them, as you're
rightly saying, and this is what I wrote, `Why give them an excuse to blame us
for their own failure?' So I believe that we should let them either succeed on
their own or fail on their own.
GROSS: Are there ways you think Hamas could move toward peace with Israel
without recognizing Israel? Because they have never recognized Israel and
they might never recognize Israel, and if they do recognize them, it might
take a long time. So, in the meantime, is there anything that they might do
to move toward peace?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, my own position is, why would you want Hamas'
recognition today? I mean, if Hamas stood up tomorrow and sang "Hatikva," the
Israeli national anthem in perfect Hebrew, is there any Israeli who would
believe it? Would Israelis then suddenly say, `Uh-oh, now you recognize me?
Oh, OK. Here's the money. Here's the tax dollars. Here's the foreign aid.'
Why ask for something that even if they gave it to you, you wouldn't believe
it anyway. Why not ask for something that is very concrete, not words, but
deeds. Make it very clear. We expect a full and complete cease-fire to
apply. You abide by the cease-fire, we will then extend cooperation with you.
You don't, we will lift that cooperation. But I would judge them, myself, on
their deeds, not their words. And maybe after a year of different deeds, then
some different words by them might carry some meaning. Then I might want to
invest in those different words.
GROSS: Have you met any of the current leaders of Hamas?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: I'm--when I was in Ramallah, I met some of the newly elected
Hamas legislators, but none of them were from the top leadership.
GROSS: Your impressions of the people you did meet?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: They're an interesting crows. A lot of them are quite
well-read. A lot of them speak Hebrew because they learned Hebrew in Israeli
prisons, and they had a lot of time to read and get degrees either formal or
informal while they were in Israeli prisons. And so, as a group, they were
probably more articulate and educated than your average, you know,
Palestinian. But I've no illusions about who these people are. These are
people who embrace as a tactic, basically recruiting the flower of Palestinian
youth and getting them to blow themselves up in Israeli buses and pizza
parlors. So I've no illusions who they are. I've no illusions what their
ultimate aspirations are. To me, the only question is, can you construct an
environment where it's in their interest to maintain the cease-fire, and it's
in Israel's interest to maintain the cease-fire, so these two societies can
basically live apart? And I think that's still an open question, but for me,
that's the only question.
GROSS: And on a level of optimism from one to 10, right now back in the
Middle East, where do you stand?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Do I get to go below zero?
GROSS: Well, I hope not.
Mr. FRIEDMAN: You know, it's really hard, Terry, to look out there and say,
`You know, if you just go out there, boy, you'd really see the positive
trends,' you know. There are a few pockets here or there, but the trend lines
are not real positive anywhere you look around that neighborhood right now.
GROSS: My guest is Tom Friedman. He writes a foreign affairs column for The
New York Times. His best seller about globalization, "The World Is Flat," is
about to be published in a new updated and expanded edition. More after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is New York Times foreign affairs
columnist Tom Friedman, and his book, "The World Is Flat," which is his best
seller about globalization has just come out in a new expanded hardcover
You recently wrote about the national security strategy doctrine that was
released earlier this month, and it identifies Iran as the single country that
poses the greatest danger to the US today. You say the most frightening,
scary, terrifying thing we could do to Iran today, short of an outright
attack, is to get out of Iraq. What do you mean?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: What I mean is that Iran benefits by our presence in Iraq in
two very important ways, Terry. One is that our presence there deflects and
absorbs the natural antipathy between Iraqi Arabs and Iranian Persians. And
even though many Iraqis and Iranians are Shiite, nevertheless, this
nationalist cultural divide, one speaking Arabic, the other speaking Persian
has been very pronounced. So by our presence in Iraq right now, we've
basically become, you know, the enemy of everyone's enemy. And everyone is
focused right now on us and what we do. If we were to leave Iraq, I believe a
lot of the natural antipathy that has several thousand years of Mesopotamian
history behind it would come to the fore between Iranian Persians and Iraqi
Arabs because the Iraqi Shiites, as much as a lot of them have cultural ties
and religious ties to Iran, now see their chance to take power in Iraq for the
first time in their history. And I don't think they want to take power in
Iraq just to turn it over to Iran and become Iran's cat's paw in Iraq. So
there is a natural rivalry there.
I mean, all you have to do, Terry, is call an Iranian and Arab and see how
quickly they correct you, that `We are not Arabs, we are Persians, thank you
very much,' to understand this cultural antipathy. So on the one hand we
absorb that, we the United States Army by our presence, and we are basically
preventing that antipathy from coming to the surface. I think if we were
gone, Iran would have an enormously complicated management problem in dealing
with Iraq, and you would very, very quickly see anti-Iranian Iraqi militias
and political forces and political actors emerging.
The second reason that leaving Iraq would be a problem for Iran is that by our
presence in Iraq we basically give Iran a very local, nearby target that Iran
can retaliate against in the event of an American attack on Iran's nuclear
facilities. If we were not in Iraq, yes, there would be an American troop
present in Afghanistan, but it's widely dispersed. There would be no large
scale, nearby American troop concentrations for Iraq to naturally retaliate
GROSS: Now, do you consider this a serious argument for getting out of Iraq
Mr. FRIEDMAN: No. I was simply making the argument in response to a kind of
subterranean argument I hear very often, which is that, `Boy, are we stupid!
We invaded Iraq and Iran won the war.' Well, yes, maybe, as long as we stay
there and fail. See, Terry, from an American point of view, if we get out of
Iraq, that's a huge problem for Iran. If we succeed in Iraq, if we manage to,
in collaboration with Iraqis, produce a decent Iraqi government led by Shiites
with real free and fair elections, with a real free press, that's also a huge
problem for Iran because Iran's population then will look at Iraq and say,
`Wait a minute, why do they have free and fair elections and free press, and
we have elections that are circumscribed so that only people approved by the
ayatollahs can run. What's the deal?' So that would also be a huge problem
What is not a problem for Iran, what's the ideal situation for Iran is that we
stay in Iraq, not midwifing a democracy but baby-sitting a civil war. And
bleeding at the same time and being a convenient retaliatory target for Iran.
So my argument is, if we get out of Iraq, that's going to be a huge problem
for Iran. If we succeed in Iraq, that's going to be a huge problem for Iran.
Something I would much prefer. But what we must not do, what we must not do
is get caught up baby-sitting a civil war in Iraq. That would be the ideal
scenario for Iran. Then Iran would win.
GROSS: Is that the scenario we're, in fact, in right now? Baby-sitting a
Mr. FRIEDMAN: I believe we're very close to. I believe the situation in
Iraq is dire. And I believe that we are in a real crisis moment. And the
reason I believe that is that what you've seen in the last couple of months,
but particularly since the bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra, is
this kind of interpersonal, intersectarian violence on a very micro scale
where neighborhoods are clashing with neighborhoods, neighbors with neighbors.
And you're seeing Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis basically going out and
beheading each other and then taking revenge for that beheading and beheading
One thing I learned in Lebanon, Terry, covering that civil war back in the
late 1970s is once this kind of very micro tribal war starts, it is very, very
hard to stop. It took Lebanon over a decade to do it. And even then it
required, you know, the Syrian army, a peace conference in Saudi Arabia, and
even today, the smoldering embers of that period of tribal conflict still
bedevils the Lebanese government.
We are on the point in Iraq where this intersectarian violence which wasn't
there, anywhere near the degree it is today, two years ago, is about to
explode. And if it does, it's game over. Because it will be very, very
difficult to build any kind of stable national unity government on top of that
kind of boiling pot.
GROSS: Tom Friedman writes a foreign affairs column for The New York Times.
His best seller about globalization, "The World Is Flat," is about to be
published in a new, updated and expanded edition.
I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: Coming up, Tom Friedman tells us why he thinks Vice President Cheney
is a wimp when it comes to our energy policy.
And Lloyd Schwartz remembers Sarah Caldwell. She founded the Opera Company of
Boston. She died last week at the age of 82.
GROSS: This if FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Back with three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Friedman. He writes a foreign
affairs column for The New York Times. His latest book about globalization,
"The World Is Flat," has been on the best-seller list for about a year. A new
updated and expanded edition will be published next month.
When we left off, we were talking about Iraq, which he thinks is on the verge
of civil war. So if we're in civil war or heading towards civil war, what
possible role can the US play?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, let's back up for a second and first ask why are we in
this situation? And then what might we do? We're in this situation for two
reasons. One because President Bush chose to invade Iraq with the Rumsfeld
doctrine, Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense. The Rumsfeld doctrine
is, in my view, just enough troops to lose, as opposed to the Powell doctrine
of overwhelming force. So because Bush sided with Rumsfeld and never had
enough troops on the ground, we have never, to this day, established an
occupation of Iraq. We've actually never established a monopoly of force in
I remember the Republican convention and Zell Miller from Georgia was going on
and on against John Kerry and the Democrats, saying `How dare you people say
we've occupied Iraq,' you know, and that's an American occupation of Iraq.
And all I could think was, `Yo, Zell, I only wish it were an occupation. I
only wish we had a monopoly of force.' You know, what are you talking about?
So because we have never established a monopoly of force, we had a security
vacuum. In that security vacuum a whole host of groups mushroomed up, some of
them former Bathist elements of Saddam's regime, but also some really dark
groups like Zarqawis. Groups that I would call not Islamofascist, that's
actually too nice, that connotes a certain political agenda. These are what I
would call Islamo nihilists. And the objectives of these groups, Terry, is
one very simple thing. `America and its Iraqi allies must fail. And we will
use any violence against any group of Muslims, any group of Iraqis, any
mosque, any shrine. We will do whatever we must to ensure that America
fails.' By the way, these are people who are undeterrable because many of them
want to kill themselves before you even get to them. Well, when you have that
kind of nihilistic violence for week after week, month after month, directed
primarily by Sunnis, again these are mostly Sunni groups, against the Shia,
sooner or later the Shia of Iraq, a lot of the majority were going to say,
`You know what, we're not going to take it anymore.' And, therefore, Terry, if
we do not immediately deploy massive numbers of Iraqi troops, police and US
forces on the ground in Baghdad on every corner to bring this thing to a stop
right now, this poison, and at the same time if we don't get Iraqis to produce
a national unity government at the top of Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis willing to
work together, then this poison is basically going to spread, and we then will
be baby sitting a civil war. And then I believe whatever Bush says or wants,
the American people are going to say, `We're pulling the plug, warm up the
GROSS: Well, some people say we're already in civil war, including the former
prime minister of Iraq. So if we're in it or on the verge of it, you use the
word baby-sitting, we don't want to baby-sit a civil war. If we don't want to
baby-sit it, do we have any other options? What can we do if there is civil
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, I said I don't think we're in a full scale, I know...
GROSS: So if we get there, if we get there, what...
Mr. FRIEDMAN: All I know is where we are right now. And where we are right
now is the emergence of widespread, intertribal and intersectarian violence
largely in the Baghdad area where the communities are most mixed. If we don't
bring that to a halt right now, then I believe any hope of a decent political
outcome in Iraq will be certainly eliminated if not postponed for a long time.
And, therefore, I think the American public will pull the plug on this
operation. I believe that the United States will withdraw from Iraq or
certainly redeploy at least to the Kurdish area, to some safe area and let
people fight it out.
GROSS: You know you've said...
Mr. FRIEDMAN: I'm not advocating that. I'm just saying that's where I think
this is going to go.
GROSS: Right. Now, you've said that like right now, there needs to be...
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Right now today.
GROSS: ...Iraqi forces and American forces on every corner of Iraq.
Mr. FRIEDMAN: This very second.
Mr. FRIEDMAN: This very--what George Bush is doing or thinking right now.
And, by the way, Terry, can I ask you a question? Let's turn the microphones
around. Who is in charge of overall American policy in Iraq? Who sets the
day to day? Who is it in the US government who thinks only 24 hours a day,
seven days a week about Iraq and what to do there?
GROSS: Well, it's supposed to be Donald Rumsfeld, isn't it?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Is it? I don't know. Is it him? Is it Condi Rice? Is it
Steve Hadley? Is it Bush? Is it Megan O'Sullivan of the National Security?
I have no idea. I have no idea who the we are. Who are we? Who is running
this thing? And, by the way, who is running it over there? Who is the they?
I don't know who they are either. All I know is who them are. The bad guys.
The nihilists, and right now, it's not even clear to me who's running the show
over here. There's only one story. There's only one legacy. If George Bush
thinks he's going to get up and walk away from this and going to--that history
is going to reward him for "No Child Left Behind," then he must be really
nuts, OK. This is the ball game for this administration. And it's in the
ninth inning right now. And if they don't understand that, they and we are
going to pay an enormous price.
GROSS: President Bush sent a message to the prime minister, Ibrahim
al-Jaafari, that Bush does not want al-Jaafari to remain the prime minister in
the next government. Is that an appropriate kind of message for the president
to be sending?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I'm of two minds of that. And I don't know
exactly what message the president sent, but we have equity there. Over two
thousand Americans have died there. Thousands more have been wounded. We've
spent billions of dollars, and we do have the right to say that this guy is
completely inept at running the Iraqi government as proven by the last two
years. And if he's only in place there because militia-leading thug named
Muqtada Sadr wants him to be there, then excuse me, we're going to let you
GROSS: Let me ask you a question I've heard asked a lot by a lot of skeptics.
The question is, in order to have some kind of stability, some kind of peace
in Iraq, you need a strong man, not unlike Saddam Hussein, who can run the
country with an iron hand? Would anything short of that lead to constant
fighting or civil war?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, something you and I have talked about, going
back a couple of years, Terry, is a question that I posed before we went into
Iraq. And it went like this: Is Iraq the way Iraq is because Saddam was the
way Saddam was? Or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraqis are the way
Iraqis are? And we're going to get the answer to that question basically.
You know, is this a country that can only be ruled by an iron-fisted dictator?
Or is it a country so tribalized now and so brutalized because it's been ruled
by an iron-fisted dictator?
Basically, Terry, we're involved right now in an incredibly, I would say,
noble, quick sodic, experiment in Iraq. There is no other way to describe it
but that. And this is in no way to diminish the incredible sacrifice of all
the young men and women in the US military who have been over there to call it
an experiment. But it was an experiment. It was a test. It was a test that
I think had enormous morale and strategic weight behind it. But the test was
basically this. If you look at the Arab world, if you look at all these Arab
countries, they're all basically civil wars waiting to happen. OK? Because
all these countries were, for the most part, the creation of imperial powers
who imposed the borders on these people and entrapped, you know, various
communities inside these borders. And these countries have historically been
ruled either by colonial powers from the top down or by kings and dictators
from the top down. But what we are doing in Iraq today is an unprecedented
experiment. We are hosting the first ever horizontal dialogue in the history
of the Arab-Muslim world.
Terry, I do not know whether the horizontal dialog between these communities
will be able to produce a social contract between them by which the people
will be able to govern themselves without an iron fist. I do not know the
answer to that question. All I do know is, if they fail in Iraq, no one else
in the Arab world is going to try for a long, long time. So if Iraq fails,
you can look forward to a future of Bashar Asads, Hosni Mubaraks and Muammar
Qaddafis as far as the eye can see.
And thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, it was precisely that kind of
top-down dictatorial government I believe that's produced the pathologies that
gave you 9/11.
GROSS: My guest is Tom Friedman. He writes a foreign affairs column for The
New York Times and is the author of the best seller, "The World Is Flat."
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is New York Times foreign affairs
columnist Tom Friedman. And his latest book is the best seller about
globalization, "The World is Flat," and now has just been published in a new
and expanded hardcover edition.
You know, throughout the riots against the Danish Muhammad cartoons, I thought
about you. Because you have written so extensively about globalization and
what that means. And this was an example of cultural globalization kind of
blowing up in the face of the West. You basically had people, you know, in
Denmark publishing these cartoons, and then having to go into hiding because
of death threats. You know you have riots all over, all over the Muslim world
in reaction to those cartoons. And, of course, it leads a lot of people to
wonder, does globalization also mean that people in other countries will be
setting the editorial agenda through threats for the West?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: I don't think so. But there is a real flat world dimension to
this Danish story. And the way I see it, Terry, is that, through a couple of
angles, first, is when the world is flat, you get your humiliation fiber
optically. OK. You get it at a hundred megabytes per second. Because you
can see just where the caravan is and just how far behind you are. You talk
to young Arabs and Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, especially those that are
protesting the Danish cartoon, what's the word you hear? What's the word you
see most often, always, somewhere in their quotation? It's the word
humiliation. This is a deeply humiliated people. Because, in the flat world,
they can see just how far ahead other communities are and just how far behind
they are. And at the same time, though, they've been taught from youth that
their faith is the most perfect expression of the monotheistic creed. Well,
how can that be if we have the--if we have got 3.0, the most perfect
monotheistic operating system, and the Christians have 2.0, and the Jews have
1.0, and the Hindus have got 0.0? How can it be that they're doing better
than we are? And that is a source of enormous humiliation. And what happens
with humiliated people, Terry, is their skin gets really thin. And when your
skin is really thin, the smallest slight, even from a thousand miles away in a
Danish cartoon, can cut to the very core of your being. And I think that's
what this whole Danish cartoon thing was about.
Does globalization allow them to intimidate the West? I'm not sure it's
globalization. It certainly allows them to issue threats that are heard more
quickly and more, at a greater distance. But I would be careful about that.
You see, I think you can push democracies so far, but, you know, as Hitler
learned, democracies are slow to action. But when they really get angry, and
when they really see themselves threatened, they will defend themselves.
GROSS: It says somewhere in your columns that you've been particularly down
on Vice President Cheney lately, in part because of America's oil policy or
lack of oil policy. And one of the things you have written, you've said
Cheney and big oil have defined realism when it comes to US energy policy.
And therefore they have owned the debate. How do you think that, as you put
it, Cheney and big oil have defined what realism is in the energy debate?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, to name something is to own it. And they've
defined realism in the energy debate the following way, and you really hear
this if you go to oil conferences. Oh, Tom, you know, those alternative
energies, ethanol and solar and wind and nuclear--I mean, they're nice and
they're cute and they're virtuous and all. And I know you and your green tree
hugging pals all love to talk about that around a solar fire, but real men
understand that we're going to need oil. And we're going to be dependent on
oil for as far as the eye can see. So get used to it, little man.
And my answer back, Terry, is basically that `You Mr. Cheney and all your
pals are basically the biggest whims in America today because what you don't
understand, my friend, is that this is not your grandfather's energy crisis.'
For four reasons. Number one, we're in a war on terrorism with people who are
fueled and funded by our energy purchases. We are funding both sides in the
war on terrorism. The US Army, Navy and Air Force with our tax dollars;
al-Qaeda and its supportive, you know, groups through various Islamic
charities that are indirectly funded by our energy purchases. Number one.
Number two, the world is flat and three billion new players just walked onto
the playing field with their own version of the American dream. A house, a
car, a toaster and a microwave. If we don't find an alternative way to
provide energy for these three billion new players, not to mention the others
that are already on the flat world playing field, we're going to burn up,
choke up, heat up and smoke up this planet faster than any time in the history
of the world, and when you only see what's going on with the glaciers in
Antarctica and in the Arctic Circle right now, to see the effects of this.
Number three, because of number two, green technology is going to be the
industry of the 21st century. Green design, green building, green
manufacturing, green consulting. Now, there's one way and one way only to get
a leap in this technology and that is by imposing the highest standard and
demeaning the highest performance from our own cars, our own buildings and our
own appliances. So what are Cheney and big oil doing? `No, no,' they tell
Detroit. `No, no, no, guy. We don't want you to improve your mileage
standard. We don't want to impose anything harsh on you.'
Well, thank you very much, Terry. That's why today Harley-Davidson, a
motorcycle company is worth more than General Motors. And number four after
the fall of the Berlin wall, we thought the fall of the Berlin wall was going
to unleash an unstoppable tide of free markets and free democracy. Well,
what's happened instead as a result of $60 a barrel oil is that this
unstoppable wave of freedom and democracy has met for the first time a
counterwave of petro authoritarianism. These are autocratic, authoritarian
regimes. Some of them elected, people like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Putin in
Russia, Ahmadinejad in Iran, the people in Nigeria. And what you have today,
basically, are a whole cluster of governments that now have more money than
ever to do the worst things in the world.
So excuse me, Mr. Cheney and big oil. I know you think that being
environmentally sound, I know you think that conservation, I know you think
that alternative energies are just for liberal tree-hugging environmental
vaguely French-speaking wusses and wimps like me. But I got news for you,
pal, OK, that being green today is the most geostrategic, geoeconomic,
capitalist, patriotic thing and American can do. Green is the new red, white
GROSS: So is it fair to say you've given up on the Bush administration when
it comes to energy policy?
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Pretty much. Pretty much. At this stage, I'm rooting for the
Iranian government to do something really crazy, then oil will go to $100 a
barrel. And the sooner we get to $100 a barrel, Terry, the sooner, the sooner
we're going to be on wind and solar and ethanol and nuclear. We're going to
be off oil. I say to Ahmadinejad in Iran, `You go girl as crazy as you want.
Get as crazy as you want, pal. I'm sorry we're going to have to make this
transfer of wealth to you in the short run, that we're not going to tax oil in
this country. So we get to capture it and use it for our schools, our Social
Security, our infrastructure, but Bush and Cheney aren't going to do that. So
I've just got one word, `You go, girl.'
GROSS: Tom Friedman, thanks so much for talking with us.
Mr. FRIEDMAN: A pleasure.
GROSS: Tom Friedman writes a foreign affairs column for The New York Times.
His best seller about globalization, "The World is Flat," is about to become
published in a new, updated and expanded edition.
Coming up, classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz remembers Sarah Caldwell,
founder of the Opera Company of Boston. She died last week.
This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz talks about Sarah
Caldwell who founded the Opera Company of Boston and who recently
died at age 82
TERRY GROSS, host:
Sarah Caldwell, who died last Thursday at the age of 82, was considered to be
one of the most innovative opera directors of her time. Our classical music
critic Lloyd Schwartz is a longtime resident of Boston where Caldwell founded
her opera company. He's seen many of her productions and has this
Mr. LLOYD SCHWARTZ: It's extraordinary to go to a theater and feel that what
you're about to experience might be something that you'll remember with
pleasure the rest of your life. That's how I felt about Sarah Caldwell's
productions for her Opera Company of Boston, the company she founded in 1958
and which closed shop in 1990. Not every production fulfilled that promise.
Some of them could be pretty dismal, but all of them were ambitious and noble
ventures. And some of them made such an impression on me, decades later, I
can still relive them in my mind's eye. Take Schoenberg's "Moses and Aaron"
for example, which Caldwell presented in 1966. It's American premier years
before the Metropolitan Opera got around to it. It's a challenging, difficult
work, but when the curtain went up on Caldwell's production, we saw two
figures standing back to back in a spotlight. This simple, but profound image
alerted us to what the opera was about. That Moses and Aaron were opposite
sides of the same person. The tongue-tied visionary and the easy talker who
could communicate his brother's visions.
Sarah Caldwell herself was a visionary who could also communicate her vision
of opera as total theater. It wasn't easy for her. For several years, she
didn't even have a theater. But she could turn unpromising venues into
theatrical gold. One of her best productions took place in a 19th century
brick building originally built to house a huge mural of the Battle of
Gettysburg. It had a spectacular glass dome in the center. For her
production of Gustave Charpentier, "Louise," Caldwell transformed Boston's old
Cyclorama Building into Momart with jugglers, acrobats and street vendors
crowding the aisles. At the climax, a simple spotlight focused on a rotating
mirror ball, high up under the dome, suddenly turned the whole theater into a
gigantic twirling carousel we were all riding. Caldwell worked with many
major stars, but her reigning prima donna was Beverly Sills. One of
Caldwell's American premieres was a dazzling production of an 18th century
opera by Ramo...(unintelligible)...in which Sills had to sing brilliant high
notes, trills and roulades. No one knew she could sing that kind of music or
that her co-star could, an unknown young Spanish tenor named Placido Domingo.
Sills later appeared at the New York City Opera as Cleopatra in Handles'
"Julius Caesar," singing a similar style of music. And that performance made
her a superstar, but Caldwell was there first. Here's Sills as Juliette and
the heartbreaking Tatiana Troyanos as Romeo in Bellini's "The Capulets and the
Montagues," maybe the best of Sills' legendary series of Bel Canto
(Soundbite of Beverly Sills singing)
Mr. SCHWARTZ: Caldwell also wanted to conduct. She became the first woman
to conduct at the Met and the second to lead the New York Philharmonic. She
made the cover of Time magazine. But conducting distracted her from what she
did incomparably, total theater. Her greatest achievement was an adventurous
repertory that mixed modern and unusual operas with the more familiar. She
produced a dozen US premieres and such significant musical events as the first
American performances of Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov" in the composer's own
orchestration, Verdi's "Don Carlo" in its original French version. And the
original version's very different from the ones we know of such popular works
as Pucini's "Madame Butterfly" and Guno's' "Faust." Finally, to its shame,
Boston couldn't support Caldwell's company. She had bought an old movie
theater and turned it into an opera house. But it needed too many expensive
repairs. She finally had to sell it. And her health problems were getting
increasingly severe. Those of us who loved her work always kept hoping she'd
make a comeback. The news of March 23rd dashed those hopes.
GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix, and
teaches English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Four live
productions of Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston are available on CD
from the VAI label.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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