Friedman: ‘I Don’t Apologize’ For Believing Iraqi Democracy Could Come From U.S. Occupation

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was one of the traditional media’s most vocal advocates for the invasion of Iraq. On Feb. 5, 2003, he said, “I think I get this war, and, on balance, I think it is a risk worth taking.” On March 9, 2003, he added, “Regime change in Iraq is the right choice for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the world. Mr. Bush is right about that.”

As Iraq has deteriorated, Friedman has criticized Bush’s execution of the war and has even called for “disengagement” himself. Yet, he remains steadfast in his initial war support. On the Charlie Rose show yesterday, Friedman stated, “I’m not going to apologize” for his lofty dreams of democratization in the Middle East, alleging that Iraqis “craved” regime change:

ROSE: You wanted to see something that could change the Middle East.

FRIEDMAN: Right, exactly. And I don’t apologize for that. I’m not going to apologize for thinking that if we could find a way to collaborate with people there to build a different future in the heart of that world, which is afflicted by so many pathologies, that that wouldn’t be a really good thing.

Watch it:


Friedman is engaging in a classic version of “the incompetence dodge.” As Matt Yglesias and Sam Rosenfeld wrote:

Most liberal hawks are willing to admit only that they made a mistake in trusting the president and his team to administer the invasion and occupation competently. … The incompetence critique is, in short, a dodge — a way for liberal hawks to acknowledge the obviously grim reality of the war without rethinking any of the premises that led them to support it in the first place. […]

Left-of-center opinion neither will nor should follow a group of people who continue to insist that the march to Baghdad was, in principle, the height of moral policy thinking. If interventionism is to be saved, it must first be saved from the interventionists.

In the interview, Friedman applauds himself for “checking his politics at the door” and supporting Bush’s grand visions prior to the invasion. Friedman may have softened his criticisms of Bush, but he frequently blasted the judgments of war critics before and during the war.


On Jan. 22, 2003, he attacked liberals for failing to recognize that “regime change in Iraq is not some distraction from the war on al Qaeda.” For years following the invasion, he repeatedly called for undue “six months” of patience in Iraq, giving rise to the now-infamous “Friedman Unit.”

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