Top critical review
Insightful, thought-provoking but occasionally shallow commentary about the post-9/11 world
Reviewed in the United States on June 18, 2018
Thomas L. Friedman is an American journalist and book author most famous for his weekly political column New York Times. This book is mostly a collection of his NYT columns published in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and most of them deal with one question: how should the US and its allies proceed in an increasingly small, interconnected and unsafe world? Thankfully Friedman presents reasonable, insightful and empathetic views, eschewing both hawkishness and bleeding-heart liberalism. I particularly enjoyed his explanations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the love/hate relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US, the political and religious tensions in the Middle East. It should also be noted that Friedman is no armchair analyst: in search of the material for his columns he travels to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia and Afghanistan among other places, and he's not afraid to talk both with the privileged and the poor, the religious and the secular, the moderates and the radicals.
That said, sometimes Friedman's analysis turns out to be too simplistic and shallow for my liking. "We should persuade the Arab world that the US has no problem with Islam because it was such a staunch defender of Muslims in the Yugoslav Wars." Umm okay, but are you aware that there are different Muslim denominations and sects that don't exactly see eye-to-eye? Imagine if you could eliminate all the tensions between Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians by pointing out that they are essentially the same religion!
Even worse, Friedman occasionally slides into unadulterated America-first jingoism. He often makes the argument that America's core strength lies in its values, not its power or wealth. There's nothing wrong with that statement, but he backs it up with the assertion that most people in the world would immigrate to the US if given the opportunity. Many of them would, and I suppose you could attribute that to their love of American values, principles and freedoms. But consider this: in 2014, after Putin had annexed Crimea and mounted a not-so-secret insurgency into Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, there was a sharp influx in the number of Ukrainians immigrating to Russia. Was that because they were suddenly enamored by Russian values and Putinism? Or is there another, much simpler explanation?
Oh, and for some reason, the book also has a second part –a sort of travel diary that, according to the author, contains extras and outtakes that did not make it into printed columns, but turns out to be an excuse to make the same points (phrased a bit differently) and retell the same anecdotes that you've already read in the first part. I don't think you'd lose anything but not reading it, but it's there. Just so you know.