Charlottesville, ISIS and Us

Aug 16, 2017 · 364 comments
IfUAskdAManFromMars (Washington DC)
"....and you realize immediately why we are the most powerful country in the world...... It’s because we embrace pluralism."

What, no internet? You're slipping, Tom.
Snaggle Paws (Home of the Brave)
In the aftermath of Trump's second moral meltdown this week and in the absence of a believable 'good news' story about the State Department during his entire presidency, this all-time longest 'dead end' street that our military mission in the Middle East has had to endure ...... should raise the GOP's interest in getting ALL State Dept postings filled and with BONIFIDE experts.
Coverstory1 (Ithaca, NY)
I vote to put our nations pluralistic energy into Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit. Abandon this money sinkhole, and put our energy into a national fixer up project.
drdeanster (tinseltown)
What a misguided piece of nonsense. "Supreme power in the region?" Afghanistan is a mess just like it was before we foolishly got involved there. Hundreds of billions of dollars unaccounted for, disappearing into bribes and baksheesh. The corruption there is staggering, yet we keep giving them money hoping something will come of it. It won't. Thousands of American troops have been killed or injured, for nothing. And we're still there, something Friedman doesn't address until the very end.
Iraq's a mess too, we created it. See above re billions of dollars and thousands of Pentagon casualties. Are we "supreme" in Syria? Putin doesn't think so, nor does Assad. Nor do the Iranians.
Missing from this piece is the omnipresent conversation Friedman always seems to have with cab drivers, who enlighten him on geopolitics. This entire article should have started from the last paragraph and skipped all the preceding kumbaya nonsense. The Shias and Sunnis have been at it for almost fifteen hundred years, and that's not ending in the lifetime of anyone reading this article. It's a different cultural mentality, it's probably never ending.
SomeGuy (Ohio)
Great column!

What would happen if alt-right attitudes per the link below permeated General Goldfein's command?

(OOPS! Sorry! This link is actually from the Nazi German American Bund meeting in Madison Square Garden in February, 1939.)

It's just getting harder and harder to tell the difference...
Gert Wiescher (Nice, France)
Scary! All that sophisticated power in the hands of an ignorant, narcistic potus. Except for helpng Germany to get rid of Hitler, all that power hasn't lead to a better world. The US created most of todays problems with that power. And you will never stop. You need those wars to keep all those people employed. The US would be bankrupt without new wars. Sure you should think about your situation at home, but you can't. But you can stop your current president, he is endangering the whole world.
BC (Renssrlaer, NY)
OK, si our National Security State can send 60?refuel tankers in the air at once. So what. Why are they there at all? Oh wait, I forgot we got the bright idea to invade Iraq in 2003. And destabilized the entire Middle East. And oh yes, don't forget that Tom thought said invasion was a great, simply great idea. At the time.
Paul (Bellerose Terrace)
Welcome to Qatar, where the government uses slave labor to work on venues for the 2022 World Cup.
I wonder if the neo nazis would approve?
Jim P (NE)
Watching those young men at the tiki torche parade I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of young men who have been co-opted by radical Islamist ideology. We laugh at the thought of someone being motivated by the promise of virgins in paradise, but I’m sure many of the young men in Charlottesville are convinced they can overcome their own inadequacies by acting the part of the ‘alpha-male’. I then thought about Obama’s reluctance to call radical Islamic terrorism by its name, and Trump’s recent reluctance to call radical right-wing ideology by its name. Was Obama right? Will labeling terrorism as ‘Islamic terrorism’ cause more young Muslim men to feel isolated from their society thereby making them easy prey for recruiters? If this is the case, then are liberals and the media now being hypocritical by insisting we demonize the ‘alt-right’ and will this only serve to alienate more young men, making them easier prey for white supremacist?

Young men need a mission. If society is unable to define one for them, they will make one for themselves. We need to pay more attention to our boys. All of them. And when they mess things up, we need to have a bit of patience and understanding. This is true equally of young Muslim men, young black men and young suburban white men. We need more fathers. We need to make sure all boys understand they have a place in the world and that they, because they are boys, have a unique and important role to play.
In deed (Lower 48)
Iran controls them because of the war on false pretenses you cheer led Friedman.

Quite a memory.

Quite a sense of honor.
F.C. (America)
No, it doesn't get better does it? We just, as you say, keep keeeping it from getting worse.

What the military and world leaders just don't understand yet, is that peace comes from birth, not death. Spend one tiny billion less on AI guided laser death drones of the future, and put it to a better use; the idea that all earthly civilizations share births. Spend the money on spreading 'why' into the brains of newborns, toddlers and teenagers worldwide. Why compassion. Why freedom and equality. Why we all need to work together for global thriving. Why fighting each other never wins.

Where is the multinational effort to improve thriving and spreading that consciousness? All I see is a whac-a-mole of horrors, waste and war, rinsed and repeated generationally. Enough already. The climate, nukes, etc. is a time bomb.

Let AI serve us with how-to steps, not deadlier weapons. How do we position our best minds in governance? How do we teach ALL the children to love all humanity and work for it? How can parents and teachers and textbooks and therapists impress and guide brilliantly? How can nations of the world interact with win/win synergy?

One billion to building AI that steers us all to our better selves, to flourishing, finally and soon. Clearly us apes still don't know what the hell we're doing beyond our ignorance and instincts.
BWS (Canberra Australia)
Indeed, Mr Friedman. I was brought up to believe that America was built on diversity. While it may be a work-in-progress, it is an ideal to live up to.

At times like this, countries find out what they really are. So, too, do individuals.

If Jared Kushner, Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn do not immediately resign, we will know who they really are - the moral equivalents of kapos, the Jewish prisoner-collaborators in Nazi concentration camps.

They need to ask themselves who they really are. If they side with the Nazis, they will live on for centuries in the Jewish Hall of Shame.
Vox Populi (Cambridge)
I agree with your concluding line about our misplaced so ending propping up failed Arab states. If the trillions were spent in the cities listed, and if the Democrats had invested in infrastructure the problem called Trunp would not have materialized.
Justine (RI)
Very, good summary. However, don't just single out the inner-city ghetto, a whole lot of America is decrepid. Our millitary is full of neat people and does neat things with the aid of the latest tech. Arabs with their great intellectual history and drive would probably run circles around the lot of people in this country if they ever had a chance.
Robin Foor (California)
Donald Trump cannot be the commander-in-chief of our integrated armed forces. There is no room for the KKK in the US military.

Trump must resign. The Joint Chiefs should explain to him that all men and women are created equal. They should tell him that unity is essential to the defense of the Constitution.

It should be an article of impeachment that Trump equates Nazis with peaceful anti-racist protesters.
Nina Idnani (Ossining)
You had to take a Middle Eastern Air Force trip to find the utopia of what America stands for. Thank your lucky stars you were airborne away from the ugliness roiling on our American Land. The American melting pot seems to be found only up in the air over the Middle East. The ISIS is on the run and on the path to extinction thank to everyone in the area including Assad. But you say, unfortunately it might fall under the sway of the Iranians. So what? ISIS were a gang of murderous thugs. The last I heard, Iran was the only peaceful country in the region with a very modern, young educated citizenry. The Ayatollahs are very old, on the verge of...disappearing! Diplomacy seems to work with Iran, thanks to our loved ex-President Obama. By the way, were there any Iranians up above the world so high?
Dan (California)
Thomas, this is a fantastic article, but why are you so fixated on Iranian influence? What exactly worries you so much about Iranian presence and power in Syria, Yemen, etc.? And what exactly would you expect Iranians to do differently when they are surrounded by hostile Sunni kings and thugs. You like to talk about smart policy. Here's one for you: we need to stop demonizing Iran and start trying to make friends with its huge population of secular and non-extremist religious youth, who are very open to a positive relationship with the West. Iran's ultimate leaders are religious crackpots, but the Iranian people are not crackpots and it's important that we try to build a good relationship with them instead of treating them as yet another American enemy to go to war with, thus wasting lives and treasure yet once again.
Jack Frederick (CA)
At last! A question of are we being even remotely sensible in, doing the same thing, expecting different results. Eisenhower came to the conclusion after being played by Nasser that getting in the middle of Middle East tribes, states and klans was a no win situation, and for the most part he successfully kept us out.
Yes, the resources would be better applied at home and with those funds at home we could employ people in good paying sensible projects and education. That would make us better as a nation and a neighbor. It is easy to find enemies when you go looking for them. And we look closely!
johan stavers (Netherlands)
Sorry. But this is a load of crap. Those servicemen are only willing and able to work together in a massive army because they get a generous pay-check to do so and they know damn well that they get kicked out if they refuse to work with a Muslim or somebody else not entirely to their liking, that is not tolerance, but liberal totalitarianism, it is because of self-interests, not because they are feeling such overwhelming feelings of brotherhood, the US army is basically a mercenary army loyal to a pay-check.
V Mathew (Houston)
You can’t visit one of these huge U.S. bases built since 9/11, see the dedication of the young men and women, and the sophistication of the systems they have built, and not wonder: What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?

I have thought the same thing many many times - we need this talent and energy and Resources to be brought ti bear to fix the issues in the country - Guns, Crime, Inner city violence, Health issues, the Opioid epidemic etc etc
Shayladane (Canton, NY)
This is the first time a columnist has written an article that actually gives a reason why the states in the Middle East have so much difficulty cooperating: they fear or reject diversity. Thank you!

It is absolutely true that diversity in the US and other western countries is a powerful incentive to accomplishment. Those who can't see that, such as the white supremacists in Charlottesville, are just like the various factions in the Middle East--they fear and reject diversity, as they think it threatens their way of life. The problem in the US, is that "their way of life" is already gone forever. The clock cannot be turned back to where it was a hundred years ago; that can never happen.

The US Constitution specifically provides for religious freedom, equality for all, and the separation of church and state. The wisdom of our founding fathers in these areas was extraordinary. Even though there is unrest now, our country must continue to promote these ideals, because these concepts are how we can work together despite our differences.

Great work, Mr. Friedman!
Ivehadit (Massachusetts)
americas culture wars its economic wars it's race wars it's governance wars its values wars are being lost as we lurch relentlessly into nonending military wars with no end in sight. And now we have a president who wants to take these to a whole new level. How strong can we be outside when we are so divided at home?
Tim Garibaldi (Orlando)
Military leadership! In the list of supremecies in conflict regions, one was left out: make supremecy.
VisaVixen (Florida)
Empty as long as the Commander of Chief is trying to destroy the United States of America. If he is not removed, all of these people in which you are embedded will need to make a personal decision. Whether to follow the direction of the Commander in Chief. You are a citizen and I venture they all, including Trump's political appointee as Secretary of the Air Force, wish they were in your shoes.
Chuck Zettel (Wayne, PA)
I agree 100%. With the money and human resources we are spening in Afghanistan we could turn bad neighborhoods in many of our cities into virtual neighborhoods of success and hope instead of discouragement and drugs. The hope and increased education and jobs and mental and physical health this could engender would be truly fabulous. Why don't we take care of our own instead of trying to help strangers thousands of miles away. If we can put a man on the moon can we fix a block or a neighborhood and help people get the homes and jobs and education they deserve. We don't need to give it all to them, we just need to HELP them, our brothers and sisters in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, LA, Appalachia, ...etc. Thanks for another great op-ed & viewpoint Tom.
the dogfather (danville, ca)
Here's a synopsis of a 1916 article in The Atlantic that foreshadows your column today.

"We need to have a national discussion about this." Amen, Tom.
Vasantha Ramnarayan (California)
"The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist."

Unfortunately, that fist can turn against us too, as we saw in Charlotsseville. Hop over to Pakistan and you will see their fist (made of all denizens of Islamic Ummah) has turned against them. Because the last I heard ISIS is in Pakistan and not Iran.

I think a family or a Nation is only as strong as it's economy. Remember army moves on its stomach. No matter how strong the army it's not going to fight unless you can feed them. Otherwise they'll go fight for anyone who can feed them. And America is going bankrupt because of these wars. Our GDP is 17 trillion. Our debt is 20 trillion. Social Security is going to run out of money in 2032. Medicare will run out of funds in 2028. State pension funds are bankrupt. Blue states like Illinois, Connecticut, Maine and CA are on verge of bankruptcy. Red States are already bankrupt. And by the way, Steve Bannon who's painted as a monster wants to raise taxes on the rich and is being booed out. We live in strange times. My advice to all Americans. Please don't fall for the narratives of either party. Please check facts and figures.
Margo Wendorf (Portland, OR.)
Yes, I totally agree with your ending statement. What good we could do for our country - and the world - if we used all that excellent man power and machinery in more worthy causes!! It's time to ask what we are accomplishing in that area? Has anything changed for the better. How about trying to "change hearts and minds" instead of bombing them into submission. In my mind, war is an obsolete idea, and one that has not solved our problems in thousands of years, why not try something different??
John (Washington)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?"

It won’t happen. In spite of the blatant racism that has everyone's attention the real problem in this country is the 'hidden', institutionalized racism. The institutionalized racism is responsible for the high levels of segregation in residential areas and schools, decreased economic opportunity, concentrated areas of poverty that end up being centers of crime, in Blue states as well as Red. This has gone on for decades. Other examples include the relentless coverage to ban 'assault weapons' because the shootings occurred in middle class areas while ignoring decades of firearm homicides in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, starting to pay attention to the loss of jobs among working and middle class whites but pretty much ignoring the same problem in inner cities. Pandering to Black Lives Matter doesn’t help either as about 85% of Blacks shot by police were armed at the time.

People like to feel good and pat themselves on the back for not being racists by screaming about blatant racists, but don't even acknowledge institutional racism much less try to address it. The tens of millions of people supporting institutional racism are doing far greater damage than any marching hate group.
kaw7 (SoCal)
Mr. Friedman offers a stirring account of the truly impressive collective of brain and brawn, concrete and steel that the U.S. has assembled in Qatar. It's all the more remarkable, therefore, that despite its seeming invulnerability, it takes but a Trumpish tweet or two shake the place to its foundations. All of that American military might rests on the goodwill of Qatar's rulers -- something Trump jettisoned when he explicitly sided with the Saudis in their dispute with Qatar. Whether we consider the streets of Charlottesville or the base at Ul Udeid, Donald Trump is distinctly unqualified to lead a pluralistic America in a complicated world.
BarbaraV (San Diego, CA)
Yes we do need a national discussion. We need open and enlightened leaders to see us through as a country. Thinking about how much all this is costing us on a daily basis (not to mention in human lives) is mind-blowing. Yet, it is too expensive for Americans to consider healthcare a right. So much is wrong.
When can we start the discussion?
optimist (Rock Hill SC)
The US has over-reacted to 9/11 and subsequent terrorism. How can you overreact to 9/11 you say? For starters we should have left off the Iraq War completely. It was unnecessary and claimed over 4,000 American lives and billions of dollars for nothing in return.

Bush/Rumsfeld's "light deployment" in Afghanistan was also another huge mistake. We should have hit the Taliban much harder but for a much, much shorter duration. We should have withdrawn from Afghanistan years ago. And we need to get out of there now. OBL is dead so we did our job. There will be future terrorist attacks and people will die, but we must quit spending money at such a prodigious rate or Osama Bin Laden will accomplish his objective of destroying the US.
Duane Coyle (Wichita)
"Pluralism", in the context of Friedman's point, is "a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture . . . within . . . a common civilization". I would argue that the source of America's raw power in today's world is not what immigrants bring with them, but rather that the vast majority of immigrant children never really absorb their parents' allegiance to their ethnic, religious, or racial origins. While being a Shi'ite in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon is a dominant identifier, in the U.S. it is relatively unimportant compared to one's work as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, building contractor, restaurant owner, HVAC technician, etc. America is organized like an ant den: the best of us are purpose-built to attach the most importance to what we do for a living.

This is good and bad. Being a political child of the late 60s and early 70s, I never considered serving in the military. The fact there are Americans willing to serve is, frankly, amazing to me. But, as a lawyer--the law being a discreet discipline--I understand how once one makes the decision to be part of the military one can become committed to that particular section of the ant den.

I disagree with Mr. Friedman when he characterizes continued U.S. military involvement in the Middle East as a case of America being pulled back in to the region out of necessity--as if we had no choice. That is totally false.
cbindc (dc)
With Trump slowly surrendering to Russia in Syria, Iranian dominance is guaranteed. The only question is how many lives will be lost.

What could go wrong?
Michael (Brooklyn)
You forgot to add that Iran in increasing its influence in Afghanistan as well. Iraq and Afghanistan are countries that we "liberated" from dictatorships. So much for the brainiacs running US foreign policy and the blood and treasure sacrificed,
What kind of pluralism are you talking about when this country is divided along party lines, religious convictions, progressives and tea partiers, the private funding of elections and the influence money has in government, where the people of the US have no voice anymore and are just a sideline, and most importantly, the haves and have nots, with economic disparity and the gutting of the middle class growing exponentially.
The USA is not the army, and the pluralism you refer to is on life support
Space Needle (Seattle)
Yes, Tom, it's amazing what you can buy for a trillion dollars a year. Sounds like you were mightily impressed by the wowie-zowie amazing tricks our military can do with the virtually unlimited resources we give them.

I am not impressed, since these resources were stolen from other much more critical uses. You should spend more time at home looking at the cities and towns decimated by the mis-application of national resources before you slobber over the bright lights and video game wars we are conducting in the middle east.

And let us not forget the cheerleading you led prior to the invasion of Iraq - the very disaster that led to the disasters we are now attempting to clean up. We will never "defeat" ISIS with high tech wizardry. Suicide bombers, car bombers, and box cutters will always trump gizmos from the air. The battle is for the hearts and minds of young people, which cannot be won by the magic tricks you describe in your vacation postcard.
Mac (Oregon)
I'm glad our military is pluralistic. But I refuse to celebrate the profligate spending of our military industrial complex. It's obscene.
Lbnyc (East Of The Hudson)
nation building at home. not sure if it's the military's job, but they're doing in foreign countries.
what if we spent $3 trillion here? we have in the middle east? the USA should be the first priority of the USA.
Stephen Holland (Nevada City)
You certainly ended on the right note. All mend women of good will wish it were so.
gmansc (CA)
"We need to have a national discussion about this." Yes, we do. But, sadly, it will not happen. The easy sell, primarily from the right wing, is that making our military strong makes the country strong, and able to withstand any enemy. And from the same side of the political spectrum comes the message that inner city problems are due to laziness, and a lack of willingness to take responsibility. I wish we, as a society, were more informed and willing to carefully study societal issues.
Cynthia Starks (Zionsville, IN)
Excellent piece. Good to be reminded what we do so well together is the one thing our enemies lack. And poignant to be asked "what if"...all of what we have were used for a higher purpose in our own country. Sigh...
Elli Hazit (Portland, OR)
Really excellent column today, Mr. Friedman. Sobering, clarifying, illuminating. Please say "thank you" to those kids, too.
Auntie Hose (Juneau, AK)
There are those of us who have been discussing this for decades, specifically, the enormous waste of national treasure and resources represented by the U.S. military, and of course, have been routinely shouted down, the notion always peddled being that such an obvious obscenity is somehow necessary. The very name of the corporation in charge--Department of Defense--is itself a lie.

The military will only admit to just over 750 bases worldwide--most members of Congress know there are quite a few more. These bases have nothing to do with protecting America, or patriotism, or democracy, or anything other than projecting American hegemony. Eisenhower warned of this exact thing, when he coined the term "military-industrial complex" in his farewell address. Try finding a general with that kind of courage today.
Joanne Rumford (Port Huron, MI)
"Why Bismarck Loved Lincoln"
"By Kenneth Weisbrode October 2, 2011 11:38 pm", NYTimes

Last Two Paragraphs reads:

"And so the old order gave way to a new, contested one on both sides of the Atlantic; unification would come in both places by force. If the Crimean War had set the stage for the wars of unification in Germany and Italy, and the Mexican War did so for the war of unification in the United States, then it’s worth asking: if there had been no Crimean War, might there still have been an American Civil War? Probably so; civil wars by definition happen largely for internal reasons. But without the conflict in Europe, the American war would not have been the nationalist achievement of world-historical import, as Lincoln, Bismarck and later generations understood it."

"In other words, the Civil War — as significant as it is for American history — is even more important when viewed through a comparative, transatlantic lens. The fight for internal unification rather than expansion meant that never again would the United States seek to conquer and annex its neighbors. It would, along with Bismarck’s Germany, be a new kind of state: centralized, rationalized and mobilized to dominate the coming century."
Observant (San Francisco, CA)
Yes and No. According to a Chinese proverb, Pluralism like everything else is two faces of the same coin. It is a strength but it is also a weakness. It's the same thing for Capitalism. That's why the Chinese was able to exploit Capitalism to their benefits by shipping American jobs to China to help the Chinese workers knowing that a Capitalist society only cares about profit.
If we are not careful, someone as smart as the Chinese can turn our societal Pluralism into our biggest liability -- a civil war to seriously weaken the U.S. is possible in sight if there is no commonalities between different groups of people within a society.
Thomaspaine17 (new york)
If we took the money we are spending to fight wars in foreign lands, and sunk that money into health care and education we could probably afford to insure every single American, and send every kid in America to college for free and still have enough money left over to afford for the common defense. The Industrial military complex is alive and well and doing just fine.
russell manning (San Juan Capistrano, CA)
Beautiful writing, Mr. Friedman, and a joy to read. You express vividly what many of us feel about our foreign affairs and our world standing. Thank you.
Alexander K. (Minnesota)
It was the idea of Democracy as exemplified by America that led to Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union (not so much the intensity of the arms race). Today, this American Democracy Idea has been discredited, rightly or wrongly. The entire world can see that the US is governed by its own oligarchy and its politics is run by moneyed interests. Fair or not, the US is seen in the world to be merely defending its corporate interests. That is not a way to win the hearts and minds of anyone.
So, yes, if the US just refocused on making itself live up to its own ideals, and redirected the trillions of dollars going to the Pentagon on infrastructure, education, and research, could even inspire Sunnis and Shia to make peace.
Nancy (Great Neck)
Fine, sensitive essay. I am grateful.
WBS (Minneapolis)
President Obama, in a long interview last year in The Atlantic, made the case that American energy should not be spent in the Middle East--for reasons similar to what Mr. Friedman argues here--but instead should be focused on domestic problems and Asia. Eventually U.S. public opinion will come around to that view.
nerdrage (SF)
Smart essay right on target.
Regards, LC (princeton, new jersey)
The problem: the American electoral system rejected the notion of pluralism this past November and, listening to the extraordinarily shameful silence by Republicans since Charlottesville and since trump's most recent obscene utterance, nothIng seems to have resulted in any seismic shift.
Secondly, as is often the case.with your readers-which is not an admonition to stop writing truth, you're preaching to the choir. Th fear of many: in a few days or weeks, we'll have our attention diverted from Mr. Duke's friend in the.Oval. Business as usual.
There's always the special prosecutor, but,that doesn't change who or how we voted. The disease seems to be in us-trump's the symptom.
bwise (Portland, Oregon)
Wow -- I glad I read to the last sentence.

My main question is why. Why do we spend more on the military than on education. We are a colonial power and what we are doing in Yemen and other places are war crimes under the guise of Sunni domination.

There is very limited moral equivalency between Iran and the Saudis. If you were a women where would you rather live?
Auntie Hose (Juneau, AK)
And I was glad to read your last sentence--what a terrific point.
Kathleen Brown (New York, NY)
Well done, indeed, Mr. Friedman. I doubt that it will happen, but I am going to share your column with my Democratic representatives and encourage others to do the same. A national conversation must be had. Thank you for bringing a voice of reason to the chaos we are living in.
ryuppuluri (Washington, DC)
Yes, instead of the clunky, relativistic slogan, "A Better Deal," the democrats could do worse than to rally behind the powerful, essential American idea: "Out of many, one."
Aviel (Jerusalem)
Is the USA is the most powerful country because it embraces pluralism? I do prefer it that way, but seems to me that may not be the reason it is most powerful.
When most all citizens respect the rights of others, and fulfill their own obligations things can be beautiful pluralistic or not. People have different roles and abilities ,but all are in the image of the God
Tknox (AZ)
The troops are the best. Our leaders are not. The Third Reich rose from the ashes of WWl , ignorance and poverty.
We are well on our way to creating a catastrophe here at home.
Tom Friedman suggests a dialogue about our country's resources and priorities. LONG OVER DUE! Equally unlikely while we are locked in the grip of the military industrial complex. We've heard about that before, right????
Steven McCain (New York)
No matter who we have serving in our name people are walking around in a state of shock. I now people of color who think this whole thing is a bad dream hoping someone will wake them up. Trump has put to rest the lie that we are living in a Post Racial Society. We all realize that there will always be racism in America and that is how it is. What dumbfounds people is how Trump keeps going lower than he was on the proceeding day. People thought bombastic Trump would grow into the job and conduct himself accordingly. Trump to the contrary has diminished the office of president to where it is no longer majestic. How Sad!
Auntie Hose (Juneau, AK)
You're very right that Pumpkinhead has diminished the office to where it is no longer majestic, but that might not be a bad thing. We all need to remember we are fallible, and Pumpkinhead is showing us exactly that multiple times daily. Let's remember that whomever holds the office, they are still just another human. Otherwise, you get kings.
Tony T (Lakewood NJ)
Brilliant. Thank you!
fixing the the inner cities and neighborhoods of our urban areas- it starts with the people in those places to start taking control of their children, themselves ands their homes by making a stand - no more drugs, no more garbage, no more absentee parents, no more delinquent and absent students, no tolerance for guns....time to grow up and take charge - be defiant and angry and proactively assert that their part of the world will be a good and decent place

long overdue for people to make this happen in their own neighborhoods-
Kent (Portland, OR)
I sorely needed to hear this today. Thank you!
DubaiatRandom (Dubai)
Mr Friedman failed to notice the elephant standing in the room with him. Four major US allies, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, have all demanded that the US close that air base, Al Udeid, immediately (if not sooner) since that base is supporting the worst sponsor of terrorism on the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar.

Qatar denies those charges, but President Trump seems to be leaning towards the quartet, since it's four against one, and it's not clear who is telling the truth, but all four unanimously agree that Qatar is guilty and the base must be closed, against just one pleading innocent (plus, Qatar is supported in their plea of innocence by Iran, which, I'm sure Mr Friedman agrees, is further proof of guilt).
chandlerny (New York)
And who should moderate this national discussion? Who will control the dialogue? That is at the core of the political issues we have in this country.
Ann (Dallas)
"I am a pluralism supremacist."

Not particularly catchy, but I love it!
amalendu chatterjee (north carolina)
National discussions? How and where? I am in USA for the last thirty three years Before that I lived in Canada for 13 years doing my PH.D. and developing the digital data network what we call now Internet with Bell Canada. In the last 44 years out of 46 years I had not seen what I see in the last two years. I am scared to death in North Carolina to go out and open my mouth for political, social or economic discussions. President's business executives have left after frustration with our mad man (President). Our discussions must include how to get rid of this mad man first before we can initiate civility for discussions. Blind sided actions by GOP leaders cause our worst sufferings. They twist their tongues for political gains and to win the election. When 35% of our population and 70% of GOP members still back the mad man thee is no room for discussion - right? Yes, we all like minded people can have discussions and produce intellectual papers/report read by the same like minded people with no major change happening. We are in the third world country environment - the place we thought we left for ever.
Rover (New York)
The "provinces" of ancient Rome were not so much governed or conquered as much as they were held in terror, depending on the state of their own internal politics and revolts against the empire. So too America the Empire cannot leave its conquered Middle East provinces anymore than it can govern them or control the internal mayhem.
Brian Holmes (Chicago)
The ending of this article redeems the beginning. I am saddened and horrified at the prospect of a proudly pluralist United States raining bombs on the Middle East from now to eternity--not a prospect, but a reality since the late 1960s, and an important source for the turmoil that produced Isis. Yet what Friedman says at the end speaks directly to my own aspirations. It's time for Americans to set a positive example, and not through military means. There is so much to be done.
Joseph John Amato (New York N. Y.)
August 16, 2017

The truth is all about our global conversation of the have's and the have nots.
Yet as Mr. Friedman wisely connect to - how all politics is local in the age of domestic and international electronic conversations with humanity's brothers and sisters and that is overload. Unless we have filter of smart national conversations to relate to definitive pragmatics in the wisdom of the bonds to historic cultural degrees of arrangements towards solid goals tied respectfully to earned tradition and how we 'all" transfer, transmit our transnational developing codified laws with sane agreement for shred human rights, values and the greatest known the Contract with society and indeed always opportunities for betterment affordable grace.

jja Manhattan, N.Y.
DSD (London)
Well done! Thanks for this outstanding reporting. Unfortunately, the end result of these strategic multi country ISIS focused air campaigns, is an uninhabitable landscape. Wouldn't it be nice if we could figure out diplomacy? We've got great technology and talented people who are trained to use it, but nobody skilled in the art of negotiations. At least the economy is being well fueled.
hcarmel (Chapel Hill, NC)
When we invaded Iraq in 2003 (a move endorsed by the conventionally wise), we unknowingly let ourselves get hijacked by the war and its sequelae. We're still in the whirlwind that war engendered, and we will be for the foreseeable future.
Frank Lee (NYC)
Thank you for clearly stating what makes our country great. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the talent of the culturally diverse men and women and some of the billions of dollars that fund our military could be redeployed to remake our struggling inner cities. We could use quality schools, teachers and targeted training for the green and tech economy. A sense of purpose and belonging and hope for the future would impede the growth of the extremist groups in the USA.
apf (frederick maryland)
Yes, but your suggestion would require us to dismantle (at least partially), the military welfare system that builds costly useless weapons systems but does provide well paying jobs.
BNR (Colorado)
Thanks Tom for underlining the truth about our all-volunteer force. The men and women who put on the uniform are simply the best, most-motivated folks I've ever worked around. They come from everywhere but they wear the U.S. uniform with pride and especially professionalism. I never spent a day with the troops that I didn't come home inspired and grateful that they were ours. They deserve better from the White House and Congress.
Dorothy Hill (Boise, ID)
As usual, Friedman delivers an excellent article on pluralism and not only that, but how it works and works well and how lack of it is dooming success in the Middle East. It is tragic that we continue to seemingly have to be there instead of using all this great talent to serve our needs at home. Let's definitely start the discussion on that but perhaps away from the government!
Mor (California)
The US is the last utopia because it is based not on descent but on idea; not on common language but on common culture; not on the past but on the future. As an immigrant, I applaud Mr. Friedman's words that are particularly important in the context of the emerging movement to remake America into an ethnically pure nation state. And while it is important to dedicate resources to fighting poverty at home, the fight against the Islamic State needs to continue. Like Nazism or Communism, radical Islam is a dark shadow of American pluralism: a supra-national ideology (Islam is not an ethnic religion), aiming to create a totalitarian regime and ultimately achieve world domination.
Susan (Maine)
The problem is that we now have special ops forces in 70 % of the world's countries in 2016 (Forbes). That does not include Syria, Somalia or Yemen. We are in Europe although WWII ended almost 75 years ago. We are still in Korea.

Have we ever left a country once we have intervened militarily?

Our infrastructure is collapsing. We are the only industrialized country that does not insure medical care for everyone. We refuse to fight our own home-grown terrorist groups as evidenced by this past week. We have done nothing to ensure secure elections after unanimous agreement that our voting systems were influenced, invaded, and will be at even greater risk in next year's elections.

Military action is our fall-back response; clearly it is not succeeding.

Again, have we ever left a country after we militarily intervene? Do we even know how?
Bosnia and Kosovo to name just 2.
Concerned citizen (New York)
So why did we allow Obama to give Iran $150 billion to take over the Middle East rather than bargain them down. The conventional wisdom was that Bush attacked the wrong country, so why let Obama empower the real danger to us and the world - IRAN - and not partner with Israel to clip their wings.
Nuclear freeze for 10 years? But Iran continues to share their nuclear capabilities and sophisticated delivery systems with North Korea, which was well known, and there is no way to check what Iran is really doing, despite a glossy State Dept report.
Bottom line - we need strong leaders who are not afraid to identify our real enemies and bargain tough with them, and not undermine our cohesive pluralistic fighting forces with gender engineering.
sdavidc9 (cornwall)
Our real enemies in the Middle East are all those who perpetuate the Sunni-Shiite war and the other religious conflicts in the area (religious fanatics against moderates and seculars, and Jewish and Islamic theocracies). If Bush attacked the wrong country, the right one was where the hijackers came from, not Iran -- and that is unfortunately not the conventional wisdom.

Iran is not using its oil wealth to export its version of extremist Islam throughout the world, but only to play a nasty game of power politics (just like all other powers in the region). Many Iranians would be glad to turn towards a more moderate and secular religion and state, but are blocked by the forces that dominate but do not absolutely control their government. This does not seem to be true of the Saudis, who have a much smaller box and much more trouble thinking outside it.
Ciambella Collins (Third Coast Of Texas)
Concerned citizen, you're concerned about a lot of mostly inaccurate things. Your comments are a somewhat paranoid soup of regressive, decontextualized ideas. The Money remitted to Iran was a long-standing financial debt, and there is no credible evidence that Iran is arming the DPRK. Try again with facts, please.
bert.miller (UBE, PA)
Re: "There is a good chance that ISIS’ territory will ultimately fall under Iran’s sway". How is this even possible? ISIS' territory is hard-core, not-willing-to-share power Sunni. Beirut and Baghdad have substantial Shiite populations; Damascus has long been ruled by an alliance of all non-Sunni's in Syria, including Shiites, and Sa'ana is occupied by invading Fiver Shiites from the north. Iran can have no influence in a place with only Sunnis.
Newman1979 (Florida)
Maybe if the US and UK had not intervened in 1953 overthrowing an Iranian democracy, and maintaining a benign policy in the ME to this date, the ME would have figured out an equilibrium.
Ed (Old Field, NY)
American service members swear to protect all Americans, even the ones they don’t get along with. We have been able to merge pluralism and nationalism. (Of course, military discipline doesn’t hurt, but it’s a proposition you agree to while still a civilian.)
Bayou Houma (Houma, Louisiana)
Honestly, Friedman: Have you ever considered that our troop's e pluribus unum (as you describe it) policing the Islamic countries in turmoil (mostly because of our intervention and meddling), would dissolve into the same kind of bitter divisions we have seen in Charlottesville, VA, were the diverse troops not under immediate threat and united under one commander in order to survive??
If today we had no American Empire to protect, like the British a century ago for raw materials and markets for their manufactured goods, we might well have an authoritarian liberal like President Lyndon Johnson as President rather than a radical Conservative like Trump dividing us. Trump's political dodges and zig-zags on some issues are poll driven, and yet may prove to be brilliant maneuvers worthy of comparison to those of Patriot quarterback Tom Brady. We'll see after Nov. Congressional elections.
karl hattensr (madison,ms)
One does not have to explain Pres. Trumps ineptness it is open for all to see.
larkspur (<br/>)
Pluralism has the power of effective resources and sectarianism has only anarchy and violence. Funny how you hold up a cheating lying rich white quarterback as the desirable model for the cheating lying rich white president.
martha hulbert (maine)
Absolutely spot on!
Your words cathartic in their truth.
Thank you.
jacquie (Iowa)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?"
You are right Mr. Friedman, enough War let's fix America's crumbling cities now.
Robert McConnell (Oregon)
The multi-ethnicity of our armed forces is something in which we can take immense pride and satisfaction. Thanks, Tom.
Now, let's try to change our own behavior to bring more peace to areas of unrest. First, how about a UN-sponsored peace treaty with North Korea to end the Korean War? We might also try to acknowledge that UN troops carried out some atrocities against the North during the war, like carpet-bombing. Nest, how about we stop demonizing Iran? Like it or not, the Iranians are looked up to by many Shiites in the region. and we have a long history of trying to subvert their regimes.
Since everything else seems to have failed, why not?
Sal (SCPa)
What it means to be a true patriot, is a belief in and a willingness to defend the Constitution, and the ideals embodied in it. Pluralism is just one of those ideals. But in order to embrace the ideals embodied within the Constitution, one needs to conduct intellectual examinations, embrace logic and reason, and possess true empathy for one's fellow man, acts which too few among us appear capable of doing.
dmbones (Portland, Oregon)
Looking out of any window, Nature reveals unity in diversity. The more human actions reflect unity in diversity, the stronger and more sustainable that unity becomes. Human unity is an accomplished state of mind, a recognition within those with eyes to see that reflects the divine spark animating all consciousness. Circumstances change, but reliance on unity in diversity as a moral principle always bends the arc of history toward justice.
Maronda (Tucson)
Mr. Friedman, thank you for the inspiration! Have you thought of running for President?
Humane (Los Angeles)
BRAVO Mr. Friedman from start to finish! From sea to shining sea. And most of all expanding the investments we have made in the pursuit of military might to comparable investments to achieve opportunity and educational might from zip code to zip code.
James (Flagstaff, AZ)
I often disagree with specific aspects of Mr. Friedman's columns on globalization and the new "intelligence" economy, but I fully agree with him that this is a reality, and one with great potential. I can mirror his description of the women and men whom he met in the US military. I teach online for a large urban public university in the Southeast (east, not west). I have my fall roll lists in hand. What do I see? Patel and Khan, Morales and Ortiz, Binyaku and Apata, Strakosha and Skoblicki. When I make periodic visits to the campus and stroll around, it's a diverse student body, with domestic and international students, long-time residents and recent immigrants. Students are working hard, juggling work, family and study, striving for diverse careers. And, they're doing it together. The city and university are by no means unique: there are dozens like them, adding up to millions of students, and tens of millions of citizens. That's America. Trump's America, like Palin's "real America", is fake news.
james jordan (Falls church, Va)
This was one of your best columns. Your discussion of pluralism was spot on. Your perspective on Charlottesville from Qatar is a valuable contribution to the much needed discussion of what policy directions we should take. I love how you characterized your identity as a pluralism supremacist by cataloging the gender, ethnic, and religion permutations of the American military representatives that you met.

I agree that the potential of using the human and systems applications created in the military for application to solving some of the economic, social problems that continue to arise in our "country of opportunity" as recognized by the Ukrainian immigrant who mans the "hotline" to prevent accidents in a crowded air space.

I did note in your description of the 3-dimensional battle space several vulnerabilities that I am sure Secretary Wilson has in her neurons. The Air Force is still dependent on fossil fuels and this is unwise. We must get more creative with our space and chemical know-how to create a Maglev launched space solar power system to beam energy to receiving fields on Earth to create very cheap electricity for the US and the World. With cheap electricity we can make synthetic jet fuel from the carbon dioxide in air and hydrogen in water. Dr. James Powell, the inventor of superconducting Maglev, in his latest book, "Silent Earth" describes this electric energy pathway to the future, including an Maglev transport network that would boost the economy.
Patrick (Ithaca, NY)
I agree with you on the alternative energy construct. The biggest holdup is all the "powers that be" that have vested economic interest in maintaining, however foolishly and detrimentally, the status quo. Until this changes, such alternatives will be relegated to theory and/or economically suppressed.
james jordan (Falls church, Va)

Besides the vulnerability of the Air Force and all the military dependent on liquid hydrocarbons like jet fuel, I also sensed in the 3-D battle space, which you described in this column, a potential vulnerability of the battle space to cyber intrusion, destruction or sending false signals. I don't know the solution but I do know there are a variety of ways to "hack" this system. I note that the daily overflights of helicopters in my Washington Area neighborhood, our rabbit ears TV reception loses the signal when one of the frequent helicopters flies nearby.

The cost per pound of explosives dropped on targets is terribly expensive and when I last looked continues to rise. Take the total cost of the Air Force fixed base systems and Navy aircraft carrier and submarine systems divided by the total cost per pounds of explosives delivered and plot the trend over time you will see that the system essentially is confined to unsustainable costs.

I do know that we can deliver pounds of explosives on target with powerful electric Maglev "rail"guns with stand-off aircraft, ships or land for less than human driven systems.

The description of a pilot in a cramped cockpit on an 8 hour patrol was noted. Staying on patrol for that period of time must be miserable. I would suggest more pilots, more robots to bring the cockpit time to 4 hours max. Secretary Wilson knows the pilot deficit well but we need to begin to project out a decade and restructure the military.
james jordan (Falls church, Va)
Patrick, thanks for reading my comment. I agree with your points.

We definitely need a new energy source. I was the Navy Program Director for Energy R&D back when we had the energy crisis in the 70s and first learned how vulnerable we were to the fossil fuel energy supply. I learned global supply is finite and civilization needs to make the shift. In my research I have come to the conclusion that we should shift to an electricity based economy and I believe that it is in progress but the threat from carbon dioxide and other global warming gasses has prompted a need to make the shift faster than we are. Carbon dioxide emissions only seem to slow when economic growth slows.

In my view we are in a race with the potential runaway of global warming from a thawing permafrost and deep ocean hydrates. It already may be too late but I think we should try to find out when the runaway has or will begin.

I have written the President via the WH web site and some of my scientist friends have sent letters to urge him to mobilize the US technical community to develop a system that can generate the huge amount of electricity required to make a shift and also improve the standard of living. History tells us that anything else will not work.

James Powell, a great scientist and engineer, and others have several technology ideas. At his and my level of capitalization we can only write about the ideas. All Powell's books are listed at and Amazon.
N.Smith (New York City)
Well, Mr. Friedman. I have no doubt that many Americans would rather be anywhere else but HERE these days.
It's hard to think of ISIS when there's so much Domestic Terrorism going on at home, with a president who refuses to call it what it is.
But thank you for the report. Safe journey.
Peaceless (Antarctica)
Tom, though you are writing from a combat zone in the safety of the most pluralistic and most powerful army on earth, reading your write up feels like emerging fresh from a see of hope and despair.
Yesterday's utterings of Trump can effectively be reversed if we can uproot the word supremacy from personal, political, national and International lives and existence.
I am worried that like the Shia/Sunni/Alawait "supremacists", the white supremacists of the United States of America are probably trying to destroy our values and our lives in America.
Exactly like he US intitiative in the Middle East, we need a pluralistic army of peace activists, and yes the alt-left included, to fight the white supremacists in the US to bring ever lasting peace and prosperity.
We do not need Drones or sophisticated fighter jests to with the battle, we just need a crystal clear vision to make America great again inclusively unlike what the POTUS envisions to achieve exclusively.
Thank you, Tom. Be safe and come back home safe.
Lance in Haiti (Port-au-Prince)
I'm thinking that it should be a pretty short "national discussion", Tom. The problem, of course, is that what should be a pretty simple decision gets mixed up with our exaggerated fear of terrorism on U.S. soil. The counter-argument that the only way to protect ourselves is to build the biggest, baddest, militrary machine around only encourages us to stay involved in unwinnable wars in parts of the world most of us can't begin to understand.
Dave (San Diego)
Luckylorenzo (
People change. Need to recognize that.
Wilhelm Evertz (La Jolla)
Mr. Friedman,

you are one of my three favorite columnists at the Times. I like you world-wide perspective, your political acumen, and your perception of future trends. You have replaced Mr. Krugman in the number of articles I save. Since Trump's election he has just been recycling the travails of Obamacare and Republican perfidy.
As to grammar, It should be WE in the title of your article, not US. Should we dispense with the nominative altogether? Me does not think us should.

Wilhelm Evertz
Tracy Rupp (Brookings, Oregon)
Trump is the white American Christian's president. They voted for him in big numbers. 60% of Mormons and Catholics and 80% of Evangelicals. This is more than a political divide. It's a spiritual rot in the Churches of the Republican Way.
Nate Lunceford (Seattle)
Wow. A celebration of American pluralism, an admission of ultimate military impotence despite massive technological superiority, followed by a call to bring this kind of "talent and energy" to bear on Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit (read, "black people")?
This might be the most altruistically stupid thing I have ever read Mr. Friedman pen on these pages. And that's saying something.
Tiresias (Arizona)
We lost our chance for turning Iran into an potential ally with the "Axis of Evil" speech by Bush. Bismarck said that states do not have friends, but they do have interests. We could learn from him.
Scott (Middle of the Pacific)
We lost the chance to be friends with Iran in 1953 when the CIA engineered a coup against the democratically elected president, ushering in the Shah and his infamous secret police, the Savak. The hatred of the US (and the UK) runs far more deeply than anything George Bush uttered.
Kassem Allie (<br/>)
According to the census there are 116 Million households in the US and according to several studies the total projected cost of the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan will will approach $6 trillion by 2025. Do the math. The most frightening thing is that $6 trillion is borrowed! Guess from who? Another way to look at it is there are 20 million households in those war torn countries guess how much we borrowed to presumably spend per each one of them?
East End (East Hampton, NY)
TIME FOR A NATIONAL RECALL ELECTION. Congress can act. They appear to be afraid to impeach him so instead they can put the decision up to the voters. When the fake president gives his expected veto they can over-ride the veto and create a national ballot. Recalls have happened many times in our history to eject elected officials from office. There has never been a national recall. It is time for one now. The fake president should forfeit his office. On the ballot, voters could be given the choice to replace the president with the candidate who got the most votes in the most recent national election (Hillary Clinton), or with the Vice-President. I for one would select the former rather than the latter but we should choose. Although a national recall would be unprecedented, we are witnessing an unprecedented defiling of the office the presidency. This defiling must be arrested as soon as possible to salvage what is left of our democracy.
Frank (McFadden)
US law doesn't provide for Federal level recall.
Scott (Middle of the Pacific)
I do not believe there is a mechanism in the Constitution for a recall, but it is interesting to think about how an impeachment, or recall, would play out. More than likely Trump would appeal to his base which seems more than willing to take up arms in defense of white nationalism. I would assume things would be pretty ugly, verging on civil war. Trump could manufacture "incidents" (think: Reichstag's fire of 1932) as a pretext to institute martial law and allow his brown shirts to protect his fake presidency.

The Republicans have created a very dangerous monster. I am not sure how they are going to rectify this situation but the ball is really in their court to do something.
jaco (Nevada)
Interesting Mr. Friedman. ISIS also destroyed historical artifacts, "progressives" and ISIS have a lot in common.
MKR (Philadelphia)
These so-called historical artifacts (Lee statues) were moved -- not destroyed.
jonathan (decatur)
jaco, you are suggesting that the statues of Robert E. Lee and others are historical artifacts when they are clearly not. Those statues were not erected during the Confederacy and they were not erected decades later for the purpose of teaching history. They were erected during periods of intense segregation in the 1920's and 1950's-60's as a means of bolstering white supremacy and providing a rationale for oppressing blacks. ISIS destroy artifacts from civilizations that existed many centuries before their time. The difference can not be starker. I find your comment not only ignorant but personally offensive.
Luckylorenzo (
Those "historical" monuments were built during (early 20th century and 1950s during the civil rights struggle) the ISIS-like KKK terrorism in the South which effectively undid much of the slave liberation in the Confederancy. BTW as a southern kid non of this was offered in our public school history classes.
Tacomaroma (Tacoma, Washington)
Excellent piece. Pluralism is the key. Because of a tolerance and openness to the new and the different. Need algorithms to untangle and advise us on the ways to go in support different groups on the middle east. Secularism is the key and the long shot for traditional societies. And for the US in Charlottesville.
Joanne Rumford (Port Huron, MI)
"The good news? ISIS, having been largely defeated in Iraq, will most likely be defeated in Syria, too, by Americans, Kurds, Russians, Syrians, Iranians and pro-Iranian militias. The bad news? There is a good chance that ISIS’ territory will ultimately fall under Iran’s sway."

Let the conversations begin with NYTimes Opinion "Charlottesville, ISIS and Us" by Thomas L. Friedman, Wednesday, August 16, 2017!!!!!!

The U.S. like it's northern neighbor Canada is a mirror image of each other. Because the history is from Europe that being the United Kingdom including Ireland. Maybe one among nations appropriately completes this puzzle of where the next piece is placed. It doesn't have to be ISIL.
Paterson (Asheville, NC)
Why is Iran getting this bad rap when the Saudis are supporting terrorism and Israel is never questioned about its occupation, war and assassinations?
Why is Israel not questioned about its nuclear program? Tom is knowledgable about the Middle east but his judgement is compromised.
Ted (Portland)
Tom you mentioned all those fighting for supremacy: Taliban, Persian, Turkish etc. etc., didn't you leave out a couple of names Saudi Arabia and Israel, the reason our "pluralistic" men and women are fighting and dying in the Middke East rather than rebuilding Baltimore.
"Pluralism supremacist." Nice slogan!

Just rationally reflecting on the reasons and justifications for racism, bigotry, misogynist, 'religism', and supremacist are just outright ridiculous and stupid. They're all simply excuses to divide and gain undeserved power over another group - like slavery.

The world has enough divisions that need to be bridged. The reason America is as strong as it is - so far - is because of peaceful pluralism. Pluralism is a united force that can be leveraged for good. Sadly a dis-United States will be our downfall.

Just like the Sunni-Shiite pluralism will never happen, Israeli-Palestinian pluralism will never happen, to their population's misfortune and weakness, in spite of the billions we pour in to one side to perpetuate the status quo.
EHansk (CO)
Friedman's been wrong on just about every major issue for the last 20 years.

His biggest error was his full support for the Iraq War, for which he still has yet to apologize. Hundreds of thousands murdered for what ? A destabilized Middle East and endless war against terror? You gonna apologize to Americans, Friedman? The next biggest lie he hustled out was that Globalism is the great equalizer. This has been disproven by every leading economist on the planet.

The U.S. Military Industrial Complex sucks a trillion dollars annually from OUR treasury. It is bankrupting us, more than anything else. Globalism in the form of international capital running the whole show, has gutted the American economy and left us in a state of continual consumer debt to feed the billionaire oligarchs who overlord and exploit us.

This article is blatherskite
James (Portland)
If we can't remove this tyrant then there is no hope that our republic can stand united.
Dee Muma (NY)
To begin that National discussion about the best use of all "the talent and
energy" of the American forces, there should be a pole on that best use.
I would like to see their efforts in the United States.
Jack M (NY)
There is also a "plurality" to extremism in this country on both sides of the aisle and it's denial by the left is what encouraged Trump's reaction.

Out of 350 million people, the most the White supremacist could muster Charlotte was a couple hundred. Sad and pathetic.

Everyone who watches TV today can see that the South is crawling with KKK goons. Right?

Uh... no... Actual facts: As of 2016, the Anti-Defamation League puts total Klan membership nationwide at around 3000 -6000 TOTAL. ((Wikipedia)

Stop for a second and put aside the media hysteria. 3-6k in the entire USA! That is truly pathetic.

By contrast, the Nation of Islam (The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks the NOI as a black supremacist hate group.) In 2007, was estimated to be between 20,000 and 50,000. (Wikipedia)

Of course, there are other radical fringe groups as well, such as neo-Nazis and the spreading Antifa head-smashing anarchists. The crazy rightist with the car, and the crazy leftist who shot the senator.

There will always be some extremist kooks. The media is pouring focus, and therefore energy, into these movements, creating a self-fulfilling bogey monster because it serves a political agenda.

There is no question in my mind that there will be an attempt on Trump's life in the near future directly because of this. If successful it will split the nation like we can't imagine. THAT will not be a bogey monster, and that will be the media's fault.
James (Portland)
Anything above zero is too many klan members.
hen3ry (Westchester County, NY)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?"

If that were to happen it would be in spite of the GOP rather than because it decided to help with anything for middle, poor, or working Americans. And yet that's precisely what we need. We need to our tax dollars channelled back to our cities, our rural areas, our infrastructure, our education and health care systems. We need an American Marshall Plan. It's too bad that no one in either party can muster up the support for it.
Jason Meade (Virginia)
Which party runs Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit again?

Apparently you missed the entire point of this piece. THE ENTIRE POINT. Do continue to scream about the "evil other tribe" some more. That has certainly gotten us into this current dumpster fire the MINORITY of the electorate Democrats and MINORITY of the electorate Republicans keep insisting on in a back and forth, one extreme to the other manner even as the PLURALITY of the electorate (independents) receive virtually ZERO representation in our "democratic" and "representative" governance.
parms51 (Cologne)
I've traveled quite a lot and I've never been to any country where the people didn't think that their country was the best of the best, never mind some minor problems we may have.
Iran, steadily moving to grab more and more power, control the Middle East, threaten good democracies like Israel, and good allies like Jordan?
We are Iran. Whatever you see there in a country like Iran, that is what they see in the United States. Don't be so proud Mr. Friedman.
Steve (Hunter)
"With a few exceptions, they can’t generate self-sustaining power-sharing. Which is why we keep defeating the worst of them and they keep losing the peace, because the best of them can never share power long enough and deep enough to build lasting stability."

For a moment there I thought you were describing trump and congress. We need to get our own house in order first.
Leo Kretzner (San Dimas, CA)
Wow. Seldom has a relatively short op-ed column covered so much ground and potentially opened peoples' eyes to essential realities: The positive values of pluralism, the self-defeating waste of exclusionism and supremacy, the incredible technical dramas playing out in military command centers, and the tragedy of where most of our resources go - overseas, rather than to our own incredibly hurting major cities.

I hope this article is disseminated far and wide. It deserves a Pulitzer.
Tom Murphy (Mamaroneck NY)
Friedman was one of the talking heads who paved the road of folly that is Iraq
Jean Cleary (NH)
I think the Pluralism Mr. Bruni talks about is laudable. But the problem is that ever since Trump's election it appears as if our pluralism is falling by the wayside, as evidenced the horror show that was Charlottesville.
We need to clean up our own act here in America. We are no longer a beacon to the world. Pluralism is no longer alive and well in our country, as proven by what Trump and his Administration is doing with Immigration, health care, our environment, our education system, our Justice system and god knows what else that is going on behind closed doors.
Norma (Albuquerque, NM)
Pluralism has never been alive and well in this country. While many pretend to be all-inclusive, there is always a limit to their embrace. If it isn't skin color, it is religion, or sexual orientation, or wealth, or country of origin.

This doesn't even include discussion of how reservations dot the American countryside, imprisoning the tribes that occupied the land before Europeans found their countries as constricting as they made the non-white inhabitants of the Americas.
Alfred di Genis (Germany)
The divisions in American society and its economic, political and racial polarizations are deep and serious, possibly even existential. The superficial self-celebration which idealistically formed the American narrative in the theoretical "best of times" and that perpetuated the national myth will no longer suffice as a rug under which to sweep the detritus of reality, nor will the blaming of others for what we have wrought.
As for the massively dominant, contemptuous and historically overwhelming military power of the US which covers the globe, which has become the face of America towards the world and which has imperially replaced dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy, it is the weight under which the planet groans for its life, Mr Friedman.
Gene Hall (Breckenridge, CO)
As usual, Tom Friedman is spot on. However, his indicators of pluralism he left out a significant demographic group - white males. Are they no long part of the Air Force? This omission reinforces the beliefs and fears of many.
camorrista (Brooklyn, NY)
Gene Hall, of Breckenridge, Colorado, seems to be yet another white male who feels left out of American pluralism.

Wasn't that feeling the impetus for those swastika-flaunting white males with helmets, shields, toxic sprays, clubs & guns who gathered in Charlottesville?

Oh, poor, pitiful white males. How they're ignored by the elites! How they're mocked and disdained. And--most of all, oh most of all--how they're disrespected. Gee, I wonder why....
Dave (Albuquerque, NM)
Actually its not because we embrace pluralism. Its because we have the U.S. constitution which guarantees equality before the law and limits government power with the bill of rights. Pluralism emerges out of this. Of course the founding documents were imperfect and written by imperfect human beings, but it was that start that propelled the United States to the heights its reached.
Norma (Albuquerque, NM)
Not even in Albuquerque, surrounded by reservations and "white" or "anglo," and "Mexican" neighborhoods, is your statement entirely true.

Especially with in this current electoral college administration, we need to own up to what we as a nation really are. This is our "come to Jesus" moment.
geof (boem)
Sometimes the obvious has to be stated with particular eloquence to sink in. There are so many dualistic paradigms - ways of understanding the differences between peoples - religious or secular, violent or peaceful, liberal or conservative. I don't imagine "pluralism vs exclusivist supremacy" is a new paradigm, but AS STATED HERE, it has opened my eyes as to why the IDEAL of America is so valuable and worth defending.

It is now so obvious to me that the exclusivist supremacy worldview insures constant wasteful conflict, while pluralism generates cooperation. And now, sadly, America is shifting rapidly toward the former. And the EU too - an attempt to turn toward pluralism - is also slipping the other way. Won't it be nice not to pay those taxes to the EU and follow their rules? The money saved will surely be enough to fund the next world war.

To repeat what Fr Eric Funston said - this is indeed one of your best essays, which for me says a lot, since you are my favorite opinion writer.
Steven McCain (New York)
When will we stop treating the president as though he is the eccentric uncle at Christmas Dinner who says things that are hurtful and embarrassing? A young lady died Saturday trying to protest tyranny and hate.Her death should burned into our collective hearts. The thought that when she woke up that day that she had no idea that it would be her last is disturbing. Saturday was her last day not because of accident or illness. Saturday was her last day because of an act of hate at the hands of a twenty old young man. One has to wonder how one so young could have so much hate in his heart that he was willing to end someone else's life and destroy his. The fact that he drove his own car meant that he didn't care if he was caught or killed. Those who preached that we were in a post racial society realize now they were preaching to the choir. The age of the the Nazis and other terrorist was alarming for they were not old men in the last season of life they were young men. We as a nation are quick to demonize other religions that radicalize their young men. Now we have to look into ourselves and ask why are our young men radicalized. Our homegrown terrorist didn't strap a bomb to his body to kill innocents he used a car instead.
Steve (Denver, Colorado)
Hate-inspired violence in Charlottesville; Iran's Shite -led occupation strategy in Middle East; and and a mud wrestling, belt seeking U.S. commander -in-chief with a West Wing nationalistic operatives rooted in the 1930s. What a diabolical mix that's evolved. Hopefully, Ken Burns's anticipated documentary to air in mid-September on Viet Nam will be a catalyst for beginning to crawl back to the future in our beloved country in the spirit that Mr. Friedman so beautifully and powerfully wrote about today.
Michael Friedman (Kentucky)
Credit where it's due-- Thomas Friedman, the friend of licensed experts and eloquent men in the street everywhere, got this one right. Good column, Cousin Tommy.
Jim (Kansas City)
I agree that we need a national discussion on spending blood and treasure overseas vs. spending money to fix up the US. But it may be easier to beat ISIS than to get the Rs to discuss these issues, let alone spend money on them.
Mark (Trumpland)
How can we do anything in this once-great nation when we have a pathetic president of the United States who supports racism and bigotry? I just cannot believe he believes that Nazism and the KKK have anything to offer this nation other than HATE and killing!
helene kahne (long island)
Please explain to me why my thinking is wrong..I feel that the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee would be similar to the pulling down of the statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001..I feel that the confederate statues should remain..Robert E. Lee was a great general..he lost the war..however it is the history of the south.. and the culture of the south..I see no harm in their remaining..and it is part of the history of our great country..and it is a wonderful work of art...I feel that the removal is also similar to what the new kingdom of Egypt wanted to do to the old kingdom..supersede it..It's all the crazies..the stature does not incite violence..Only Donald Trump does..
thwright (vieques PR)
in reply to helene kahne
If you lived in Germany, would you feel the same way about statues of Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, et. al -- simply monuments that "are a part of Germany's history"?
the enslavement of African-Americans for hundreds of years in the U.S., and then the fierce, bloody, defense of that slavery -- seeking to continue it -- by those whose monuments are still admired by so many white people, especially throughout the South, are a daily affront -- virtually a statement that the admirers of them wish the Civil War had come out the other way.
As Faulkner memorably and eloquently put it, this past "is not dead -- it's not even past". If you cannot see the systematic and pervasive personal racism that still strongly exists in our country, you are not trying very hard.
Of course Trump cannot see it -- he lacks the moral and intellectual equipment. Surely we as a Nation will not descend to his shameful level.
SS (Los Gatos, CA)
An interesting challenge. Let's see what you think of this:
Both sets of statues are fair game insofar as they no longer represent who we are. Buddhism was suppressed in Afghanistan long ago; the Confederate generals fought to preserve an order that is--or should be--long gone.
The Bamiyan statues were over 1300 years old, so you could say that if the Taliban had a problem with their being idols, well, that says more about the need of the Taliban to manufacture holy wars out of thin air than about the actual significance of the statues. On the other hand, the statues of the confederate heroes were erected very recently, sometimes within living memory and often within the context of efforts to oppress black citizens--I'm not saying there was always a direct connection, but I think you can see why it may be difficult to separate newfound pride in 'southern heritage' from the all the bad things that were going on at the same time. So these statues are not museum pieces; they mean something, and what they mean is horrific to many of the people who walk past them every day.
So that's part of an answer. Me, if I had to choose, I'd rather burn the flags and keep the statues, but that is the start of a long argument best left for another day.
rosa (ca)
Well said, Thom, but you didn't address the latest scheme: That of the "privatization" of our military forces; that, for instance, a "private" army dropped into Afghanistan could be "more efficient" and "cheaper".

Now, I suspect that Eric Prince would be the OverLord of these forces and I'm dead certain that the paperwork on this bright idea looks glorious! (And, why wouldn't it? Amway always looked glorious on paper, too, yes?)

But what I want to know is: Have you discussed this idea with the forces over there?
Because, for sure, any private army that these Republicans authorize are going to utterly demolish your multi-national, multi-cultural established forces.

Women? Gone.
Ethnicity? Gone.
Other countries? Yikes! Double gone!

The Republican MICs want privatization.
Please discuss and get back to us.
Paula (East Lansing, MI)
"We need to have a national discussion about this." Not very likely.

Our so-called president thinks Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit are lost causes, not worth the effort--and he's big on not putting in effort on hard tasks. Also, he seems so keen on "his" generals that if he can't blow it up or shoot it down, he's not interested. Takes big hands to order a military strike, after all. Trump would say we saw how weak Obama was when he tried through speeches, conversations and programs to help those and other cities fight their demons. Better in his mind to give them up for lost, blame the loss on someone else, and move on to be macho elsewhere. What a guy.
Sharon5101 (Rockaway Beach Ny)
I heard this rubbish of having national discussions to solve our "us" vs "them" issues based on race about four presidents ago. It's too late for this "national discussion" that's supposed to fix all of our problems. Tom Friedman should take a good look a Charlottesville. Actions speak louder than words.
Cone, S (Bowie, MD)
"The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist." Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could say that about our clashing cultures here in America.

Tom, all the irreconcilables, cultural differences, and mostly the deplorable ineptitude of our rabble rousing president fly in the face common sense and good judgment. Lecturing us about these deficiencies is all good and well: getting us to positively involve is another matter all together.

Keep after us. Some of your advice will rub off.
Penningtonia (princeton)
Every single politician who identifies as Republican, from Senators to school board members, is implicitly enabling Trump and are just as bad as the neo-Nazi thugs. The Republican party openly suppresses voting in black neighborhoods and buys elections. Even now, as they give lip service to tolerance, they are secretly undermining programs which help the vulnerable. Until & unless people of good will go out & vote in droves, our country will continue to decline & eventually disintegrate just like the Roman Empire.
Gitano (California)
What the U.S. needs to do is get out totally of the M.E. Nothing positive has been accomplished by the country. By whacking Saddam, Bush jr., another true war criminal, unleashed a never-ending war. You can trace it back to Bin-Laden, and most of life, and in this case, is how one reacts. The reaction in Bush´s case was overwhelmingly mixed in with his peculiar, naive view of the life and the world in general. Like Kissinger, Bush belongs in an orange jump suit in the Hague. But like a lot of other scalawags, nothing will happen. The one thing the country could do, assuming an enlightened leader which is not on the radar, is just leave. That is the sober, adult thing. Of course no sober adult is at the helm.
brupic (nara/greensville)
friedman often makes gobsmacking statements like this.....

......Just one glance at our traveling party and the crews at this base and you realize immediately why we are the most powerful country in the world.

It’s not because we own F-22s. And it surely isn’t that we embrace white supremacy. It’s because we embrace pluralism. It’s because we can still make out of many, one......

he travels a lot, but apparently doesn't see.

the usa is hardly the only place in the world which is a pluralistic country/society.

also, it's not #1 in immigrants/citizens per capita born in other countries.

finally, i recall a column a number of years ago where he said if the usa opened its borders to the rest of the world that the rest of the planet would be empty because their inhabitants would ALL flock to the usa.

pure nonsense, but incredible how so many americans don't understand that many of us are content to struggle thru life not being american.
RoyL (NYC)
Are you kidding me. The minorities in are country are in the military so they can survive. They are the last to have decent living conditions , food, health care and jobs. They enlist in the military and do an outstanding job just as they would if given a chance in our society. They serve with honor.

We as a nation are more exclusive than inclusive, and its time we grew up and allowed all to reach their God given place.
Marcus Aurelius (Terra Incognita)
Who is to say they haven't?
caps florida (trinity,fl)
The op-ed covers many facets, one of which is the option of withdrawing from the middle east. Not only would this be very beneficial in many ways, I don't believe that it puts the USA in any greater danger that already exists. Most of our citizens and your article failed to mention or remember that GWB and president Cheney were warned of an impending possible disaster and chose to ignore it. In other words, we have the capability and capacity to know what's coming. We also have the capacity of retaliation with overwhelming strength which should force the governments which harbor terrorists to be extremely more diligent. Accordingly, we are no better or worse off from attack but would save billions of dollars that we need to rebuild our country.
Candlewick (Ubiquitous Drive)
As usual, Mr Friedman-- you make the complex easily understood.
WB (Massachusetts)
We haven't won a shooting war since 1945, unless the invasions of Panama and Grenada are counted as wars. The war against terror and the war to prevent Iran from dominating the Middle East will also be busts. The pluralism of the American military is impressive but irrelevant. Land wars in Asia and crusades in the Middle East were always fool's errands. Americans do not understand that there are billions of people who do not want what we want and will violently resist the imposition our values on them. These people are of course arrested and perverse and would benefit from a semester or two at the Kennedy School. Nevertheless, I think we should leave them alone unless they directly threaten our interests.
Thomas Locatell (Vt.)
So the answer is as long as the U.S. has the strongest military in the world all is right as rain? That has been the condition since WW ll. We destroyed the industrial output of half the world then prospered for thirty years. Since then not so much. Maybe it's time to put away the toy soldiers and come up with a new game. Or we could go the way of the Roman Empire.
curious cat (mpls)
Finally, someone has asked the elephant-in- the room question: couldn't these huge sums of money have a better return on investment by spending them making us stronger at home. Another question should be what does Iran get if it "wins" this war. Is a warring, unemployed, uneducated citizenry; burned out cities; dessimated infrastructure; broken economy really a prize?
Frank (Brooklyn)
I am so tired of Mr.Friedman being an unabashed
apologist for American military involvement in
almost every conflict in creation.
our self created quagmire in the middle East, where
there are NO VIABLE GOOD OUTCOMES, has nothing
to do with Charlottesville at all.
He constantly tries to brainwash his readers into
believing that our military presence and our sacrifice
of young lives is justified by some myth of American
power being somehow divorced from the military
industrial complex and it's money making machine.
we should support Israel, period.
I am sorry for the bitter tone of this comment,but when
he uses "diversity" to justify this fiasco,I finally have
had enough.
Charlottesville is an American tragedy.
Mr.Friedman should not use it to justify an ongoing
American military disaster.
blackmamba (IL)
What a bunch of delusional diabolical duplicitous inhumane inhuman democratic narcissist hubris denial.

America is the most powerful country on Earth because it annually spends as much on it's military as the next eight nations combined including 9x Russia and 3x China. America is the most powerful nation on Earth because it has 25% of the annual nominal world GDP with 5% of humanity.

America is the most powerful nation because it is allied with nations that deny their citizens their divine natural equal certain unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. America is the most powerful nation on Earth because it is allied with nations that are not civil secular plural egalitarian democracies.

Qatar is the locale of the biggest American air base in the Middle East. Bahrain is the naval base home of the American 5th Fleet. Israel is the number one recipient of American arms since World War II. Followed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Jews, Christians and Muslims playing their mutually exclusive sectarian supremacist cards. Europeans, Arabs, Kurds, Persians and Turks playing their mutually exclusive ethnic supremacist cards.

How did the citizens/persons under the dominion of those nations vote in their last election?

We need to have an international discussion about American hypocrisy regarding the universal human virtue of humble humane empathy.
Krysia Robinson (North Yarmouth, ME)
This is an important piece for many reasons, not the least of which is that many Americans are blind and deaf to this war being fought. Thank you, Mr. Friedman, for reminding us. Sadly, we are mostly distracted by the whining, toddler-president who insists that he's the suffering one. Would that more journalists could focus our attention on where the real battles are taking place while at the same time insisting that our lying commander-in-chief be impeached for his callous ineptitude and self-absorbed ignorance. May those with eyes to see and ears to hear be moved to action.
coale johnson (5000 horseshoe meadow road)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?"

welcome to the choir. we've been singing that song for a long time.
WKra (Milwaukee, WI)
Thank you, sir. Beautiful column.
Peter (Colorado)
Couldn't resist that slam against Iran in the end, could you Tom? Like so many others you think Iran is the problem in the Middle East, not your pals the Saudis, the Emirates, the Qataris and the Americans who keep those corrupt petro-royals in power.
Stephen Woodmansee (Malaysia)
Isn't it strange that these "white supremacists" are the subset of the white community that, from what I can see, have the least to feel supreme about. Sad.
rjon (Mahomet Illinois)
The American military is an example of why the United States needs (desperately) to establish a national institution in which every able bodied person is required to spend a specified amount of time in public service.
Concerned MD (Pennsylvania)
America can best address the "Middle East problem" by becoming totally energy independent through innovation in reliable and efficient renewable energy sources Then the Sunni and Shiite fanatics can either duke it out between themselves or find ways to build nice sand castles will no longer be at the cost of America lives and treasure. We have much better things to do.
Rufus W. (Nashville)
Yes, the Sunni- Arab world needs to get its act together to prevent ISIS extremism - because we have other issues to worry about - we need to focus on stemming the tide of white victim extremism right here!
dW (india)
The solution is obvious: Trump should make friends with Iran's mullahs. They're made for each other. And of all the muslims in the Middle East, Iranians are the hippest and the most like us by a millenium at least. So please!
David Hillsgrove (Mooresville NC)
Gotcha, Tom. Agree with your point. Supremacist is an awful word. It is synonymous with bigotry. Trying to turn it around and use it for good is really poor timing at this point. Also, give a shout out to the kid who's story is so mundane it goes unrecognized. They all have stories and they all are on the front lines where I have never been.
jimbo (Guilderland, NY)
Wow! What an amazing piece of journalism. This certainly falls in the 'Step Back and Look at the Big Picture' file. I wonder who has it worse, who is more in harm's way getting the full story? Tom Friedman or his colleagues in the White House press corps?
Daveindiego (San Diego)
How fantastic. More war. More non-personnel weapons that make killing as easy as playing video games.

Maybe it's time to recognize human failure.
victor (cold spring, ny)
Beautiful thought. I invite you to lead our troops with open hands extended towards the front lines of ISIS.
Manuel Soto (Columbus, Ohio)
An interesting essay, with 2 apparent subjects: American pluralism and geopolitical strategy.

It goes without saying the concepts & ideals embodied in Nazi salutes, KKK robes & swastika banners are antithetical to all things American. The Confederate States of America were traitors who attempted to destroy the Union. I find no difference between Benedict Arnold, John Walker, Jr. or the Klan members & Nazi wannabes in Charlottesville.

As far as geopolitical strategy is concerned, Lyndon Johnson tried to have guns & butter when he tried to fight a war and expand his "Great Society" without raising taxes to pay for them. As a result we found ourselves bogged down in an Asian civil war with no apparent end, while deficits & our National Debt mounted (resulting in the stagflation of the Seventies). Does that sound familiar?
America should think long and hard before inserting itself into a sectarian conflict between Sunni & Shia Muslims that has been going on for almost 15 centuries. We already have one "war without end"; do we really want to be in another? Bush 43 began a global war on terrorism without raising the revenues to finance it, a situation remedied by the Obama Administration.

We've been trying to run America "on the cheap" since the days of Reagan, if not Carter. I fear we will find we can have neither guns nor butter without paying the price. There's no such thing as a "free lunch".
Spender. CGB (Dublin)
From the article
"Shiite supremacy, Sunni supremacy, Alawite supremacy, Taliban supremacy, Turkish supremacy and Persian supremacy."
You missed Israeli supremacy Thomas, however I am sure it was an oversight.

From the article again.
"On one recent day you could look up at those screens and find a Syrian fighter jet preparing to drop bombs near U.S. special forces in Syria. The Syrian jet is about to be blown out of the sky by a U.S. fighter jet, while two Russian fighters watch from a higher altitude and a stealth U.S. F-22 watches the Russians watching the U.S. plane watching the Syrian."

Would you mind telling me where America gets its legal justification for being in Syria, preparing to blow out of the sky an aircraft of the internationally recognised government of that country? It was not invited. The Iranians and Russians were. American supremacy?

We need to have a national discussion about this.
katalina (austin)
If we as non-military members of society in the US would view our roles as Friedman extols--and rightfully--the military and its making of many one, that would be exemplary. Is the difficulty in doing this domestically that we do not view ourselves as citizens, rather individuals, and often non-voting, non-participants in educating ourselves as citizens of this country, with a duty. We should. Adaptation to change does not mean removal of all beliefs personally important. The comparison Friedman makes regarding Sunni-Shiite conflict should be noted for the lack of adaptation by either to make things better in the MiddleEast--and their "exclusivist dreams of supremacy--" Shiite, Sunni, Alawite, Taliban, Turkish, or Persian. We must not retreat into nostalgia for a past that was neither honorable nor right as we encounter our own struggles for those values in our country.
"And the very reason we are stuck in this region and can’t get out is that so many of the nation-states and people here are fighting only for their exclusivist dreams of supremacy — Shiite supremacy, Sunni supremacy, Alawite supremacy, Taliban supremacy, Turkish supremacy and Persian supremacy."

You are right Friedman, but why do you leave out Zionist supremacy and Jewish supremacy, where people in the current Israeli government dream of a one-state solution that is an undemocratic, Jewish theocracy ruling over a non-Jewish indigenous population of equal size under Apartheid like policies, who like Netanyahu consistently oppose the two-state solution (that you have always supported), some who want Eretz Israel - God's promised land from Nile to Euphrates - covering Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq - to restore the Temple and replace the remarkable, democratic, pluralistic country that Israel is within the Green Line (pre-1967 borders).

And don't forget your cheerleading the Iraq War that gave us much of today's Middle East mess.
David (San Francisco)
Hmmm ... and how many generals directly serve and advise this chief purveyor of bigotry?
Whyoming (Los Angeles, CA)
Dwight McFee (Toronto)
What hogwash. You haven't won a war since 1945. But you sure have killed a lot of humans backing your corporations around the world. And amnesia creeps in regarding genocide, slavery ( continuing today) and you dropped the big one taking out 60,000 a pop. Nice words Tom but there is a history.
Jack Nargundkar (Germantown, MD)
Mr. Friedman asks, “What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?”

Et tu, Mr. Friedman? The single worst thing that President Trump can do in the foreign policy arena right now is to abandon our 16-year effort in Afghanistan. If we do, Iran and Pakistan will duke it out for control over Afghanistan – with India aligning with Iran, and the Afghan Taliban (partnered with a fledgling ISIS in the subcontinent) aligning with Pakistan and its native Taliban. And, we will be back to square one – i.e., the chaos of the 1990s after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, when we abandoned our then Afghan ally, the Mujaheddin, and let it morph into Al Qaeda. The rest, as they say, is history – which, such a boneheaded move on Trump’s part would cause, to repeat itself.

Mr. Friedman, in spite of the inadequacies of President Trump, his administration can surely walk and chew gum at the same time, i.e., simultaneously tackle domestic nation building and critical foreign policy crises, which is what a superpower does. So let’s not conflate the two.
Casey Dorman (Newport Beach, CA)
Puralism is great, but a puralistic fist is not. For all of the wonderful things our country stands for (or is trying to stand for as the battle rages here at home), we still wield our military superiority as if it somehow bestows a moral advantage or greater wisdom. The Sunnis and Shiites can't come together, and we decry that, yet take sides in the Iran/Saudi Arabia split and, with the same vengeance as the Saudis, demonize Iran. We plant troops, missiles, drones, and missile shields in South Korea and wonder why North Korea is paranoid. Most recently we have wondered aloud about using military force in Venezuela, despite numerous South American leaders telling us to back off. There are lots of democratic countries that honor and enjoy pluralism. We're the only one that insisst that it involves exceptionalism—the kind of exceptionalism that gives us the right to wield our pluralistic fist against whomever we disagree with. Pluralism is wonderful, but it would be better if it were accompanied by less arrogance and more modesty.
blackmamba (IL)
Mr. Friedman's reporting from the Middle Eastern frontier of the modern American Empire is akin to Julius Caesar reporting from Gallic frontier of the Ancient Roman Empire. The fact that ethnic sectarian colored minorities were/are allowed to serve in both empires mythical military socioeconomic political diplomatic machinations is the ultimate irony and paradox.
John (Atlanta)
And I would add, in reference to the idea of binding together "all of those different people and mak[ing] them into a fist," that when you bind together a lot of rods, you get a "fasces."
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
"The bad news? There is a good chance that ISIS’ territory will ultimately fall under Iran’s sway."

Why is that bad news? The other Muslim nations contending for it created and are supporting al Qaeda, and their fundamentalist beliefs drive ISIS.

Iran is the most moderate in the region, which has very little that can pass for moderation.

Oh, Netanyahu does not like them. That makes all the difference, all.
Lynda (Gulfport, FL)
Those of us who continue to have faith that bringing together people with diverse experiences will result in the development and use of best practices to manage the issues of our times are finding our viewpoint strongly challenged these days. It seems nearly all activist groups are working to implement the "One way, one Supreme Leader Philosophy". The pluralism Mr. Friedman speaks so highly of is now seen as an obstacle to progress whether that is on educational tests in schools or work environments or communities. Nations seem to be defending their artificial borders--even in the EU. Only decades after Reagan's "Take down that wall", Republicans are funding a wall in the US.

Even as individuals we seem to be seeking to live and work only within our comfortable "tribes" where our words are understood and we are not threatened for what we believe; So ironic as we acknowledge the damage done by the Partition of India and Pakistan as well as the breakdown of the "two state" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian border conflicts.

Mr. Friedman, we are not able to have a national discussion about anything with the current Republican president and Congress in power. Trump, his voters and those Republicans who are keeping silent about his unfitness to be president will not listen.
Frank (McFadden)
Refreshing positive message in dark times! There still is a real America - and making it better would be a good thing.
Guwedo (Cali)
Your words and insight re the power, strength and moral integrity that part and parcel of conflation, diversity and multiculturalism are inspiring and stabilizing. They are in stark and chilling contrast to yesterday's vile and intentional support the leader of our country provided to the purveyors of hate, racism, bigotry and all that is evil.
sapere aude (Maryland)
It is unfortunate that so much talent, resources, blood, and treasure was wasted to fill the vacuum created by invading Iraq, a war that you Mr. Friedman supported wholeheartedly. The pluralism you now worship went out the window in 2003. Now you are a pluralism supremacist. Back then you were one of the many enablers and cheerleaders.

Let us at least celebrate the diversity of the US military, their bravery, their talents.
JC (oregon)
And the short answer to your question is that it won't happen. The reason is very simple. Military is autocratic but not democratic! Hierarchy and authority with absolute clarity plus talented and dedicated "employees" by bonding them together with pride for a noble cause are ingredients behind the success. More and more, I realized that the "American model" is not sustainable. The noble concept of pluralism is great to employers. But with the uncontrolled influx of undocumented immigrants, demographics are changing. And with outsourcing and the arrival of automation and AI, American dream is only left for people with advanced degrees, strong motivation and the will to work hard.
NYT is not innocent in the decay of the great American society! It's "liberal" view is simplistic and single-minded. Human nature is ugly and predictable. Liberalism, socialism and communism can never work because "we are only human". Of course I am not embracing GOP either. I just cannot vote for them against my conciousness. The question I have now is what has happened to this great nation on earth?! This land can nurture Harvard, Yale, MIT etc, but how could we come to this point?
Kent R (Rural MN)
Funny, I both struggle with and am encouraged by this piece. We come together to be a "fist" but we seem to be unable to be tolerant neighbors in our own national home...maybe we're simply able to put aside the "ism" of race to exert the "ism" of nation.
Joan Erlanger (Oregon)
The descent into tribalism seems to be a worldwide phenomenon at present. The resurrection of racial and cultural bias, hatred and concomitant fear is all too clearly at our doorstep. It is being stoked by our ersatz president and the silence of the republicans who continue to support him. I can only hope that we are not all hard-wired to adopt these hateful strategies.
joel bergsman (st leonard md)
I hate to champion lack of knowledge. But in the case of US policy in the Mddle East, I fear that the experts who know many of the details have lost sight of the woods and see only the trees.

An intelligent, well-read and reasonably well-informed, mature amateur of history, can I think see the problem much more clearly. And, miracle though it may seem, it is clear. It is obvious. It is shockingly obvious. The US has done essentially no good, no good at all, in this part of the world since 9/11. We have killed many people, including our own, we have spent gazillions of dollars, we have facilitated the inevitable collapse of the non-nations created after WWI into non-functional or disfunctional tribal areas... EVERYONE KNOWS THIS! For heaven's sake, for reason's sake, for mercy's sake, let's finally get out of this quagmire where nothing we do, and nothing we can do, works.
Thomas Locatell (Vt.)
What if indeed.The last paragraph hardly makes up for the fawning reverence for the impersonal hi-tech killing machine that Eisenhower warned us about.
Chazak (Rockville Md.)
There are 22 Arab countries and one Persian country (Iran), with the exception of tiny Israel (less than 1%) they rule all of the land in the middle east. All of their countries are a disaster. The Arabs make up 5% of the population of earth, yet 50% of world wide refugees are Arabs. Their countries, once forward thinking and advanced, are neither now. They need to look inside and figure out what they are doing wrong and begin fixing it.

As Mr. Friedman indicates, we can't fix their societies, and we should be applying our resources elsewhere. Perhaps if they had not evicted their educated Jewish population over the past 70 years they would have some forward thinking, educated people to pitch in. Too late for that now. With climate change coming, it will get worse and their people's solution of getting on a boat to Europe won't be available much longer.
Bob (North Bend, WA)
What if we (the US) didn't make way for Iranian domination by destroying Iran's worst enemy, Saddam's Iraq? (In the Iraq War t)hat W. Bush led and Tom Friedman supported.) What if we didn't sell hundreds of billions in weapons to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc. and so arm the Mideast for self-immolation? What if we didn't pave the way for ISIS' "caliphate" by destroying Iraq and weakening Syria?
rwc (Breckenridge, CO)
Thanks, Tom...amidst the chaos and mindless tragedy of the help us pause to step back, ponder and think about the big picture and relative trade-offs. But to advance the thesis you propose, Tom, we need patient, thoughtful, enlightened leadership...sorely lacking in America today. Why can't we inject our political and bureaucratic leadership in America with the virtues and values of the leaders we see in action in the military? Smart, disciplined, fact-based, decisive. Where are you? Please come forward.
Thomas Givon (Ignacio, Colorado)
In this quasi non-sequitur, you wrote two separate editorials, Tom, both incomplete. Your celebration our diversity neglects to offer a viable process by which E Pluribus could become Unum. And you tour-de-force of the Muslim world and our recurrent disasterous intervention in it gives no hint of how those interventions could become effective; nor how they could serve either our parochial interests and the multifarious, conflicting interest of the Muslim world. Kinda sad, don't you think? TG
John Brews (Reno, NV)
What I gleaned from Friedman is that even supposing we know how to meld disparate groups, we cannot expect the Middle East to learn from our example. Not that military occupation is a great teacher. But that the "pupils" aren't interested, having no faith in any but their own faction.

Sounds like the GOP, eh?
Nicholas Zervas Md (Boston ama)
Good question. Why are we there? The Shiites and Sunnis have been fighting for well over a thousand years. Strong men come and go but history knows they will always be replaced Millions die to shore up top Thugs. it is not an inherent muslim problem as many muslim countries are at peace. But the middle east is a furnace fueled by oil.
David in Toledo (Toledo, natch)
All of the nonsense you describe in the next-to-last paragraph was created because Cheney and Bush were determined that it would be a good idea to invade Iraq in 2003 and take over. And all of the expense of this forever war.
DHR (Ft Worth, Texas)
The answer is easy...fixing bad neighborhoods yields few votes. Fighting wars feeds nationalism, patriotism and votes. That Thomas is the discussion we need to have. Fighting wars gets people to read your column and watch cable news. It yields dollars. Helping a poor neighborhood costs dollars. We are a culture built on the dollar and consumerism. Therefore all the self-righteous talk on cable news and printed news is simply platitudes. Until values change in this country your well intentioned article is just another platitude that allows NYT subscribers like me to pat themselves on the back.
KB (Texas)
Free pluralistic society is the sign of strength of a country and very few country achieved that goal.. White supremacists are a challenge to this power of our society. The danger is our President belongs to this group. This wants us to be more vigil lent to protect our strength. The burden is mon the shoulders of white race.
MS (India)
Unless the middle East is controlled and interfered with, you will soon have someone developing/stealing nuclear weapons in one of these chaotic countries. And it is almost certain that such nuclear weapons, howsoever crude they may be, will be used by a failing state or non-state actors on the USA. Those are extremely violent people and their cultural values make them enemies of the modern civilized world. The Middle East mess needs to be cleaned up. Yes the burden should not be borne only by the USA.
Bob Laughlin (Denver)
In reference to an early bit and the last bit in this piece; Friedman mentioned the air base Al Udeid which he describes as "giant".
To build a "giant" air field requires a lot of infrastructure and a lot of workers. And a lot of money.
Imagine if, after our initial invasion of Afghanistan, we had gone it and built some infrastructure for them. It would have provide a lot of Afghans with a job, it would have given them something to protect and be proud of, it would have changed the course of U.S. dealings with the Middle East.
Now imagine if We the People were as interested in closing the gaps here at home between the rich and poor and the black and white as we seem to be in uniting Sunnis and Shiites.
A major infrastructure build here at home would put some money into a lot of pockets that haven't seen much of it lately, which could go a long ways towards healing a lot of the divides that exist here at home.
"What a Wonderful World" that could be. (A nod to Louis.)
Finally, what is so wrong about acknowledging that Iran has always been, is now, and will always be one of the major players in the region. It seems far more pluralistic, modern, Western, forward thinking and fair than our so called allies like Saudi Arabia or Egypt.
Ted (Portland)
Well said Bob: Too simplify the answer to your question: The Saudis and Egypt as venal, corrupt and misogynistic as their leaders may be are our great friends because of Israel and oil. Iran on the other hand a "major player in the region" for centuries, a great contributor to civilization for centuries, and possessing a forward thinking and modern youth are our great enemy because of Israel and oil. We are fighting a war costing trillions for oil and Israel and it has been going on for sixty plus years. Imagine how wonderful America would be had those trillions been spent on education, infrastructure, healthcare and a manufacturing and financial system that benefited all Americans not just the 1%.
Chris (Louisville)
Pluralism is America's greatest downfall. Britain and Germany are good examples how integration does not work.
Roy Rogers (New Orleans)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?"

Yes. A huge escalation of LBJ's War on Poverty.

Won't work any better than all the other anti-poverty initiatives of the government poverty bureaucracy. Change is needed not from Washington but from the people in the neighborhoods and communities Tom alludes to and no doubt thinks of as victims. If they are victims they are victims of right-thinking men of goodwill like Tom--"progressives".
Washington Heights Observer (New York)
Agreed. Friedman's point on pluralism is well-taken but on poverty we've learned a lot since LBJ and one key is that we are more effective fostering bottom-up change driven by people in the neighborhoods than by funding programs with services designed by experts.
DW Ross (Oregon)
In that case, empower bottom-up programs, and nothing empowers like a little grant money. Rather than cut back on funds for locally-driven initiatives and efforts (as Trump and the GOP are doing), allocate more.
Matt (Brooklyn)
The final line is a clincher. Great point.
Phyllis (Gainesville, FL)
US involvement in Arab-Moslem factionalism all harkens back to the ill-conceived, emotion-based decision of the Bush II administration to invade Iraq.

Now we have another Republican administration that makes ill-conceived, emotion-based decisions.

Why is it that the Republicans won't or can't elect competent, fact-based decision makers? Because their financial support comes from alt-right people like the Mercer family and that money is directed to manipulating voters who lack the education to understand history and socio-economic issues?

Yes, Mr. Friedman, we need to have a national conversation...about getting money out of politics.
Robert McConnell (Redding, CT)
I believe our pluralistic military works pretty well, perhaps because of military discipline and authority, when faced with external enemies. We can work together to succeed and survive in battle and while preparing for battle.

However, eventually that pluralistic military goes home to civilian life and I believe at that time old habits often take over. These hate groups we are seeing on TV are filled with ex-GI's, no longer acting like pluralist GI's but instead as the good old boys from home that they always were. Just watch what the personal histories are for these KKK/White Nationalists as they begin being arrested. Military backgrounds will be far more dominant within these groups than in our population as a whole.
Catherine Gore (Massachusetts)
Thank you for this column. We do need to have a national discussion about this.

Is this connected to our broken healthcare system (non-existent, out of reach system for millions) also? We have the most powerful military in the world, we spend billions each year to continue to be, whether some like it or not, the world's police, but we can't provide decent, basic healthcare for all, nor adequate assistance to millions of poor people. Other developed nations don't have millions of people living in dire conditions we see here - they have decent safety nets, and they don't spend the billions on the military that we do. Instead, we have a the world's most powerful military - for what? To mitigate tribalism in the Middle East, and deter North Korea from blowing up the world?
Lbnyc (East Of The Hudson)
very well said @catherinegore
I've come to believe it is the responsibility of government to provide healthcare like they do for veterans, federal & local state elected individuals, Medicare recipients, Medicaid recipients, current military personnel and others. Let's break it down - it's basically socialized medicine. Let's not mince words.
Marvin Raps (New York)
"The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist." True and well said, but would it not be better to make our diverse people into an open hand for peace.
weahkee95 (long island)
To this Vietnam era veteran, it is unfortunate that we no longer use the draft to fill the ranks of our military. Not only would more of our youngsters be exposed to the pluralism which often accompanies military service, but sending our troops to war is probably less likely when more families have " in the game."
Gary Behun (marion, ohio)
I've often thought that a mandatory military 2 year service as in Israel would address a lot of problems we face in America. A lengthy discussion that lies way outside of some comment to this article.
David (San Francisco)
I share this viewpoint -- with one "tweak." There should be compulsory service, either military or civil. The latter would most benefit "neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit."
Fumanchu (Jupiter)
That's bull. Vietnam was a tragic failure. 50,000 Americans died for nothing.
Steven Bonomo (Tinley Park Illinois)
We already have war going on in these cities, with many innocents suffering the consequences. Would the discussion start with a military response, or in the schools?
j. von hettlingen (switzerland)
America under Trump has become an immensely fractured country. Riven by race, class, culture and politics the president does not proclaim equality and justice for all, but relishes a grotesque display of empathy for violent racists. These are the same extremists whose bigotry and malice are not much different from the death cult embraced by ISIS and the Taliban.
Supporters of white supremacism are proud nationalists, but they have no idea what started to make America great a century ago. It's the mix Friedman mentions that boosts economic growth and helps build a strong civil society. Statistics show that many white rural areas are worse off, because of the lack of diversity and dynamism.
pirranha (philadelphia pa)
Trump has been President for only 6 months.

The divisions were in place well before him and exacerbated under the Obama administration. Racial and ethnic tensions have been growing steadily worse in direct correlation with growing partisanship and the rise of identity politics.
Christopher Picard (Mountain Home, Idaho)
Piranha, what you say may be true, but Trump has done nothing to heal the divide, and much to exacerbate it. The GOP and Trump must get beyond being the opposition and offer constructive solutions for the people as a whole. In other words, quit tilting at the past and move forward. To think that the GOP and Trump can do that without opposition, however, is to be profoundly ignorant of our history.
Main Rd (philadelphia)
It is too bad that these white guys just don't get it for many reasons. They remain like scared little kids in their familiar enclaves, coming out pretending to be big and strong in pretend military regalia. For those Americans who can relax and enjoy the melting pot they are pathetic.
Agnostique (Europe)
If we hadn't messed with Iran and backed the Shah, setting the stage for their revolution and subsequent demonizing of the US, we might today be close allies with a more moderate Iran that, even with it's problems, excesses and hard-liners today, appears to be the most stable and influential player in the region.

It is harder and harder to run with the disparate sunni factions and their terrorist offspring
Mick (Los Angeles)
Jimmy Carter opposed the Shah and they turned on him and grabbed hostages. Then they made a deal with Ronald Reagan to hold those hostages for a better deal in the arms trade.
And Reagan was rewarded with the presidency.
jim (haddon heights, nj)
might go back further and not deposed moosedeq. propping up the shah was wrong and not giving him to the iranians when he fled Iran for the cancer treatment he could have gotten anywhere was wrong too. it provoked the hostage crisis and destroyed what could have been the best relationship we could have had in the Muslim world.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
We still could. Iran would moderate. We are driving the extremists to prominence, without our threats and threatening behavior.
Purple State (Ontario via Massachusetts)
While our military may be diverse, polling suggests that Trump is particularly popular among veterans and those currently serving in the military. And many of our right wing extremists have military experience. I'm skeptical that American militarism is a force for good in this country. On the contrary, I suspect it fosters the authoritarian us-against-them thinking that characterizes much of the right in America.
Christopher Picard (Mountain Home, Idaho)
Friedman assumes we have a citizen military. Not so much. Since the end of the Vietnam era draft, it has increasingly become a professional mercenary force at all levels, increasingly isolated from mainstream America, who go on about their daily lives as our wars become increasingly abstract and distant.
Jeff A. (Lafayette, CA)
I wish we all could be as optimistic as Tom Friedman. I can't anymore. Wasn't it reported after the 2016 election that a majority of active military personnel voted for Trump? It seems likely that after these well trained defenders of our country leave the service they will be captured by the corporate Borg and converted into profit oriented wage slaves.
Falcon78 (Northern Virginia)
So, Jeff A., what do you do to earn a living? Given the animosity in your comments--"profit oriented wage slaves"--I'm guessing you are typing this from your parents rent-free basement? How close am I?
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
"It seems likely that after these well trained defenders of our country leave the service they will be captured by the corporate Borg and converted into profit oriented wage slaves."

If they are lucky. Many are homeless, and suicide rates are high.
Jeff A. (Lafayette, CA)
So, Falcon78, I would guess you have a soft spot for Lee's racist Army of Northern Virginia. How close am I?
barry napach (unknown)
Mr.friedman of cause it is a plus the american military has natioalities from various countiries serving the USA armed forces thereby making it a more effective military force. America can engage its military all over the world recking havoc and destructionIraq eg Iraq,Afganistan,Somolia.Syria etc, guess they following the example of the Waffen ss,whom also accepted many nationalities to render destruction on Europe.
Prometheus (Caucasus Mountains)

We are not there yet, but we are working at it. These things are slow crawlers.
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
No national discussion about using 'our' talent at home is possible while you have a discriminator in the White House; a demagogue whose "virtue" is to create fear, hate and division where unity and vision is required. Can't you see that the military men in his inner cyrcle are being dragged into dereliction of duty by an unscrupulous commander in chief?
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat-Gan, Israel)
"The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist. And the very reason we are stuck in this region and can’t get out is that so many of the nation-states and people here are fighting only for their exclusivist dreams of supremacy — Shiite supremacy, Sunni supremacy, Alawite supremacy, Taliban supremacy, Turkish supremacy and Persian supremacy."

"So many of the nation-states and people here are fighting only for their exclusivist dreams etc."-----No, they are fighting for their homes and homeland as they perceive it. All of this is closer to home to them, often a matter of immediate life or death not just to them, but to their families. People here might tend then to be a little less generous re pluralistic magnanimity.

"None of the U.S. military people here talk U.S. politics." Don't let that fool you Mr. Friedman. That "band of brothers" thing is good only while on the job. When they return to they US, many return to the discord, rancor and vile politics and some become part of it. On the job in the Middle East or elsewhere, giving vent to it is dangerous to them and they know it, usually, not all the time.

So the irony is that you demand of the Middle East to get its Sunni-Arab-Shiite- act together. How about the US get its act together, and the way it looks now, the Sunni-Shiite discord can well serve as a model to where the US is going.
Petey tonei (Ma)
Tom sadly you fall into the narrative that Iran is evil. So sorry you missed out on Persian civilization lesson. For all your globe trotting you remain exclusionary, not really pluralistic. Its the wrong message for our kids -- we have the power and the ammunition in our fists, but we are selective in our hearts. You see the disconnect?
Richard Deforest (Mora, Minnesota)
Tom Friedman....This 80 Year Old's deepest Gratitude for your continued diligence in your Support and Report over the years. For some those past years, my parents knew, living in St. Louis Park, Mn., knew my pride that
their home, then, was also Your home of origin. I continue, in my aging, to
look to You for that diligence in bring some lucid clarity and sanity to
this discombobulated world, now being "led" by Ship without a Rudder.
I look to public Voices, like Yours to help us bring to the surface some
Leadership out of the shadows of the "Wings". My simple phrase is that we
have a designated CEO who does not know enough to Care, or care enough
to Know. Thanks for a moment of appreciation and celebration for our
land's honest Greatness. Now, back to His 24/7 Wonderfulness.
George (MA)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?"
After endlessly promoting the "WAR OF CHOICE", which let to the creation of ICIS and caused unimaginable suffering to so many people, Mr. Freedman is finally asking the right questions. Let's hope we have good answers.
Glenn (Emery, SD)
Thanks for drawing attention to the leavening effect of the military, Mr. Friedman. Military service exposes our population to pluralism like few institutions do. Recruits who reject that pluralism don't last long in uniform. This is made possible because of strong leadership and values. The division displayed in Charlottesville can only be made worse by a Commander in Chief who does not typify those values and responds with an "E Pluribus, um...."
Paul Daley (Maryland)
If pluralism alone was a source of strength, the Ottoman Empire would have been a giant in Europe far longer than it was. Paired with tolerance, pluralism can have an impact, but that is rarely the case, even in America where mobs and vigilante groups seek to spread their message by trashing each other's monuments. Trump has been wrong on many things, but he has been right to focus attention this week on the violent tactics used by both sides. That has to stop. Pair pluralism with tolerance and we can get somewhere. Allow crusaders from the left or right to run rampant in our streets, however, and we'll only recreate here the horrors that we see (and helped create) in Iraq and Syria.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
"Trump has been wrong on many things, but he has been right to focus attention this week on the violent tactics used by both sides."

The Nazis were just as bad when they marched in Skokie, but their opponents were better, and their opponents won the political battle because of that.

The violence is not just wrong, it is a mistake.
JMM (Ballston Lake, NY)
"Three times to get it right?" I am pretty sure it went like this:
1) Saturday-D
2) Monday - C-
3) Tuesday - F-
tomclaire (office)
Thank you, Tom Friedman. And that national discussion is long overdue . . .
Stephen Martin (Amesbury Ma)
Great piece. As a retired officer and child of same my experience was the same. Kids from all over America from every ethnic and religious background, my first aircraft commander was fluent polish speaker from chi town, our squadron commander a Jewish guy from .Brooklyn coming together to serve our country as members of the military. In 25 years having served with hundreds if not thousands of other Americans I never observed bigotry or hatred in "the ranks" hope that continues.
soxared, 04-07-13 (Crete, Illinois)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied [to] fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?

We need to have a national discussion about this."

Yes, we do, Mr. Friedman. However, Charlottesville was part of the aborted conversation that we, as a nation, fitfully and belatedly address. We're really not interested in solving other people's problems, particularly if "those people" are not white. America grudgingly tolerates inclusion and pluralism, but its leaders do not. They send the clear message that the nation's mission is the perpetuation of the status quo.

Merely glance at an index of all the presidents of the United States since Abraham Lincoln. Most, FDR and Barack Obama excepted, were more than relieved to look the other way at the system of injustice which buttressed the American state. Even FDR bent his knee to "separate but equal" so as to secure votes from Southern Congressmen to necessary to advance his social programs that had, at bottom, white people's benefits in mind. Even the "sainted" JFK had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the discussion after four young black girls were sacrificed in a holocaust at their church. And yes, on a Sunday, the segregated hour.

Americans hide behind the scriptures on the Statue of Liberty (as well as behind the Scripture in their Bibles) and bless the God who made them white. Everyone else is an accident.

Forgive the cynical take, but how is this not true?
P.J. cook (Bisbee)
Superb, Mr. Friedman. Superb!
Jan (NJ)
The hateful left in the first time of history in this wonderful country wants to destroy its history. Spray paint on the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian is simple disgusting. The democrats represent the party of hate since day one the president and we will not forget it. If the socialalists hate it here leave and do not make life miserable for the rest of us.
Arlene (New York City)
Mr. Friedman's article seems to spell out exactly what the ALT RIGHT fears, proof that America's Greatness is because of it's diversity. When Trump held his incredible news conference yesterday afternoon, was he surrounded by White Anglo Saxon Protestants? No, he had a dynamic Chinese American Woman on one side and two highly successful Jewish Men on the other.

This is what people like David Duke fear. Proof positive that with all their criticism of the American Education System, "non-whites" can exceed where their own fall behind. Instead of trying to figure out what they themselves are doing wrong, they attack those who are obviously doing something right.

Mr. Trump proved his ignorance and his own bigotry yesterday. Anyone who tries to defend him, is JUST PLAIN WRONG.
James (St. Paul, MN.)
The military is all that Friedman says and more----a tremendous and truly impressive reflection of the diversity of our nation. Sadly, these men and women have been fighting internal civil wars (with Friedman's encouragement) in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria---- for far too long. The only winners are the military contractors, arms suppliers, and assorted war profiteers. Hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been lost and an estimated $3-4 trillion tax dollars spent, while actually making our nation less safe and secure after this astonishing investment. The American public is far less safe now than when we began interfering in the middle east, and we will never be safe as long as we continue to kill innocents and create new generations of families who have a legitimate reason to hate America.
Steven (Marfa, TX)
It's the strength and rapid growth of that pluralism over the past 20 years that is in fact the single, most intimidating thing white supremacists cower trembling in their beds every night about.

The inevitability of it. The extent of it. The rapidity of it.

The US has been talking about its pluralism since the '50's, but it is only in the post-Bill Clinton Era that it has really begun to come to pass.

And it has grown enough strength to insure its continuation; people of color and gender can speak about the artificial limits placed upon their opportunities in ways I haven't seen for most of my lifetime.

I'm sure the old and young whites who fear all this think that -- like the 1980's and early 1990's -- this will just be a "multiculturalism fad" that will give way to peace and quiet, eventually. And then we can go back to whining about how college admissions discriminate against entitled white wanna-be frat boys.

But, no. This time is truly different. In the US, and all across Europe, as well. Perhaps in Asia, too.

As the inevitability of globalization -- necessary to manage the increasing challenges of climate change, and invariably driven by same -- becomes more apparent, so too will the flexibility of migration, immigration and the mixing of cultures and peoples.

What you describe in the Air Force today is simply a small harbinger of all our futures.

Give the pitiful, nasty, left-behind few their last day. It will be ugly, and painful to watch, but not long.
Rosebud (NYS)
Mr. Friedman.
Your best work, in my mind, was years ago when you wrote on Iran.
Question: Shouldn't we engage with Iran more?
It seems that we have put all of our eggs in the Saudi basket, and from my limited experiences in the Muslim world, the Saudis and the Wahhabism that they export, is a major part of the problem. As big a problem as Iran. And yet we sell arms to the Saudis and presidents pay homage to them and oil executives are treated to lavish quarters and feasts when they go there. We bow down because we want their favor. An oil executive cannot be a woman. Why? Because they have to do business with the Saudis. I can think of no better example of adopting "Sharia Law" than that.

Your experience and knowledge in this area is certainly greater than mine. What do you think?
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
My dealings with Gulf Arabs in Dubai and Lebanon suggest there is more moderation there, awaiting expression. The extremism drives now. We further that, instead of promoting the moderates we claim we seek.

We confront the more moderate. We support the more extremist. We do that claiming they are historic friends, but they were not those extremists historically.
James Lee (Arlington, Texas)
Friedman's description of conditions in Syria is the most succinct explanation I have seen of why Mr. Obama wisely refused to expand American involvement in that conflict. Sacrificing US personnel in a fruitless quest to bring stability to that country would have been the height of folly.
Nan Socolow (West Palm Beach, FL)
Dear "pluralism supremacist" Dr. Tom - hooray for you and our "country of opportunity" (as the Ukrainian serviceman told you at Al Udeid, our giant forward air base in Qatar, from which our middle eastern air war efforts are run). American supremacy, made of the "fist" from all our different American people, is the strength of American democracy at home and in the foreign fields. Our pluralism must be celebrated and not decried, as our 45th President decried our very country yesterday in his Trump Tower rant against the ALT LEFT, which he called "very, very violent people". Lord save us from our unfit president, the first undemocratic tyrant in our brief 240+ year history in North America. Dr. Friedman, your suggestion that we have a national discussion about our talented and energetic American pluralism "fixing" the worst neighborhoods of our homeland's big cities instead of enabling our fist against middle eastern enemies, and fighting in far off countries attempting to defeat extremism, is worthy. But first, when will we have a national discussion about how to defeat our grossly unfit and Alt Right extremist supported 45th President?
Robert (St Louis)
The United States once benefited greatly from the mixing of the various nationalities coming to this country. Immigrants came here, they learned the language, they became Americans. Now we are a nation subdivided into racial and ethnic groups, where identity politics is the new game. Anyone who thinks this is making us stronger needs their head examined. In 20 years, we will be behind a homogeneous China in both our economy and military. The US hegemony which we take for granted will be long gone. Heaven help us if we are still a nation divided as we are today.
Sensible Bob (MA)
I believe it has been the human condition that we rise to some type of unity only in the face of a common threat.
1. The most recent episode of Game of Thrones.
2. Trump.
3. A world war.
4. An alien invasion.

By the time we have figured out how to cooperate as well as ants, we will have self annihilated much of our population - not through violence (that's on the decrease, believe it or not) but through inaction on climate change. Every species suffers destruction to one degree or another. We're just elevating self destruction to an art form - a visual, self observed, much discussed suicide.
alan haigh (carmel, ny)
Tom, you make me feel optimistic about the state of America within its borders but extremely pessimistic about the state of our foreign policy.

The trillions we've spent since the Iraqi invasion and all the blood we've spilled by your account has probably only accomplished one major change. Greater Iranian influence in the region. This is not the track record of a dominating world power in ascent.

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat, remembering your endorsement of the Iraqi invasion?
M K Bernard (Toronto)
Mr Friedman, news flash; the fact that the US spends more on arms than almost the entire rest of the G-20 combined has more than a tad to do with US supreme power. I do not deny your central premise that diversity is one of America's great strengths, but it is one shared successfully, if at times differently, by several other western countries, non-super powers, a fact Americans are largely ignorant or indifferent to. But Americans, especially the war-advocates like you were in 2003, and proponents of the Saudi-US alliance need to own a fair share of the Sunni-Shia divide. Intra-Islamic division was embedded in US Iraq-war strategy and its continued persistence continues to enable the petro-despotic regimes of the Gulf to foment confessional and ethnic discord across the Middle East, West Asia and beyond, something that has consistently produced unintended benefits for the current Iranian regime.
Bjk (Istanbul)
I agree with your comments about pluralism wholeheartedly could not have said better. On the Iran issue you are dead right also but we have been screaming bloody murder for the last 8 years that this is in progress and happening but constantly all fell in to the deaf ears may be with on exception of Senator McCain. Iran controls those four capitals at a minuscule cost yes we have a problem now. Fancy war gadgets impresses anyone no question but what makes the difference is always the man on the ground. Reality is no video games Mr. Friedman!
Lois (<br/>)
Listening to the news this morning I cannot agree more. We should be working on a host of critical issues facing this country and instead the whole world is obsessing about this fool Trump. He got from this office exactly what he wanted -- the attention of the world. He must be in heaven. But I doubt that's where he'll end up.
beenthere (smalltownusa)
I'm feeling kind of depressed and reactionary today. Reread the 5th and 6th paragraphs of Mr. Friedman's essay (beginning with "How could I not be?") and ask yourself how they sound to Trump's supporters. How likely is it that they will see the wisdom in pluralism? This is exactly what fuels their rage. And if I hear one more call for a "national conversation" my head may explode. Sorry. Just venting. Thank you.
Paul Leighty (Seattle)
Yes to E Pluibus unum. And our military is that in microcosm. But in truth we live cheek by jowl with many from other backgrounds and faith and so rather more successfully than maybe we realize.

As to the Middle East or Southwest Asia. Maybe we should seriously consider letting them experience the "Awful" for a few decades while we attend to Chicago, Baltimore, and Detroit. Not to mention a thousand other places in the country that need attention.
Wim Roffel (Netherlands)
The article is very Friedmanian: highly poetic, but a bit weak when it comes to the facts.

First of all, technical superiority doesn't guarantee that you will win, as we see clearly now in Afghanistan.

And then there is the issue of Iran. Yes, Iran likes to have some influence in its neighborhood - just like many other countries. However, it is Saudi Arabia that is murdering thousands of Yemenites in its greed for power, not Iran. It was Saudi Arabia that fueled the Syrian war with sectarian hate propaganda, not Iran. The problem that where the Iranians know that are subtle and don't overplay their hand the Saudi crown prince doesn't know any moral or tactical limitations.
OldBoatMan (Rochester, MN)
"What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?"

That's one heck of a question. Its answer is really another question. When will we care enough about one another to make it so?
Martin (New York)
Does it not occur to you that the right wing's white-washing of the Confederacy, the "war between the states," and American racist history is no different from your white-washing of America's role in the violence & disintegration of the Arab world? It isn't about blaming an America that we're not a part of, it's about the ability to examine ourselves & learn from mistakes. WIthout that ability, we will always choose the fake solutions of "preemptive" war, supporting dictators, & the colonialism of the IMF & World Bank, over making our own country better.
ACJ (Chicago)
For the last two decades at least we have squandered our talent and our money on bread, circuses, and wars.
Nick Adams (Hattiesburg, Ms.)
And the bodies, ours and theirs, keep piling up and countless treasures are spent.
Joel A. Levitt (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Perhaps for the first time in his life, Trump is correct. The most important issue is maintaining our right to free speech, even the most vile speech. This is essential to maintaining our pluralistic society.
Ashok Pahwa (Westchester County)
He is on his way to successfully dividing us, hand over Asia and Africa to China, unite the Latin Americans against us, insult our two neighbors, hand over the middle east to Iran, weaken NATO, eviscerate our moral standing in the world, hurt efforts to save the planet, destroy the values that our country cherishes.
Morra (Toronto, Canada)
Why not spend organized effort to eliminate the abandoned areas of America, or for that matter abandoned areas of any large city anywhere indeed? The answer is simple the system, that we globally operate under, rewards wealth no matter who has it and neglects the poor no matter who they may be, nay! Punish them!

That's why the globalized world, not just USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Japan etc., pampers Saudi Arabia and neglect the failed states.

At the end of the day: what good is having wealth if you are surrounded by suffering and death? Until a way is found to respect humanity, we should not identify as humans!
silver bullet (Warrenton VA)
Pluralism means inclusion, acceptance, integration, togetherness, diversity, teamwork and unity, a coming together for the greater good of a society. The president and his base of supporters are against these ideals and their opposition to pluralism reared its ugly head in Charlottesville last weekend.

Like ISIS, white supremacists are willing to resort to a scorched earth policy of violence and civil disorder to give voice to their frustrations and dominate political discourse. In their extremely narrow world views, is there any difference between this president and the ISIS caliph?
Michael Berndtson (Berwyn, IL)
Is Friedman saying the US should turn all that impressive pluralistic military might on Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit? I live near the old eastern european jewish neighborhood of Chicago that's now the center of gravity of Trump's rants about the city. Duck and cover, Lawndale. It sounds like Friedman is giving Trump ideas through his column again. Similarly like how Mr. Stevens gave Trump ideas on how to double down on his both sides argument with his column yesterday. I guess Stevens likes the alt right's enthusiasm. NYT opinion havers aren't helping. Pluralism starts with effete war hawking columnists.
Alfred Yul (Dubai)
Your description of the ethnic composition of the U.S. command structure in Qatar is exactly what many of Trump's supporters and the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville do not appreciate. They want a different America symbolized by the slogan endorsed by David Duke the other day: "Make America Great Again."
Lisa Murphy (Orcas Island)
Having witnessed both Iraq wars and other exhibits of American military power, from the vantage point of living in Europe,, it dawned on me that Americans have no idea the vast scope of their war machine. Yet, it seems to serve no functioning purpose. It stops no conflicts and sucks the blood and treasure from the increasingly unequal society. The skill and dedication of the soldiers, the dazzling array of state of the art equipment is truly awe inspiring. But, so what? Using this stuff in a war with our adversaries will blow up the world. Friedman is right. Time to beat those swords into plough shares.
Zander1948 (upstateny)
A national discussion? With THIS president? Who has all the answers? Who has all the adjectives and adverbs and no morals? Has his hand on the nuclear codes? And is the "commander in chief" of these amazing people with whom you are embedded? Who has ignored the "talent and energy and idealism and pluralism" you're witnessing first-hand to further his own agenda?

A discussion? It's his way or the highway. And I'm not talking about infrastructure repair.

Folksinger Buffy Ste. Marie used to sing a song about Native Americans years ago, and one of the lines was, "My country, 'tis of they people, you're dying." He's killing us. One day at a time.
Shaun Narine (Fredericton)
There are a few problems with this whole analysis. First, the US should not be in that region at all. American intervention in the Middle East has been an unmitigated disaster from day one - and I mean from back in the 1950s to the present, not just what has happened since 2002. The US has always made things in the region worse - Iran would not be the "threat" it is today if not for the US backed coup in 1953. Israel would, long ago, have been forced to make peace with the Palestinians and the larger Arab world if the US had not been enabling the worst elements of Israeli society and politics. The US invasion of Iraq created ISIS, and there is no possible way that organization can be defeated by force of arms - it is will simply metastasize into some other, even more horrendous, ideological movement. Finally, reducing the conflicts in the region to Sunni vs. Shi'ite may be a gross oversimplification - it may well be that what is at work is basic power politics, with the Saudis and Iranians vying for relative influence. The US has no useful or positive role to play in any of this; it has been largely responsible for making the mess.
One final point: in the 1920s-30s, Hitler regarded the US as the model of racial division and superiority that he most wanted to emulate. He felt the US had done the best job at dividing the races and keeping "inferiors" in their place. This is worth remembering as you (justifiably) extol the virtues of American pluralism. It's a recent thing.
Alan J. Ross (East Watertown MA.)
Ya think that if Trump read this marvelous commentary (Ha,Ha) he would agree with its message? Thomas Friedman again demonstrates that he is to the Baby-Boomer generation what Walter Lippmann was to our parents.
Mark (Rocky River, OH)
Let's elect the people who are officers to the highest in the land. Tell your DC cronies they are in the way. The deep pocketed lobbyists are controlling the future that will turn to disaster. We must rise up ( plural).
Ivan Butcher II (St. Croix VI)
Charlottesville: Denial is Contrary to Self-Preservation!

I understand too well, why White America (European Descendants) would be on the defensive about the issues now and the past in regards to Race Relationship with Black Americans.
Considering the birth rate statistics shows that it takes 4.1 White women (E. D.) to match the average birth rate of Non-White women of 5 children, World-wide.
Yo (Alexandria, VA)
An informative, well-written, and well-thought out article. Kudos Mr. Friedman.
Timbuk (undefined)
One problem though is that we broke the Middle East with our wars, so do we just leave them to the wolves?

Obviously there's no good answer.
Michael (North Carolina)
Mr. Friedman, thank you for a column that is at once beautiful and distressing. Your last paragraph says it all.
Bruce Rozenblit (Kansas City, MO)
If the Arab Muslim world would stop trying to tear itself apart and drag the rest of the world down with it, we could then dedicate these enormous resources to the homeland and completely rewire and repower the nation on green energy. That green energy could then power red and blue America, immigrant and native born America, small and big city America. It could unite us like we are supposed to be.

But instead we have a divider in the White House and we are paying the price. Objectively, we are no better than the Sunnis and Shiites that are at each other's throats. The difference is that they have been actively engaged in political murder for years. We just started.
Socrates (Verona NJ)
One of the greatest contributors in tearing apart the Middle East is Saudi Arabian Wahhabism, the puritanical perversion of Islam that made suicidal martyrdom fashionable.

That same Wahhabism brought down the World Trade Center in 2001, which then resulted in Bush-Cheney's Iraq massacre of the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and their exported Wahhabism and fossil fuels are the primary culprits of Middle East misery and global destruction.

On a slightly smaller scale, America's Whites R Us Wahhabism and their Greed Oil Petroleum shepherds march in spiritual lockstep with their puritanical, power-mongering, suicidal brothers in Saudi Arabia as they sow dissension, chaos and racial superiority in the United States and try their consistent Confederate best to tear the nation apart in the name of White Spite.

America's White Wahhabists and Saudi Arabia's Wahhabists are two peas in a destructive pod flushing the world down their puritanical toilets.

Modern minds must defeat the medieval minds who consistently create their own religious 'end times' and hell on Earth for the rest of us.
TB (New York)
"I wanted it to be otherwise, but it’s not. "

Quite an extraordinary statement.

Tom Friedman, like David Brooks, is clearly shaken by how catastrophically bad the policies he has been aggressively advocating for decades have turned out.

The downsides of globalization and technology that were concealed for decades with naive "happy talk" are now surfacing in society-destabilizing ways on a global level. And it's just getting started.

But he is quite right here. We have been solving the wrong problem, and squandering America's prodigious talents in the process.

Over the course of the next couple of decades, we're going to re-architect every single aspect of society using the extraordinarily powerful technological tools that are becoming available. No vertical industry will go untouched. Everyday life will be fundamentally transformed in ways that will refute Robert Gordon. The world of 2030 will be virtually unrecognizable from 2017.

The design decisions made in the creation of such a new system benefit greatly from diversity and pluralism. That, as Friedman says, is America's biggest competitive advantage.

There's absolutely no reason why the 21st century cannot be another "American Century", if we get this right.

But we, as a country, are clearly heading in the wrong direction, and need to "pivot". The turmoil in Washington is a call to action to start thinking differently about the future.

Tom Friedman can play an important role in helping us make that pivot.
Doc (Atlanta)
Always an admirer of Friedman who continues to reaffirm my belief in the power of reason when it is eloquently articulated. Spending our resources on endless foreign missions is taking its toll on the U.S. We need that national discussion about priorities and I cannot help but wonder why prominent Democrats aspiring to higher office are not in the forefront advancing this notion. Many conservative Republicans have suggested this and it's high time for leaders of both parties to begin the dialogue. No more "study commissions." Real forums, genuine civilized debates.
Laurie (Chicago)
Are you suggesting actually putting America first? I heard that in a campaign, but it seems like Trump puts America last.
tw (Happy Valley)
Enlightening column!
The concluding question, though, is a pie in the sky reach:
("What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?")
If not for our military entanglement, all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism would be competing against and displacing others with such virtues in the labor marketplace. Why, because there isn't an alternative national organizing principle to seed fixing the worst neighborhoods in these big cities. The hurdle of keeping taxes ultra-low snuffs all such dreams. So let's ground our counterfactual dreams more realistically.
tom (pittsburgh)
We are about to start hearing about Trumps tax plan. From your description of the current air war in the middle east, we are spending more and have more sophistication than anyone, but continue to lose our ability to end the fighting.
It is apparent to me that we need to end our involvement after 16 years of futility.
The anticipated reduction in taxes precludes our ability to continue this endless pit. The alternative is the Republican plan to cut social plans including Social Security and Medicare. A health plan, regardless it being the ACA or a new plan will be increasingly expensive. Guns or butter is our choice.
Roger A. Sawtelle (Lowell, MA)
The article raises a fascinating question. What if the moderate majority of iran were able to come into power?

Could Iran become the new power for peace and prosperity in the Middle East?

It seems a long shot, but a real possibility.
Rob0954 (Salisbury NC)
Tom misses the whole point of our military in this article. Over half of our discretionary spending in this country is spent on the military. Vast fortunes are made via military contracts, paid by the taxpayer. The military is diversified because white people, for the most part, have better opportunities elsewhere; therefore minorities are welcome. Military operations is our nation's ONLY core competency now, so that is what we do. Cats would fly if they could.
TVM (Long Island)
A very informative. forwarding looking article. I hope it influences the right people. Thank you.
DRS (New York)
Yes, an American strength is pluralism, or at least a historical strength at assimilation. But Friedman, in his ode, contradicts his usual praise for China, and how they are taking over the world. Are the Chinese pluralistic? It would appear to be a very homogeneous country, albeit with a few subgroups. America is powerful and pluralistic. One does not emanate from the other, however.
Ellen Sullivan (Cape Cod)
Thank you for this Mr. Friedman. Fascinating glimpse into the workings of the military command post in Qatar. Your point about pluralism bringing out the best, uniting us toward a common cause, and describing the strengths contained in our diversity is brilliant. Putting our best military minds and hearts to work on uniting our country is a great idea. We ARE stronger together, pluralism is what makes America great. We cannot allow the current president to divide us.
TM (Accra, Ghana)
The fundamental lesson I get from this article is the importance of preserving America's pluralism - a goal that supersedes virtually all others - and the desperate need to export this attribute to hotspots around the world. Unfortunately, the trend appears to be going the opposite way, especially in the Muddled East, but certainly in the continental US as well. Egypt was much more egalitarian under Nasser than it is under Sisi; America, or the public image of America, was certainly more open and welcoming under the last two presidents than under this one.

So what I want to know is how we reverse these trends? Do we abandon our interference in the ME? As you say, that would only make a bad situation worse. Can't we work on Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit at the same time?

I don't have any answers, but the questions continue to pile up.
Ygj (NYC)
Thanks for this. The sense of collaboration and unity in diversity to me really does speak to American potential. That and the Baltimore cops taking down the statues lowered my blood pressure a little In the face of all this ill informed antipathy over here.
Melissa (New York)
A good article overall, although as you hint towards the end, there's a major exception to the narrative of American semi-success in the region: Iran. Iran has grown incredibly in strength and power, most often in areas where the US expended huge amounts of blood and money, and there is nothing to suggest Iran will weaken anytime soon.

This doesn't necessarily change the point about spending our money here instead. But I do think we tend to pat ourselves on the back for pluralism and "dynamism" too much while underestimating countries like Iran and China. I am an ardent pluralist, but pluralism is not inevitable and we need to work hard to sustain it.
jabarry (maryland)
I very much like Mr. Friedman's observation of pluralism integrating the American military, making it and America unified. But our military is made up of volunteers who come, disproportionately high, from minority groups which does not necessarily reflect a harmonious and unified American society. Perhaps the voluntary military, the elimination of required military service, was the beginning of the melting pot coagulating.

As to devoting our resources to addressing problems in America, rebuilding America, that is an obvious need, but our military industrial complex has no intention of letting that happen. Most of Congress belongs to them.
sdavidc9 (cornwall)
The military is a socialist institution, and if it tried to fix our bad neighborhoods it would have to fight with our free enterprise system that creates these bad neighborhoods by allowing some profit-oriented entities (such as supermarkets and banks) to leave them and other profit-oriented entities (such as payday loan shops and slumlords) to make money off them. If the military tried to fix these neighborhoods, it would be taken advantage of by all the current actors, just as it was in Iraq or Afghanistan, and little would be accomplished. If Blackwater-type contractors tried to fix these neighborhoods, they would make tons of money and little would be accomplished.

We need to have a national discussion about that.
walterhett (Charleston, SC)
Let's become knowledge of the threat of white supremacy; its persistent views and strategies, so we know and recognize its displays in rhetoric and violence.

What is white supremacy? Texas defined it pretty well in its Article of Secession, describing itself as “a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery--the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits--a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.”

Trump's claim, “We all pray to the same god,” tried to establish a national religion! We don't “all” pray to the same god—as Trump knows from his Muslim ban! That is an alt-right dog whistle, tying Christianity as granting divine privilege, authority and dominion over those not white or washed by Jesus.

Texas, as do many of today's conservatives and extremists, also condemned, “States proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color--a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law.”

With few shifts, a line runs from Texas' declaration, debated, written, and approved on the cusp of the Civil War, to the violence and deaths in Charlottesville, and ahead. White supremacists continually reject Gen. Lee's final order (No. 9): to “return to their homes” and “avoid useless sacrifice.”
jef (NC)
Thank you. Very interesting and informative.
blackmamba (IL)
There is no American state nor territory nor possession named Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, UAE etc.

Neither faith nor ethnicity nor national origin nor color are biological DNA genetic evolutionary fit 'race' markers. There is only one multicolored, multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-national origin human race species.

Color is a pigmented response to differing levels of solar radiation at altitudes and latitudes related to producing Vitamin D and protecting genes from damaging mutations. Color as 'race' is a malign socioeconomic political educational white supremacist American myth meant to justify African slavery and African Jim Crow. The only multi-racial is the 2-5% of European and Asian DNA that is Neanderthal and Denovisan.
Sean (New Brunswick)
This seems to be written as if the destabilization of the Middle East hasn't been a foreign policy goal of the US since the end of WW2. It's called Divide and Rule, and it's what empires do to get natural resources on the cheap from the hinterlands.

Want peace? Then you need only consider a Marshall plan for the Middle East. We can nation build, look at Germany and Japan today, but then we'd have pay the full price for oil and of course would have no use for our very hungry war machine; the institutional demands of which perpetuate war for it's own sake.

It's amazing that we can take people from around the world and make them hit men for global capitalism. I wish we would honor their service by putting them to good use rather than destabilization.
Meir Stieglitz (Givatayim, Israel)

So the Romans, the Mongols, the British, the French, the Spaniards, the Germans, the Russians and the Chinese established their great conquering armies and world-changing empires of lore by virtue of their multicultural societies and pluralist-progressive regimes?
Mugs (Rock Tavern, NY)
and where are they now?
DrDon (NM)
And, their empires no longer exist. Maybe we could teach history in our schools a little better. If we don't, we too will be on the trash heap of history.
Meir Stieglitz (Givatayim, Israel)
To DrDon,
It is a common liberal self-defeating hypocrisy to claim that being the guardian of noble values is a source of military strength and geopolitical dominance. How America would have looked like today if the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Western Virginia were numerically and logistically evenly matched? Think in terms of the “Republic of Gilead”.
The sources of lasting military power are: advanced scientific-technological base; unified command and disciplined armies; and most all, consensual binding commitment to a higher purpose. Liberals’ obligation is to assure that more (material and spiritual) strength will be on the side of angels’ high aims than on the side of the devil’s evil machinations.
Martin (Chapel Hill, NC)
This great article and points out that our greatness is from many one. However Mr. Friedman points out to become one we do not get diverted from moving forward by arguing about ancient symbols or erecting new laws that divide us based on race, religion or class.
We do not photo shop people out of historic photos because we do not like them like Stalin communists did. We do not blow up ancient sites because they represent ancient religions as Isis does. We do not attack people because they are of a religion that attacked us 400 years ago as occurred in Bosnia,not that long ago. I do not know how pulling down statues that remind us of our countries near destruction in the 1860s helps advance the lot of those who live today in the USA without decent jobs, healthcare, education, opportunity or even internet in the 21st century. It is hard to know how a Society can even move forward when the young Elites in their billion dollar Universities develop tantrums at the thought of someone who is not Politically correct speaking at their University.
It would seem that since the Americans won the cold war they have not kept their eye on the ball and instead are dissolving into multiple arguments amongst themselves. Mr. Friedman do you believe that without a common external enemy, no war, there is no E Pluribus Unum? Americans cannot focus on the tasks at hand in their own country without an external foe?
GregAbdul (Miami Gardens, Fl)
How insensitive....Southern whites fight and spill the blood of thousands in a fight to keep my ancestors as property. They lose and then put up statues glorifying their fight to keep people like me as property. And you don't understand how offensive those monuments are to black Americans today?
WFGersen (Etna, NH)
"The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist. And the very reason we are stuck in this region and can’t get out is that so many of the nation-states and people here are fighting only for their exclusivist dreams of supremacy — Shiite supremacy, Sunni supremacy, Alawite supremacy, Taliban supremacy, Turkish supremacy and Persian supremacy."

There are two errors in this paragraph. First we are a supreme power because we RESIST making a fist. We have been an open-handed beacon of hope for immigrants seeking freedom from fists of tyranny in other nations. Second, we have failed in Afghanistan because we have tried to use a fist to create a nation-state in a region that was relatively peaceful when left to its tribal roots. We would have been far more successful in the Middle East if we had provided an open hand of support for those in need instead of making a fist in the name of nation building.
Richard Mclaughlin (Altoona PA)
From the mid-Nineties through the Summer of 2001, we 'lived with' the Taliban. We have to face the fact that only eternal US occupation will make that necessary again.
Petey tonei (Ma)
How was the Taliban created? What was it a reaction to? Think about it. Russian occupation of Afghanistan, our playing out the Cold War in Afghanistan, many forgotten moves.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
Not so much forgotten as willfully ignored. Inconvenient truths. Don't look.
Anne-Marie Hislop (Chicago)
You end with what sounds, at first read, like a very Trumpian isolationist position. That said, the armed forces are made up of a very small slice of our young people. Surely we can do both, i.e., maintain our engagement in the world AND devote energy, idealism and pluralism to our needs at home.

One thing which might help with that is some expectation of national service. Both our country and our young people would benefit from that, though the national slogan ("no one can tell me what to do") sadly indicates how very hard implementing such a program might be. We need a new core belief ('together we are strong' or 'if we all pull our weight, we can thrive' or some such). Our country has had times of national dedication, but lately... not so much.
Cathy (Hopewell Junction NY)
Pluralism is expensive. You need a wealth of resources and a wealth of opportunity to fund it.

The Middle East has a history of entrenched divisions, a rising population and dwindling resources. Pluralism might be the only way to a lasting peace but it is a long shot, because the winning side in a partisan battle gets to keep what spoils there are to be kept. And, if you can demonize the other side, the resulting starvation doesn't pierce your conscience. It is a win/win for the winner.

We are seeing our own pluralism at risk as we have see the decline of opportunity in the middle class, and the increase of wealth on the fringes. A growing part of the country thinks the government is taking what is rightly theirs and handing it over to "them." The definition of "them" shifts, but the anger doesn't.

So yes, put resources into Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit. But for heavens sake, put it into Trumpland too. Drive I-99 along the valley from State College to the turnpike in PA, through Tyrone, and Altoona and Holidaysburg, passing the exit for Johnstown. The paper plants and menswear suit factories are gone, and there is nothing left for anyone there. It is is a small hunk of similarly hopeless real estate across the country.

Pull the resources out of the Caymans; pull them out of black box trading using billions to make billions on fraction of a cent price changes in zero sum maneuvers. Fund investment in jobs, and tax investment in gambling.

Fix ourselves.
Uzi (SC)
There are two ways to interpret Tom Friedman's message.

The pluralistic view, Tom's political vision. The American society composed of people from all corners of the globe. Land of opportunity for any ambitious person willing to study, follow the rules and work hard.

The second nationalistic view, shared by Trump and followers. America is in decline economically and morally due to the huge influx of low-quality non-white immigrants since the end of WWII.

Finally, Tom's example of a pluralistic society i.e., the multinational composition of American armed forces nowadays reminds foreigners of a fundamental message. World domination continues to be the Manifest Destiny of the American elite.
Daniel12 (Wash. D.C.)
America the most powerful country in the world because it embraces pluralism and because it can still make out of many, one, and the U.S. military in its diversity of races, ethnic groups, religions, genders is an example of this? The U.S. military a preferable example of E pluribus Unum over the left wing political party in the U.S. which celebrates diversity in the U.S. as well, but is perhaps too pacifistic and socialist?

The impression I receive from the challenges internally and externally is of the extreme rigidity of the forces of integration, centralization, unity in the U.S., the horrifying loss of flexibility, indeed totalitarian character of such no matter whether left or right wing. Excluding far right groups in the U.S., white supremacy, the exclusive groups in general, and the far left which reminds us of Cuba, the Soviets, Venezuela, we are left with the U.S. military and general left wing politics as the e pluribus unum forces.

But both of these forces are staggering in their leveling, controlling, crushing of cultures left and right. Whether you want to speak of negative cultures like the old south in the U.S. or extreme Islamism, or high culture like the French and that originally found all across Europe or anywhere really, all is razed, leveled to modernity, everybody equal within a quite narrow, rigid focus. Both high genius and the low, excluding scoundrel are on watch.

The watchword is not cultivation, culture, but human, even animal, control.
Dave in NC (North Carolina)
I agree that we should redirect our pluralistic genius to American cities, but let’s not forget where the absolutist radicals are born and nurtured around the globe. While we consider the active incubator cells of hatred and bigotry in Damascus and Aleppo, let’s not forget the forces that feed them. The poverty and lack of opportunity in Dakar and Maputo, just to name a couple out of dozens, feed the resentments of people who are becoming more and more aware of the injustice of their lives. We could also bring the best of our best to those places to teach and train—the only really effective technology transfer that has lasting benefits. Let’s widen our scope to deliver knowledge before we have to resort to bombs.
ChristineMcM (Massachusetts)
Thought-provoking column. Yes we America spending time, treasure, and human resources helping others win an unwinnable war. Why not stop giving our power away for free and bring it back home where it belongs?

And yet, at home what little energy we have left in political discourse remains stuck in an endless argument loop.

We need to have a "national discussion" about a lot of things, starting with do we, as a people, have the will and energy to transcend our opposing views and return civility to our speech and behavior?
Gord Lehmann (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Huh? What was that last line? Does Mr Friedman want soldiers patrolling neighbourhoods in Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit enforcing peace? Sounds like an occupying force. Kinda like what's happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then again perhaps that's the reminder Americans need to understand what has been happening in parts of the world that their military has 'liberated".
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
We also need our police to become less like an occupying army. To the extent they do it because they must, then we need to change that too.
Mark S. Young (Milwaukee)
Truth, Word, Mr. Friedman. It is our inclusiveness that makes the US strong. I thank our Founders and President Lincoln for this. They would never put up with this. Lincoln didn't.
Don (Pittsburgh)
I do agree with Mr. Friedman' perspective on diversity. In our education system and in our larger policy making, there is a tendency to narrowly define diversity to serve the interests of identity politics. Diversity, in its broader context, is our greater strength; not ethnic and racial special interest feuding.
Secondarily, I'm still not sure why the US must always side with Saudi Arabia against Qatar and Iran. While it seems like all Middle Eastern countries have issues with human rights, Qatar and especially Iran have a more educated population and more affinity for the west. It's not a simple issue, but again Mr. Friedman understands the need for all sides to benefit through tolerance and bridge building, however difficult and bleak that approach is at this time.
Eric (New Jersey)
Mr. Friedman,
Does your pluralism include the descendants of those who were on the losing side of the Civil War? Can they keep their statues and flags? Or are they to be erased?
DMURPHY (Worcester MA)
The problem is not the existence of the confederate flag and monuments. The problem is the love of these by those who still seek to divide us and conquer anyone that is different from them. It is the embracing of the goals of the confederacy which runs counter to what it means to be a true American. It is the treason.
Hanko (Brooklyn)
When soldiers realize that they are fighting for wealthy industrialists or wealthy landowners they either desert or believe their army can make it possible that they and/or their families can become industrialists or land owners. Statues should fall if they don't remind people what the fight was about.
Steve Abbott (Columbus OH)
In what other country anywhere in the ancient or present-day world do you find statues and memorials honoring the leaders of those who lost their bid to destroy the nation or enslave large numbers of that nation's citizens? Names, please.
Wm Conelly (Warwick, England)
As a visitor to and short term resident of Qatar, let me say this place looks MUCH more like a bridge rather than a sticking point. It's coupled its national goals with education, technology and creative thinking. It MEANS to reconcile the best of Middle Eastern culture with the best of Western. That Trump should side with the Saudi cohort at the expense of the Qatari is not only short-sighted; it's absurd.
Dan K (Hamilton County, NY)
blackmamba (IL)
What is the meaningful civil secular plural egalitarian democratic naturally divinely created equal with certain unalienable rights difference between Qatar and Saudi Arabia?
Fr Eric Funston (Medina, Ohio)
Mr. Friedman, this is one of your best essays. Ever. Thank you.
Frank (NY)

Thank you for an astounding report about the amazing multiple operations the Military is executing in the Middle East. I am a middle-aged white guy who never served in the military. The beautiful story you wrote about the many backgrounds of the star military team in the Mid-East made me feel super-proud of them as a US citizen.

Your column explained in such a cogent way the complexities of our Middle East operations that I understand what's happening there in a new, much more well informed way.

I sometimes wish you would opt to become a more direct political advisor, but I always remind myself that you are far too valuable as an independent thinker and analyst. Your contributions to the public discourse are always well reasoned and usually add new information/insights for the people who read your column.

Thank the people in Qatar for their service, and thanks for yours as well.

Frank Norris
Tanaka (SE PA)
Don't get too excited about Mr. Friedman being an advisor. He was one of the many who was wrong about the Iraq war, the consequences of which we are still paying for.
blackmamba (IL)
Since 9/11/01 a mere 0.75% of Americans have volunteered to wear the military uniform of any American armed force. And they have been ground to mental, emotional and physical dust by repeated deployments in ethnic sectarian civil wars that have no military solution.

When, where and how did the citizens of Qatar vote in their last election?
Schrodinger (Northern California)
The US military is superficially impressive. However, consider that in the Mid-East it is being challenged by a force that has a budget somewhere between 1/1000th and 1/10,000th of what the US spends. On the Korean Peninsula the US is being held to a standoff by a regime whose annual military spending is only a few percent of ours. This points to epic incompetence and waste in the Pentagon and the armed services committees in Congress. It is a national disgrace that our military options in Korea are so poor.

Why are we using Cold War era tactical fighters that require refueling once every hour? Why are we using KC-135 tankers that were originally intended to refuel bombers and are oversized for the fighter refueling mission? The reason is that the Pentagon and the Congress don't care about wasting money. The military is really a huge pork barrel program designed to move money from taxpayers to contractors to Congressional campaign contributions as fast as possible. And nobody in DC or the media seems to care.

The problems in the Mid-East seem to me to be fundamentally political and cultural. Most regions have not found a suitable political system. In some regions, civilization is collapsing and the population is reverting to barbarism. The military really isn't the right tool for the job. We should probably stay out of the Middle East, and make sure that the problems there do not spread to the US.
blackmamba (IL)
American commerce, diplomacy and aid are the ultimate American weapons of mass construction.
Thomas (Washington DC)
On the one hand, a shining example that race and ethnic origin doesn't matter.
On the other hand, a reminder that we are spending boatloads of money on a fool's errand, funds that ought to be spent here. If they were, it might help smooth over the divisiveness here at home, much of which seems to derive from dissension over resource distribution between our own "tribes."
Harold (Winter Park, FL)
Isolating ourselves to focus on problems here would assume that we are in the problem solving mode. But, the conservative/libertarian approach that controls all levers of our government now is not in the problem solving business. Resource distribution seems to be upward to the wealthy which, by itself, prevents any downward shift of resources.

So, isolationism fails on two accounts: 1) see first paragraph; 2) we are in a global economy with many ancient tribal and religious hackles remaining. Tom describes this well but solutions are out of reach for the time being.
GS (Berlin)
Ethnic diversity is nice and all for many reasons, but please don't claim that it is a reason or requirement for American military might. The U.S. became the superpower and won the largest war in history at a time when white's made all the decisions and minorities were shut out of all but the lowest roles. The Soviets were equally powerful without much diversity, either. There is no connection between these issues altogether. Stop imagining things just because they make a feel-good story.

Why are there so many soldiers who are from so diverse backgrounds? Because going to war is always a good career for people who don't have many other options. Most people went there for the money and benefits, like in every other volunteer army of the world. A friend of mine who is from Poland and has little education, just went to France to join the Foreign Legion. He does not speak French and he didn't even know that they had elections and who the president is who will be his commander-in-chief, and he does not care, he goes for the money.

On another note: American jets have to refuel more than once per hour? That seems rather... unlikely.
Ralph Averill (New Preston, Ct)
"We need to have a national discussion about this."
We need to have a national discussion about a lot of things. But many of us have forgotten how to have a rational discussion, and others wish to avoid such a thing altogether.
Friedman's picture of the US command structure in Qatar sounded like a description of the bridge deck of the starship Enterprise. But too many of us, including, apparently, the president, aren't looking into the future. They long for a past that is more myth than history. Such people have more in common with ISIS and the Taliban than they are willing to admit.
And they call themselves patriots.
Tanaka (SE PA)
Qatar -- isn't that the ally Trump is trying to join the Saudis in alienating?
coale johnson (5000 horseshoe meadow road)
once again..... it is all about the distraction for the destruction as he serves putin and co. there is no other logical conclusion for his words and actions.
Ami (Portland Oregon)
The best thing Truman did for our country was desegregate the military. Executive order 9981 "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." He did this in 1948 and yes there was resistance at first but during the Korean war full integration was completed.

The idea of people being equal in treatment and opportunity was ground breaking. The declaration of Independence may have said that "all men were created equal" but even after the emancipation proclamation we never honored that ideal until Truman integrated the military. The civil rights movement, women's rights movement, and LGBT rights movement all continued what Truman started and our country is stronger for it.

Thanks for the reminder that without the concept of equality we would be fighting similar battles that we see in the middle east because of our differences. But you can't force our values on other cultures. They must want to make it happen for themselves or it won't work. We've spent too much time in the middle east. The time has come to pull out after ISIS is defeated. They must be allowed to decide for themselves what kind of future they want. This is not our battle.
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)
Nothing on Earth like the U.S. military these days (and for many years) to demonstrate our pluralism to the world. Would that our general population, too often holed-up in their ethnic and religious enclaves, were as reminiscent of a highly-seasoned goulash.

Sometimes we regard as quaint Lincoln's conviction that government of, by and for the people is vindicated by our ability and resolve to cohere as a nation and people regardless of the deep and abiding disagreements we tolerate. Yet, as Tom observes, this principle is as relevant to the world today as it was when fresh over 150 years ago, or even 228 years ago, when government officially began under our current constitution.

About the strategy: if, in the end, all that we're doing is crushing an adversary -- ISIS -- that sends mass-murderers all over the West to commit atrocities, then we should focus on crushing them, make it clear that we'll do the same to anyone else who attacks the West, and just get out otherwise. If a peace can't be won by the indigenous powers, then the only alternative to our remaining massively in force and on station forever is Biden's cure: put a cordon sanitaire around the whole region and send in Special Forces or bomb whenever anyone seeks to project military or terrorist power beyond its borders. High time the world outside that region moved forward: if they can't keep up, that's sad but it may be inevitable. As it is, Joe Haldeman is taking notes for a re-write of his "Forever War".
FunkyIrishman (Eire ~ Norway ~ Canada)

Aye, the military is a shining example of a bunch of different people coming together in a common cause ( even if it is under duress ) So, I agree with you and the article there.

However there are more stable and direct approaches to attacking the underlying reasons why there is strife in the region, instead of literally attacking them. ( or putting in place a plan to continuously bomb them )

Abject poverty ( from corruption, dictators, monarchies, wars , etc ) needs to be addressed. Human rights that are being squelched from all sides, needs to be addressed. Many things need to be addressed, before we use the hammer. ( yet again )

Just a thought.
PdeMtl (Quebec)
Whatever the reasons, the whole region is doomed by climate change. In a matter of decade, some spot, a few days a years, will become deadly. Even if you are young, fit, in the shade with plenty of water, doing nothing, you will die of a heat stroke. Mass migration will be the problem then, not wars. The enemy won't be cruel ISIS warriors but hungry children, woman in tears. How do you fight that kind of war? What do you do if you barely feed yourself and your own survival is at stake? Do you want your own child to answer these question?
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
FunkyIrishman -- It isn't the poverty, it is the attitudes toward the poverty. It is not the available resources, it is what is done with them by the leadership. That includes outsiders' powerful meddling just as it does their own leadership.

They could rise above. They don't. There are reasons. It is not inevitable.

I agree that the divisions are changing, and there is hope in that. It is still only hope. The course of change is not yet set.
FunkyIrishman (Eire ~ Norway ~ Canada)
We are all brothers and sisters. ( if you go back far enough ) We all breathe the same air, are of the same species and have the same red blood coursing through our veins.

How did we get here ?

As we all started to congregate and cluster for safety in numbers, people developed ideas. Those ideas\divisions became religious, practical or based on looks, strength and intelligence. We stated to build walls and seek power over each other. Our little kingdoms grew and grew one way or the other over time to this point. Here we are in continuous strife.

We have not quite perfected the act of accepting that we are all the same, yet at the same time very different. ( which is OK ) I am hopeful that we will get there.

A couple of more generations...
Concernicus (Hopeless, America)
Hate to be the one who rains on your is far more likely that we will come closer to destroying ourselves and the planet, than we will in coming together as one, in the next several generations.

I prefer optimism over pessimism. But realism trumps both.
catlover (Steamboat Springs, CO)
Our tribalism will be our downfall; it is ridiculous that minor differences lead to war against those with which we have way more in common. I want to believe we can overcome our differences, but I am also pessimistic that we can change in time to save the planet.
Larry Eisenberg (Medford, MA.)

T’was Trumpish and the slimy Don
Did slack and tack to the alt-right
Concocted a Breitbartish con
That White Supremacy was right.

Ate crowish tweet of yestermorn
Took back his phony soothery
Nazickery was thus reborn
With double-talkish smoothery.

An empty nog decorticoid
Below the feral froth withstood
Blamed all the ills americoid
On those folk dwelling in the 'Hood.

Withstood the taunts made to his face
The cryptic tie that dangled down
The trash food weight that cramped his space
The verbs that waylaid every noun.
Tanaka (SE PA)
One of your best!
dm (MA)
Impressive. L Carroll would have approved.
blackmamba (IL)
Trump is the one and only duly legally elected Article II President of the United States that we have precisely because 63 million American voters wanted the things that you decry.
See also