Georgia/Russia: Tom Friedman can’t be right about everything


I ate in the Tbilisi McDonald’s in December, so never mind this little gem: “No two countries that both had a McDonald’s [have] fought a war against each other, since each got its McDonald’s.”

Also problematic: “In the Cold War, the most frequently asked question was ‘How big is your missile?’ In globalization, the most frequently asked question is ‘How fast is your modem?'”


Georgia/Russia: Tom Friedman can’t be right about everything

  1. I think the McDonald’s gem was proven wrong shortly after Friedman’s book was released when NATO bombed Serbia, but I might be wrong.

    I think the gist of Friedman’s argument is sound: established democracies rarely make war on one another.

    “In globalization, the most frequently asked question is ‘How fast is your modem?”

    Depends on who’s asking. I am sure lots of us armchair generals were thinking something like that over the weekend and yesterday. Jack M and I were briefly talking about google earth yesterday and how we wished the res was a little better.

  2. Writing about globalization as something you can be inside of is kind of odd, too.

    Also, I think the real question that gets asked is “how much do you want for that missile? Hm?”

    “I could trade you these hamburgers.”

  3. Well, with the modem question, could it not still be (somewhat) important? If it wasn’t for Georgia’s communications infrastructure and liveblogging of the hostilities, is it not at least plausible that Saakashvili would be deposed right now and Russia in total control of Georgia?

    I don’t think it’s going too far to say that the Russians could have gone much further than they did if not for what global push back there was (such as there was), and said pushback might have been much less in the days when global communications weren’t so ubiquitous, and news not so 24/7.

    Of course, one could argue as well that the Russians never intended to do more than they did, and they stopped (or at least came out and SAID they were going to stop) because they were ready to stop, and for no other reason. And why shouldn’t they stop? They’ve forced the Georgians out of disputed territory that legally belongs to Georgia, and they’re never going to let them back in again (plus, they’re apparently going to insist on a buffer zone around those territories extending further into Georgia). Who needs to annex disputed Georgian territory when you kick the Gerogians out of it, take full control of it (and establish a buffer zone around it to boot) without “annexing” it?

    Georgia might as well just give South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Russia. They’re never getting back in, and they’ll be lucky to be allowed to reinforce their own borders near those regions ever again. It seem to me that Russia has annexed South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but I’m not sure how long it will be before anyone acknowledges that.

  4. There was a Mcdonalds in Belgrade in 99 when NATO bombed it.

    Also, Im not sure if Georgian bloggers had anything to do with ending the conflict. Im pretty positive the West was utterly voiceless and did nothing throughout.

    The only countries that banded together to really help were countries like Poland, Estonia and Ukraine. Poland and Estonia gave significant help in cyber security and hosting of the Georgian government sites while Ukraine funnelled in some new weapons systems, which the Georgians used to pretty good effect.

  5. Has anyone else noticed that Google maps has blanked Georgia?

  6. Yeah, LK, if there had been no Intertubes the West’s reponse would have been even more ineffectual than its been.

    If you really think the Pen is mightier than the sword, take a closer look at this conflict so far and try to figure out which side was fighting with Pens.

    Russian soldier: “Look! The West is raining soft power down upon us!”

  7. See, the thing is, if you eat a double quarter pounder with cheese, you’re just too damn tired to fight.

  8. How about a correlation to how well the country’s leader speaks English? Saakashvili made a pretty compelling case for his country’s status as David versus the Russian Goliath free of subtitles or translation. If McDonald’s is out, how about wars between countries with two fluently English-speaking leaders (and don’t say War of 1812…)

  9. Mike: India vs. Pakistan.

  10. Wouldn’t a more acurate title be:
    “Tom Friedman can’t be right about anything”

    Or maybe:
    “Tom Friedman can’t be wrong about everything”

    Anyway, here’s hoping this war doesn’t end up being measured in “Friedman Units”

  11. I should say, even as I wrote my comment I never REALLY felt that blogs and telecommunications and the interwebs and such had any real impact on the conflict. However it is interesting to see how much (though often dubious) information comes out of a war zone in modern times.

    That said, I still have no idea if the Russians lost 4 warplanes or 20, or if the initial Georgian response to the South Ossetain shelling killed 300 people or 2500 people. And even with today’s modern technology, it wouldn’t shock me if we’ll NEVER know.

  12. Anyway, here’s hoping this war doesn’t end up being measured in “Friedman Units”

    Well, only the next six Friedman columns will tell.

  13. I also meant to say, in Friedman’s defence (and this is a much better defence than my attempt to defend the modem piece) that he never said no two countries with a McDonald’s would EVER fight a war against each other, just that they hadn’t yet when he was writing.

    Also of interest? No two countries that both had a Tim Horton’s have ever fought a war against each other since each got it’s Timmies.

  14. Hey, here’s another piece of interest, no two countries that I’ve been to have waged war on each other either.

    Obviously I’m the harbringer of peace, I just need someone to pay me to travel more.

  15. I thought it was interesting how fast Russia disabled Georgian web-hosting (though evidently not Internet access). They say that China has thousands of hackers standing by (special army corps?) to cripple the Internet “in the event.” Obviously Russia thought it was worthwhile to try that, though it still didn’t prevent Georgia from getting its message out.

    One thing about the Iraq war, I was always amazed that guerrilla groups (like Al-Qaeda in Iraq, 1920 Revolution Brigades, etc.) could sustain a web presence and even plot strategy, in the face of the NSA.

  16. Paul, you went all the way to Tbilisi and ate at McDonald’s? Turn in your culture card on the way out, please.

  17. I did have 10 other meals while I was there, Bruce…I have to say, while two of them were very nice, I didn’t find anything to uphold the Georgians’ regional reputation as briliant chefs. But I’m not great at finding restaurants even in Canada. When the boss interviewed me for my job at the Post, almost the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m glad I didn’t pick the restaurant.”

  18. Lebanon… Israel… Anyone? Anyone?

  19. Paul

    What do you make of Sarkozy involvement?

    Was this world stage interest or ambition evident when you were watching him in France?

  20. Sarko had several foreign-policy ambitions when he was a candidate, and several others (not incompatible) became clear soon after he got elected.

    Some were narrow-casting and short-term. He wanted to get Libya to release some nurses and doctors it had tortured into false confessions of child abuse; he wanted Ingrid Betancourt freed by the FARC guerillas in Colombia.

    More broadly, he wanted to keep Turkey out of the EU but create a “Mediterranean Union” as a not-insubstantial consolation prize. He wanted to reconcile France with the United States and with Central and Eastern Europe after Chirac left lasting damage by the way he’d dissented on Iraq. This turned out to mean a more robust French involvement in Afghanistan, although that was hardly clear ex ante.

    French presidents always try to make themselves helpful, or at least visible, in global crises. Mitterrand went to Bosnia when other allies were trying to ignore it. I would cheerfully tell you if I thought Sarko had made the Georgia thing worse, but he seems to have been genuinely useful in tying up a conflict the Russians were about done with anyway. He can’t help himself, though, and his asinine remark that it’s “normal” for Russia to be preoccupied with Russian-speakers in other countries will lose him just about all the good faith he has spent two years building up in Estonia, and probably elsewhere.

  21. Thanks Paul

    I confess I did not follow your Paris stint as closely as it now appears I should have.
    A bit overwhelmed by the Carla angle.

  22. PS

    Not saying you pushed the Carla angle, just overall media obsession kind of diminished the guy.

  23. Actually I was flabbergasted when I got home how curious everyone was about Carla. In France people really don’t talk about that angle very much… they’re preoccupied with what a chaotic government Sarko is running. So if you ever need a break from Carla news, I advise a quick trip to Paris.

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