But Tom’s friends say it is!

Thomas L. Friedman, who never tires of straddling the fence between total pointlessness and total irrelevance is back at “work” today offering a new plate of tenuously related half-baked arguments. Read and enjoy the kind of insight that can only come from a Pulitzer-winning columnist, featuring:

The U.S. Consulate used to be in the heart of the city, where it was easy for Turks to pop in for a visa or to use the library. For security reasons, though, it was recently moved 45 minutes away to the outskirts of Istanbul, on a bluff overlooking the Bosporus ? surrounded by a tall wall. The new consulate looks like a maximum-security prison. […] But here’s the stone cold truth: A lot of U.S. diplomats are probably alive today because they moved into this fortress.

Translation: Although a secure consulate in a Muslim country was the right thing to do, I decided to spend my two opening paragraphs making fun of the whole thing anyway in a rather unsuccessful attempt to score comedy points. Just call me the Dave Barry of the op-ed page!

This is where we’ve come to after two decades of anti-U.S. terrorism and 9/11: The cops are now in charge ? not the diplomats.

Well, once he’s done with that whole Iraqi debt thing, maybe Jim Baker can go to the mountains of Afghanistan and get the terrorists to stop doing what they do. (Bonus points if he does it while drinking sweet mint tea.)

As one U.S. diplomat in Europe put it to me, “The upside is that we are more secure, the downside is you lose the human contact and it makes it way harder to have interactions with people who are not part of the elite.

How US diplomats must miss the good old days where the proletariat was free to roam the hallways of US embassies and consulates in Europe, offering its opinion on the latest development in international affairs.

Some of our embassies have such a Crusader castle look, they’re actually becoming tourist sites.

Is that a) good, b) bad, or c) just a way to fill up space?

Beginning next year, in order to get a visa to the U.S., you will have to come to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and be fingerprinted first. Some European diplomats have already started warning their American counterparts not to expect them in the U.S. anytime soon ? if they have to submit to fingerprinting.

Tom’s most amusing paragraph. Whatever one thinks about fingerprinting for visa applicants, Tom and the people who write his columns for him his friends should know that Europeans visiting the US and diplomats in general need not worry:

All visa applicants will be fingerprinted except: (1) children under 14 years of age; (2) applicants over 79 years of age; (3) employees of foreign governments and international organizations traveling on official business.

Citizens of 27 countries, including most of Europe, visiting the US can take advantage of the visa waiver program. The fingerprinting does not introduce the requirement to visit a US Embassy or Consulate to apply for the visa, though Tom gives the impression it might.

U.S. diplomats understand the security reasons for this. But, they note, it is really awkward to call up a Turkish writer or a Chinese dissident, extend an invitation to come to America on a State Department exchange program, and then say: “But first you have to come into the embassy and get fingerprinted.”

How many diplomats were “interviewed” in the making of this column? Were they previously able to issue visas without the applicant being required to come to the embassy? We’d guess no:

Serhat Guvenc, a lecturer at Bilgi University in Istanbul, was actually flying to the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, and was diverted to Canada. He’s been avoiding the U.S. since because of all the already intrusive visa requirements.

What were the already intrusive requirements? Tom won’t tell you, and so we won’t either. But it would be nice to know.

But hold on to your hats, Tom has lots of friends:

A Turkish columnist friend, Cengiz Candar, told me: “I was traveling to Iraq recently and my very old mother was very, very worried. I told her, ‘Don’t worry, Momma, I’ve been there before. It is very safe, as long as you know what to do.’ She said to me, ‘Stay away from the Americans.’ ”

Is that what mothers will tell their kids from now on?

Well, if people are going into combat zones where insurgents/terrorists/Baath party loyalists stage daily attacks against Americans, one would imagine that the answer is: sadly, yes! Otherwise, what the fuck kind of point is Friedman trying to make?!?

I don’t know. Many people would still line up for America if we charged $1,000 per visa and demanded their dental X-rays. But others, especially young Europeans, are thinking twice because they don’t want the hassle.

Young Europeans who want to visit the US need not worry about visa applications. Then again, if Friedman had any sources other than anonymous friends and US diplomats his argument might be marginally convincing. As things stand, it doesn’t even reach that level.

Better to go to France or Germany.

France, for those with short memories, is the country that Friedman identified as “the enemy” earlier this year.

The only Americans foreigners will meet will be those wearing U.S. Army uniforms and body armor.

Is Tom saying that less Americans will travel abroad? He asserted earlier that “especially young Europeans” won’t come to the US anymore, but now it’s all “foreigners” who will never “meet” Americans besides soldiers. (America has troops in how many countries Tom?)

We need to figure out a better system. Because where birds don’t fly, ideas don’t fly, friendships don’t fly and mutual understanding never takes off.

We don’t know if it’s flying related, but we’re ready for our air sickness bags over here.


Comments: 2


Great! I’ve added your blog to my favorites list.


Lord almighty. Back in the day, when I was picking fights with Steven den Beste, I also considered doing a “Shorter Thomas Friedman” column, but it just ended up being “TOOLTOOLTOOLTOOLTOOLWHATAGODDAMNTOOL” every week.


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