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The Back Page

Foreign Policy Concepts and Jargon, Explained

THE BACK PAGE
Cover of AFA5

This article is featured in Australian Foreign Affairs 5: Are We Asian Yet?. To read the full issue subscribe or buy the issue.

THE FRIEDMAN UNIT

What is it: A time period equivalent to “the next six months”; also known as an FU or a Friedman.

Who coined it: Duncan Black (blogger, Eschaton), in 2006, in response to Thomas Friedman (columnist, New York Times) repeatedly declaring that “the next six months” was a critical period in the Iraq War. Friedman made similar statements on fourteen occasions in three years.

Who bought it: Much of Washington. In the pre-Trump era, Friedman was, according to Robert M. Entman (professor, George Washington University), “probably the most influential foreign affairs columnist in American journalism”. Frank Rich (writer, New York Magazine) listed Friedman among the “liberal hawks” who promoted the Iraq War and US “neo-isolationism”.

What happened to it: Friedman was interviewed in 2007 by Stephen Colbert (host, The Colbert Report), who pointed out the timeline of overlapping FUs. The columnist agreed to stop using the phrase, saying, “I’m afraid we’ve run out of six months. It’s really time to set a deadline.” He subsequently urged Barack Obama (former president, United States) to extend the troop withdrawal until 2011; pundits suggested this was another FU.

Further reading: Friedman has coined other phrases, including “The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels” and “The only engine big enough to impact Mother Nature is Father Greed”.

What happened to Thomas Friedman: He remains a New York Times columnist, reportedly with a “near unlimited expense account”.

 


Cover of AFA5

This is “The Back Page” from Australian Foreign Affairs 5: Are We Asian Yet?. To read the full issue subscribe or buy the issue.