The problem with Friedman’s thesis is that it’s pure speculation.
He speculates that Russia is behaving the way they are because of the withdrawal of the ABM treaty.
He believes Europeans are behaving in part the way they are because of Bush’s withdrawal from Kyoto.
The problem with those statements is that they are unfalsifiable. We don’t know if things would have been different. Maybe they would have been worse. Maybe if Bush hadn’t shown early on that he was not going to be pushed around, the world would have done more pushing.
Sometimes you just have to admit that not all situations can be finessed through a suitable application of high diplomacy. Hitler could not be finessed into giving up his claim to Sudetenland. Stalin could not be finessed into not blockading East Germany. The North Koreans could not be finessed into giving up their nuclear programs.
In fact, I think the notion that this is all about poor diplomacy to be remarkably naive. The French have their interests. Their interests are not those of the U.S. when it comes to Iraq. The Russians have their interests. Those interests do not intersect the interests of the U.S. when it comes to Iraq.
Those are the facts. Russia and France have economic interests in Iraq. They were both agitating to get rid of the sanctions on Iraq, let alone attacking Iraq, long before Bush became President. They simply have no interest in a free and Democratic Iraq.
And in real hard geopolitical terms, these countries don’t even have an interest in combating terrorism, other than that which targets them. Thus, the Russians are willing to flatten the Chechens without going to the U.N., while demanding that the U.S. lay off Iraq. But the U.S. that is weakened by a war on terror is a U.S. less able to exert political and economic influence on Europe and Asia, which Russia and France see as their natural spheres of influence.
France also has an interest in becoming the center of the EU, and part of its game in opposing the U.S. is to isolate Britain and Tony Blair. Bush isn’t the only world leader playing real high stakes geopolitical hardball right now - Jacques Chirac has stuck his neck out a mile on this, because if he ‘wins’ then France has a chance to have a controlling influence in the EU. But if he loses, Britain’s power will rise, and Tony Blair, backed by the Eastern European countries and his close western European allies, will become the voice of the ‘new Europe’.
Friedman was right about one thing - if these gambles weren’t paid for in blood, this would be a damned fun show. Fifty years from now, we’re going to look back at this era and realize that we are now living through one of the biggest global power shifts in history. Fifty years from now, the world will not look anything like it does today.