Thomas on tackling terror - and truly terrible aliteration

One of the most incisive commentators on the state of the planet is the New York Times' Thomas Friedman. (Wait a couple of days and it will no doubt pop up in The Age and The SMH.)

In his column today, "Shoulda Woulda Can", Friedman throws around some ideas on practical ways forward to combat terror. Through he doesn't address the politics of it, you get the impression that Bush is in a much worse position that Kerry to implement some of the ideas that Friedman puts up. For all his huffing and puffing in Iraq, Bush still seems genuinely clueless on practical, non-invasive methods of challenging terror.

Some of Friedman's ideas are just plain kooky - improving the libraries at US Embassies, for example, as if Osama bin Laden is just a bedtime story away from being at peace with the world (maybe Mark Latham should look into it as well) - some of them have a lot of merit.

A US Patriot Tax of a couple of cents a gallon (or litre will do just fine) to put into research into hydrogen as an alternative fuel source is clever, and will do plenty to challenge the economic foundations of many terror-sponsoring oil regimes. It's also a nifty proposal that will marginally reduce consumption and keep the air just that bit cleaner. Seems like a tick in every box. The sooner these oil regimes can diversify their economy, the sooner democracy and liberal markets will have a fighting chance of gaining a foothold.

The overarching theme coming out of Friedman's column, and much of his past writing, is the need to return to the rules of international behaviour and to rediscover respect and faith in international institutions of governance. There's no doubt that much of the lack of support for these institutions is due to the institutions themselves, with diploma-speak coming first and action a distant second. However, these institutions - from the UN, Kyoto agreement, ICC (that's the criminal court, not the cricket council, which, by the way, is just about beyond repair) - are worthy of being reformed rather than rejected. It seems unlikely, though, that Bush can lead the way.

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