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Thomas L. Friedman

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Thomas L. Friedman (born July 20, 1953) is an American journalist and columnist, presently working as an Op-Ed writer for the New York Times whose column concentrates on foreign affairs. His columms now appear in the Op_ed page on Wednesdays and Fridays. He is known for advocating a compromise peace between Israel and the Palestinians; for modernization of the Arab world; and for globalization and laissez-faire capitalism, while sometimes remarking on their potential pitfalls. He has also written about various aspects of international politics in several books.

Friedman was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he lived until he went to college at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. After college, he attended Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship, receiving an MA in Middle Eastern studies. Friedman lists Professor Albert Hourani among his important academic influences. He then joined the London bureau of United Press International, staying there for a year before being dispatched to Beirut, where he stayed from 1979 to 1981. He was then hired by the New York Times, which re-dispatched him to Beirut in 1982. There he soon witnessed the first phase of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He eventually won Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for covering this war and in particular the Sabra and Shatila massacre. He was assigned to Jerusalem from 1984 to 1988, where he won another Pulitzer for his coverage of the first Palestinian Intifada. He then chronicled his assignment in the Middle East in the book From Beirut to Jerusalem. During the administration of George H.W. Bush, he covered Secretary of State James Baker; following the election of Bill Clinton, he became the Times' White House correspondent. After covering the White House until 1994, he covered the intersection of foreign policy and economics. He then moved to the op-ed page of the Times as a foreign affairs columnist in 1995.

As a columnist, Friedman initially focused on his previous beat, looking at the intersection of global politics and finance. This look at globalization was summarized in his 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. The two objects in the title symbolized the interaction between globalization and local tradition: the Lexus represented a desire for material wealth and a higher standard of living, while the Olive Tree represented a desire for heritage, community, and uniqueness in a global world. The book also discussed the role of new technology in reshaping global politics, especially the rise of the Internet and telecommunications. Friedman's main thesis is that individual nations must sacrifice a degree of economic sovereignty to global institutions (such as capital markets, multinational corporations, and NGOs like the International Monetary Fund), in order to achieve Western-style economic prosperity. Friedman termed these restrictions the "Golden Straitjacket". This stance drew criticism from groups that oppose these global institutions, especially those on the political left that charge that globalization actually restricts prosperity in developing countries. In particular, Friedman was criticised for only presenting the views and experiences of elite members of societies in developing countries, such as political and business leaders. He was also criticised for advocating the use of military force to further America's economic interests.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Friedman's writing focused more on the threat of terrorism, for which he won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary ("for his clarity of vision, based on extensive reporting, in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat"). He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although he has since expressed alarm over the conduct of the war by the George W. Bush administration. Nevertheless, his recent columns have remained at least open to the possiblity of a positive outcome to the Iraq conflict.

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