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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Parallel Parking in the Arctic Circle": Who Paid for Friedman's Joy Ride?

Thomas Friedman, who one month ago informed us that the Cold War is over and that the United States won (, now tells us in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Parallel Parking in the Arctic Circle" ( about his one night joy ride aboard the U.S.S. New Mexico beneath the Arctic Circle. Friedman writes:

"I had spent the night on the sub as part of a group accompanying Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, who was observing the Navy’s submarine arctic warfare exercise.

We had flown into the Arctic by small plane and landed on a snow airstrip at the Navy’s ice research station Nautilus, 150 miles north of the North Slope of Alaska. When we got there, the New Mexico, which had been patrolling the waters below, had already found an opening of thin ice and slushy water. The sub used its conning tower, or sail, to smash through to the surface, then 'parallel park,' as one officer put it, between two floating islands of thick ice, and pick us up."

At a time when the Obama administration is reducing the US army to pre-World War II size, how in blazes is Friedman being taken on a submarine tour? How much did this cost? Who paid his bill?

Friedman continues:

"Russia has already made extensive claims to the Arctic, based on the reach of its continental shelf, beyond the usual 12 miles from its coastline; these are in dispute. To prepare for whatever unfolds here, though, the U.S. Navy keeps honing its Arctic submarine skills, including, on our trip, test-firing a virtual torpedo at a virtual enemy sub, studying how differences in water temperatures and the mix of freshwater from melted ice and saltwater affect undersea weapons and the sounds a sub makes (vital for knowing how to hide), as well as mapping the Arctic’s seabed topography.

. . . .

'We can hear shrimp crackling 200 feet under water,' explained Lt. Cmdr. Craig Litty. They can also hear someone drop a wrench in the engine room of a Russian sub several miles away."

Russian claims to the Arctic? Russian subs? Didn't Obama also claim that the Cold War was over, while offering "flexibility" in his second term to Putin?  More recently, didn't Obama tell the entire world that Russia is a mere "regional power"?

Could this op-ed have anything to do with Obama's recent humiliation by Putin, resulting from Russia's annexation of Crimea? Is Friedman's op-ed intended to convince New York Times readers that Obama is not a cream puff?

More to the point, how do I sign up for a one night joy ride aboard the U.S.S. New Mexico, in order to listen to the shrimp crackling?


  1. "Didn't Obama also claim that the Cold War was over, while offering "flexibility" in his second term to Putin? More recently, didn't Obama tell the entire world that Russia is a mere "regional power"?"
    I was thinking ... Maybe we missed something and he is actually a comedian and was joking each time.

  2. Historians will refer to Obama's term of office as "The Scripted Years" when talk was talk, when preaching was preaching and deeds were pre-history.

  3. Friedman, while on the sub was graciously invited to a Passover Seder. He declined. I understand that he may have been tired. Really I do. But still, there he is enjoying the wonder of it all and he couldn't respond positively to this wonderful invitation.

  4. I work for the US Navy as an engineer, and I have been aboard submarines observing testing, and have also scheduled "familiarization visits" for colleagues so they can see first-hand the environment for which they design systems. There are also regular public-affairs visits which are prescribed by the Navy's boss to improve the public's understanding of what their Navy is and does -- the same reason the Blue Angels exist. Therefore, there is nothing unusual that a civilian was invited aboard as a guest of the Navy's boss for a day, and no extra cost was likely involved since the CNO was already going. As to possible ulterior motives of improving the administration's public perception on foreign policy, that's a different subject. If you want a public affairs "distinguished visitor" visit aboard a Navy vessel, contact the public affairs officer for a Navy command. It might be a long wait and you might not be a privileged guest of the Chief of the Navy, but if you want to see a ship or a sub you can do it if you want to bad enough. -CGG