Image of Rodin’s “The Thinker”: Getty

Hirsute oracle of the Davos set Thomas Friedman has a question. Thomas Friedman has a lot of questions.

In his columns today, Thomas identifies the “central question” of U.S. policy in the Middle East: “What do you do when the necessary is impossible, but the impossible is impossible to ignore — and your key allies are also impossible?”


This is not the first time Thomas Friedman has asked a good question.

THE QUESTION ABOUT ISIS: “Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ AND SYRIA: “For me, the big strategic question in Iraq and Syria is: What would it take to uproot ISIS and create a Sunni island of decency in its place?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT IRAN:[The] big question about the Iran nuclear deal reached this month is, Will it ultimately be a break from the history set in motion in 1979, and put the region on a new path, or will it turbocharge 1979 in ways that could shake the whole world?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT EGYPT: “Watching the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt, the most interesting question for me is this: Will we one day look back at this moment as the beginning of the rollback of political Islam?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT DUBAI: “I had several conversations here on this question: Did Dubai cause the Arab awakening?”

THE QUESTIONS ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: “My wariness about Afghanistan comes from asking these three questions: When does the Middle East make you happy? How did the cold war end? What would Ronald Reagan do?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT ISRAEL:The only question I have when it comes to President Obama and Israel is whether he is the most pro-Israel president in history or just one of the most.”

THE QUESTION ABOUT THE ARAB WORLD: “An existential struggle is taking place in the Arab world today. But is it ours or is it theirs? Before we step up military action in Iraq and Syria, that’s the question that needs answering.”

THE QUESTIONS ABOUT RUSSIA: “That, however, raises a series of questions: Can Moscow ever define its interests differently under Putin? If not, how do we deter him without also weakening Russia to the point of instability? And if we do induce such instability over time with sanctions, do we know what comes next and will we be better off?”

THE QUESTION IN EUROPE: “TRAVELING in Europe last week, it seemed as if every other conversation ended with some form of this question: Why does it feel like so few leaders are capable of inspiring their people to meet the challenges of our day?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT AMERICA: “DOES America need an Arab Spring? That was the question on my mind when I called Frank Fukuyama.”

THE QUESTION ABOUT THE ECONOMIC CRISIS: “Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession?”

THE QUESTION FOR THE REPUBLICANS: “If I got to ask one question of the presidential aspirants at Thursday’s Fox Republican debate, it would be this: “As part of a 1982 transportation bill, President Ronald Reagan agreed to boost the then 4-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax to 9 cents, saying, ‘When we first built our highways, we paid for them with a gas tax,’ adding, ‘It was a fair concept then, and it is today.’ Do you believe Reagan was right then, and would you agree to raise the gasoline tax by 5 cents a gallon today so we can pay for our highway bill, which is now stalled in Congress over funding?”

THE QUESTIONS ABOUT CLINTON AND OBAMA:[Ask] them these questions before you decide if you are with Clinton or Obama: 1. Can they name the current leader of the Syrian National Coalition, the secular, moderate opposition, and the first three principles of its political platform? [Five more questions follow-ed.]”

THE CRITICAL QUESTIONS: “Therefore, the critical questions for America today have to be how we deploy more ultra-high-speed networks and applications in university towns to invent more high-value-added services and manufactured goods and how we educate more workers to do these jobs.”

THE SIMPLE QUESTION:A simple question: If you were upset with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why didn’t you go out and build a school in Afghanistan to strengthen that community or get an advanced degree to strengthen yourself or become a math teacher in the Muslim world to help its people be less vulnerable to foreign powers?”

THE QUESTIONS FROM GENERATION Q: “Generation Q would be doing itself a favor, and America a favor, if it demanded from every candidate who comes on campus answers to three questions: What is your plan for mitigating climate change? What is your plan for reforming Social Security? What is your plan for dealing with the deficit — so we all won’t be working for China in 20 years?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA:Question: Does it turn out that social media is better at breaking things than at making things?”

THE QUESTION ABOUT COLLEGE:Question: How many college campuses today have environmental clubs and how many have coal clubs?”

No answers as of yet.