Here is the money quotation, the summation of Ronald Steel's argument, from the concluding paragraph of his review:
Friedman seems to think that in the contemporary world being a foreign policy analyst is the same as being a business reporter. But the obligation of a foreign policy analyst is to help his readers see America's interaction with the world in multiple dimensions--political, cultural, military, economic, environmental, psychological--and not through a single lens. This means providing an insight into the complexities not only of money and technology, or the Middle East, but--as citizens of the world's most powerful nation--of just about everywhere. The task is a tough one, but it does not demand a genius. It requires rather a knowledgeable and thoughtful person who can help us understand what we are not getting from the headlines--someone who sees the world in its many aspects, and who is able to connect the present not only to the future but to the past. For this, readers do not need a glib enthusiast or a clever simplifier. And they certainly do not need a salesman for the Next Big Thing. What they need is a cool-headed skeptic who will stay away from airports and technology parks, and instead sit at his desk for a while and think.
That just about sums it up for me. Friedman's columns are still on my must-read list, but more and more if the introduction indicates that he is about to enter into one of his anecdotes-cum-lessons that indicates that he is going to tell us what we must do in the new flat world, I breeze through the piece. Friedman's heart was in the right place in focusing on globalization (whatever that means -- and I am not being facetious), and his sense of the important story is still almost unfailing, but because something is trendy does not make it essential. His work on the Middle East and foreign affairs-qua-foreign affairs has always been essential.