Friday, June 24, 2005

Sniping at Paul Krugman's morning column 

There are at least 30 bloggers who do a better job of fisking Paul Krugman than I do, but this morning's column requires a couple of rifleshot responses.

The column asserts that George W. Bush "actually wanted to go to war," did so "wrongfully" and thereby committed "an unprecedented abuse of power," that the Downing Street memo is smoking gun evidence of this, that Iraq is a "quagmire" that we can't win, that conservatives claim that "anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic," and "that we have to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism."

In short, you need not just a bath but a purging fast and a colonoscopy to feel clean again after reading Paul Krugman this morning.

Most of this reveals such a transparent ignorance of history and even current events that it isn't even worth discussing. The claim that Bush wanted to go to war in the abstract is ridiculous and does not hold up in any reading of any of the contemporaneous accounts (see, e.g., both of Bob Woodward's books, neither of which suggests that Bush "wanted" war apart from believing that it was the best course for American policy). If Krugman refers to the war on Islamist jihad narrowly defined, al Qaeda attacked us, not once but repeatedly. Even after the American defeats in Somalia, the USS Cole, Kenya, Tanzania, and Saudi Arabia, George Bush did not even understand that we were at war until September 11, 2001 (continuing the Clinton administration's policy of turning the other cheek). If he refers to Iraq, he is simply assuming the liberal criticism of the war, which is to deny that it has any bearing on America's grand strategy in the struggle against militant Islam. As we have argued in this blog to the point of tedium (most recently here), the invasion and occupation of Iraq was essential to that war even if there was no connection between Saddam's government and al Qaeda.

I'll let others tackle the "quagmire" allegation, and whether Iraq is a success or a failure. Regular readers know that we think the war has been an astonishing success, and that the fact of our intransigence in the teeth of a ferocious insurgency contributes every day to an essential American war aim, which is the restoration of American credibility in the Arab world.

I do, however, want to respond to Krugman's assertion that "moderates and even liberals" are "intimidated" because "anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls far short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic." This is, of course, slander of the worse sort. The accusation leveled at such people is not that they are "unpatriotic" -- this charge was invented, or at least promoted, by the Kerry campaign to deflect criticism of his Vietnam era campaign against that war. It has since morphed into a general liberal response to criticism from hawks: "It is outrageous that you are calling me unpatriotic!"

Did we once say that? No, sir, you are not unpatriotic. You are so blinded by your hatred of the President that you are simply unable to see the strategic victory unfolding before you. It would only be unpatriotic if you in fact understood that victory was within our grasp and you were deliberating denying it to undermine the President. Living as I do in Princeton, though, I know that you and your ilk simply do not understand.

Obviously, I gotta go take a chill pill.


By Blogger Fausta, at Fri Jun 24, 09:30:00 AM:

The saddes thing about Krugman is that, after one reads his op-eds, one dismisses all his work on economics.  

By Blogger Sluggo, at Fri Jun 24, 09:55:00 AM:

The strateby of pre-emptively complaining of one's patriotism being challenged is puzzling. It would be helpful if ONCE they would cite a challenger. It's an army of strawmen flung out one by one in order to make an allegation and prevent a response. It's about taking issues off the table the moment they're raised. You get your snarky remark and change the subject in the same breath.

It's puzzling because it's apostheosis was the Max Cleland campaign. That sure turned outwell for them.  

By Blogger pedro, at Fri Jun 24, 10:28:00 AM:

I define patriotism as pride with understanding of the essential unique ideas, ideals, and culture of one's nation. By my definition, the Left is unpatriotic in the extreme because they hate the ideals of personal liberty, responsibility, and limited government. They are in favor of the opposite.
That being the case, we must bite the bullet and say "Damn right you're unpatriotic, you seditious socialists!"  

By Blogger ib1netmon, at Fri Jun 24, 11:24:00 AM:

Hey Fausta,

You f-in kidding me?

When was the last time anything Krugman had to say on economics even vaguely correct. Not a single one of his dire predictions for the past 5 years has been accurate, and his track record before that is pretty dismal too. (see 'collapse of tech centric stock market', called by liberals & MSM a 'bubble' - bacause 'bubbles' are nice & non-threatening. If that had happened under a republican president, it would have been correctly called a crash).

As an academic economist, he makes lots of pretty noises, like most academics, but when it comed to the real world, he sucks wind in economics as well as politics.

In other words, in general he's useless as tits on a boar hog.

Sorry if I sugar coated my opinion.  

By Anonymous Jim - PRS, at Fri Jun 24, 11:42:00 AM:

As usual, very well said.

However, when I consider the remarks of Dick Durbin and make what I believe is the reasonable assumption that he had to know how the Arab and other U.S.-hostile media would use them, I can only conclude that he is either unpatriotic or simply a blithering idiot.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Fri Jun 24, 12:51:00 PM:


One of my little rules is that when a person's actions or statements force you to conclude that they are either nefarious or stupid, the most probable explanation is that they are stupid. I like to call this theorem "TigerHawk's Razor."  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Fri Jun 24, 01:06:00 PM:

At the risk of sounding repetitive, too many people are looking for Nixon in a Bush. I'll add Krugman to the stack. Generally speaking, I believe in KISS, or "keep it simple stupid" when looking for motivation here. If we say we don't understand the Arabs because we don't look at their religion or sociology, then I would further posit that people on the coasts probably need to study the heartland like it was a foreign country. If you want to know why people make the decisions they do, you have to understand their reference frame.

The Downing Street Memo has us asking the famous question "What did the president know and when did he know it?". But I'm not sure that knowledge was the deciding factor here. I don't think you have to look farther for motivation in Bush than his Texas roots and his faith. They would not have named him president of the Rangers down there if he did not have a significant element of born-again good old boy in him.

I think the simple answer is that Bush believes in an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient divine presence that has led him to be President at this time. Calvinists out there may recognize elements of doctrine of predestination in this statement, which reverberate in many fundamentalist Christian belief systems. For anyone who has been raised in a rationalist community it is very hard to understand faith-based decision making.

Also, I'm sure that all of the Bush family probably felt that the failure to take out Saddam during the First Gulf War was a serious mistake in HW's presidency. And it didn't help that Saddam tried to kill HW when he visited Kuwait. You seriously don't try to do that in Texas without repercussions, and these are people that continue to believe that the West was won fair and square at the end of a gun barrel. (There is no concealed weapons law and many Texans routinely carry.) Don't forget that fundamentalists are not opposed to an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth.

Finally, the Bush's are people that take the relationships of international politics very seriously, and will stick by their friends abroad even when these are not always clearly in the best interest of American as a nation (ie. they stick by people like Prince Bandar, the Shah, etc, because they know them and have had business dealing with them for years). Remember that the family made their fortune in the international investment banking business with Brown Brothers Harriman and have been intimately involved in financing arms and capital improvements overseas for years. And deals in most parts of the world get done because people know people.

Given the chance, Dubyah, as befits a true son of Texas, probably felt that destiny and the will of God put him in the position to help his friends in the area and right the wrongs of the first Bush presidency. Given these opportunities, and his funadmental belief that Saddam was evil, I'm sure he prayed on this a came to the conclusion that God had chosen him as a unique instrument to correct this evil. And once that conclusion was reached using faith-based decision making, then facts were not further relevant. This is also why we will probably never see the thought process behind the decision completely documented, because rationale was simple and based on Dubyah's belief that Saddam was evil.

After all, who in their right mind would argue that Saddam was not evil and needed to be taken out? It seems that even Krugman is not daft enough to try to make that argument.  

By Blogger Sluggo, at Fri Jun 24, 02:03:00 PM:


Sluggo's Corollary states that, absent drool on the chin, they are most likely nefariously pretending to be stupid.  

By Blogger Fausta, at Fri Jun 24, 03:33:00 PM:

Notice how the last 5 yrs coincide with Krugman's run at the NYT.
And, if you add to my first comment "and viceversa", it all falls into place ;)  

By Blogger James B., at Fri Jun 24, 04:40:00 PM:

I was reading some of his writings from the 90s on free trade last week, and some of it was actually pretty good. Too bad ever since he started writing a column for the Times his writing has progressively gone downhill, like a man being driven mad by his dementia. At one time he was a Nobel candidate, now he is just another Ann Coulter, with a degree from MIT, and without the sense of humor.  

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