Posts

This Week In Op-Eds: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good: In the Baltimore Sun, Brian Katulis and Matthew Duss tear to shreds the argument for prolonging the occupation of Iraq on the grounds that Iranian-backed extremist groups threaten to topple the legitimate government. The simple fact of the … Read More

By / April 11, 2008

The Good:

In the Baltimore Sun, Brian Katulis and Matthew Duss tear to shreds the argument for prolonging the occupation of Iraq on the grounds that Iranian-backed extremist groups threaten to topple the legitimate government. The simple fact of the matter is that Iran has an obvious strategic interest in controlling as much of Iraq as it can, and to maximize that interest, Iran is hedging its bets and supporting every Shiite faction in Iraq, including both the Sadrists and elements of the Maliki government. If some Shiite faction eventually gains the upper hand, Iran will be able to exert control over Iraq's resources and political structure. If the Shiites continue fighting amongst themselves and no one faction wins out over the others, Iran will be able to exert control over Iraq's resources and political structure. That is what's called, in game theory, a dominant position, and it's what rational actors strive for.

The Bad:

Who cares about the substantial evidence adduced by Katulis and Duss, based on what Iran does, that the Islamic Republic acts to maximize its preferences and responds to rational pressures? Charles Krauthammer doesn't care. He is much more concerned with what Iran's leaders say (even those, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who have no actual power to implement policy), and this concern leads him to urge a bombastic threat of nuclear retaliation in the event that Iran attacks Israel. Never mind that Israel already has a deterrent nuclear arsenal. Or that no country doubts that the US would back Israel in a defensive war. (We might not, of course, support an aggressive Israeli move like the Suez attack of 1956 — and that's a good thing.) No, according to Krauthammer, the survival of Israel depends on triple-super deterrence. And anyone who denies the necessity of giving Israel a third layer of purely rhetorical defense is guilty of — wait for it — failing to honor the lessons of the Holocaust.

Two can play this game. Sure, Krauthammer sounds like he means business with his Holocaust Declaration, but then why does he not join my Holocaust2 Declaration, the declaration that one will make the Holocaust Declaration? What about the Holocaust3 Declaration, the declaration that one will make the declaration that one will make the Holocaust Declaration? The Holocaust4 Declaration, the declaration that one will make the declaration that one will make the declaration that one will make the Holocaust Declaration? I suspect he won't sign on because, deep down, Krauthammer is really indifferent to the survival of the Jewish state.

The Good:

Resources are scarce. That's why the field of economics exists. In particular, the financial and personnel resources of the US army are limited and near their breaking point. Andrew Bacevich makes what ought to be the uncontroversial point that any future policy in Iraq that doesn't take account of the increasing scarcity of our resources is not a policy, but a pipe dream.

The Bad:

Michael Yon, discontent merely to break the army by sustaining the presently unsustainable level of US troops in Iraq, would like to increase their numbers. Has he been keeping a spare 50,000 soldiers in a box?

The Good:

George Will notes that Mark Penn's lobbying on behalf of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement was only "wrong" because the Democratic candidates are locked in a duplicitous race to the bottom to see who can be the more effective protectionist fearmonger. Barack Obama, in particular, could stand to listen to Austan Goolsbee's admonition that "60 to 70 percent of the economy" — including the sectors in which organized labor is growing most rapidly — "faces virtually no international competition." Both Democratic candidates could also stand to read the actual terms of the Colombian FTA. That way, they might learn that the FTA is largely unobjectionable even on protectionist grounds, and actually serves mostly to balance out the currently unequal exposure the American market has to Colombian goods.

The Bad:

Consider this nod something of a lifetime achievement award for Paul Krugman, who apparently believes that his contract with the New York Times is best satisfied by dedicating every other column he writes to boring his readers out of their minds attacking Barack Obama's health care plan on the same grounds, for the same reasons, in the same language. We get it already, Paul. (By the way, to illustrate his point, Krugman might have selected one of the "health care horror stories" that his paper didn't report days earlier was complete bullshit.) As "progressive" health care economists like David Cutler and Ted Marmor would be happy to explain (and Jonah Goldberg is at the very least right that liberals ought to ditch the horrible term "progressive"), mandates just don't matter that much to achieving universality. But Krugman doesn't need that explanation. He already knows mandates don't matter that much. What's the point of his relentless, cynical attack? "He thinks that a black candidate will lose a national election. So it’s bad tactics to support Mr Obama." How progressive.

The Ugly:

Lanny Davis believes Barack Obama "clearly…does not share the extremist views of Rev. Wright. He is a tolerant and honorable person." However, he also has "tried to get over my unease surrounding Barack Obama's response to the sermons and writings of his pastor." Having tried and failed, he thinks the best alternative to successfully getting over that unease — say, by pointing out that Obama is a tolerant and honorable person and leaving it at that — is to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal implying that Obama does share the extremist views of Rev. Wright. As Davis might put it, "unanswered questions remain" about Davis's ongoing determination to rescue his candidate's sinking campaign by using every instant of media exposure he can get to stoke racial resentment.

Tagged with: