Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Scarecrow And Mr. D

I seem to have inserted myself into the middle of the Yglesias/Djerejian sparring session with my post yesterday citing columnist Robert Novak - who claims that the Bush administration is gearing up for a 2005 exit from Iraq with little regard for the facts on the ground as they are and will be.

Now, despite the fact that I was careful throughout the piece to use qualifying language when discussing Novak's claims, like "if," "may," and that his article only "raised the prospect" of an imminent pullout, and further that my final paragraph begins with the prominent caveat that, "I'll be the first to say that Bob Novak could be very wrong on this...,"
Greg suggests that I linked to Novak's piece and triumphantly declared, "game over" with regard to his position.

Heh. Has anyone ever linked to one of my pieces and proceeded to so egregiously stuff my shirt so full of straw that I could scare off marauding crows and, voila, tried to declare game over? Come on Greg. You're an attorney and so am I. We're both trained to pore over language with a meticulous eye. Can you really be claiming that I suggested that Novak's piece was dispositive of anything, let alone the final word and refutation of your piece?

The point of linking to the Novak column was to throw Novak into the ring since he was addressing the same subject as both Greg and Matt, and in order to show the differences of opinion in even the mainstream media and punditocracy. Further, to call Greg to notice that his faith in the Bush administration's position may be ill-founded, at least if there was a whiff of truth to Novak's assertions. Greg conceded this point (if), which is no great point scoring on my part, but then I didn't view this as a title fight to begin with. Now I understand the blogging concept of "if you link it you own it," but not if the blogger states clearly that the linked piece could be "very wrong" as well as other conditional language along the way.

So, with me puffed with straw and raised on a pole in the corn field, Greg tried to elicit a wager on the veracity of Novak's story. Lord, I was born a gambling man, but I'm not foolish enough to throw good money after bad. And Bob Novak is as bad as they come. Allow me to clarify my position though, since I think I was improperly tarred with Novak's rant. I do not believe that we should pull out our troops this year ala the plan Novak alluded to. I don't think one year is a realistic timetable, and have maintained this position over the entire lifespan of this site, nor do I think reductions in troop levels should be made regardless of the evolving security situation. But I do think Matt Yglesias has some
interesting ideas, and would note that there are certain frictions to having a large and visible troop presence in Iraq. Not that this should mean pull them out now, but it is one item that should be considered in whatever calculus is used to determine a measured draw down, and perhaps a definitive statement of our long term interest in Iraq (read: permanent bases). As such, the last thing I would want is to root for the Novak option in order to win a bet for which I don't particularly like the odds to begin with.

Next Greg accuses me of dodging the assertion that Clinton was a frequent shirker of responsibility in terms of foreign policy. Again, for the record, I think that Clinton waited too long to act in the Balkans, and Rwanda was an even more grievous lapse of judgment. If you hear Clinton speak today, he would concur at least on Rwanda. In that sense, Greg's critique is valid. My problem is the selectivity it implies. First of all, the Right was not clamoring for action in Rwanda, nor in
Kosovo or Bosnia. In fact, Clinton had to twist arms to get the Republicans to go along with his plans in each region. While Greg derides Clinton's cruise missile strikes against Afghan Al Qaeda camps, it should be noted that every time Clinton authorized one of those "pin pricks" the Republican leadership jumped up and down shouting "wag the dog" about these actions being a ruse to distract the nation from the much more urgent Monica Lewinsky affair. Priorities I guess. Nevertheless, Clinton should have fought through the Republican obstructionism and acted sooner and more decisively in all regards.

Otherwise, it should be noted that the Bush administration has their own bouts with the "abdication of responsibility" too. For instance, there has been some half-hearted saber rattling about the mass slaughter (not "genocide" as the Bush administration was careful to maintain) in Darfur, but what exactly has been done? And then there's the nasty little habit of praising, promoting, and elevating anyone and everyone who has shown poor judgment regarding, or was even tangentially related to, providing the legal green light on torture - be it Bybee, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, etc. Other examples of evading responsibility abound.

So Greg, I think you misread my post and my intention. It was not an attack on you, or your post, nor was it anything remotely resembling an attempt to declare checkmate. Simply a relevant citation to a new viewpoint in an ongoing discussion. Take it out on Novak. We'll just have to wait to put a bottle of
Lagavulin into the pot. I'm sure we'll think of something we can agree to disagree on. Who do you like in the final four?

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