Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Night of the Living Baseheads

After a somewhat extended absence (by blogospheric standards), Hilzoy is back. [Pause for applause]. Her hiatus broken, she trains her sights on this shallow argument from Megan McArdle on the supposed failure of anti-war bloggers to acknowledge the "good news" coming out of Iraq:

Lately, however, the anti-war side is beginning to sound a lot like the boosters they were so angry at. This is the particular example that caught my eye, but there is an increasingly rich body of blog posts and other writing that are the collective equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "La la la la la la la I can't HEAR you!

McArdle mostly misses the point. It's not that there is a failure to recognize positive trends, it's just that most anti-war bloggers have been focused on the big picture - focused on the types of things that President Bush and General Petraeus told us were the crux of success: you know, political reconciliation. Hilzoy elucidates through analogy:

[N]oting that political reconciliation has not happened is not the "equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "La la la la la la la I can't HEAR you!"" It's more like this: suppose I had a friend who insisted that he couldn't kick his crack habit because he was under too much financial pressure, so I agreed to pay his bills for a few months, on condition that he use that time to actually try to quit. Liberal bloggers thought this was a bad idea: my friend had no apparent interest in kicking his crack habit, and thus it seemed pretty likely that I was just throwing my money away. No, I assured them: I have made it clear that my commitment is not open-ended. I've said: it's time for you to perform, and I will judge you now less on your words and more on your performance. I'm not just giving this money blindly; my friend has adopted benchmarks for success, and I plan to hold him to them, though I won't say how.

Now suppose that while I paid my friend's bills, to no one's surprise, his financial problems got better, but he made no effort to stop smoking crack. Liberal bloggers said: well, of course it's good that your friend isn't feeling as much financial pressure, but the fact remains that the whole point of this was to let him kick his crack habit, and not only has he not done that, he hasn't even tried. That would not constitute sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "La la la la la la la I can't HEAR you!", or refusing to take yes for an answer. It would just be basic common sense. [...]

Megan McArdle may think that liberal bloggers who point out that while the surge has reduced casualties, it has not achieved its stated goals, are just refusing to acknowledge good news. As I've said, I disagree. But conservative (or other) bloggers who point to the reductions in casualties as though they made the surge worthwhile, without asking whether the surge is likely to achieve any lasting improvements in Iraq, look to me as though they were more interested in being able to point to something that looks like success for their side than in the actual outcome in Iraq. But those who go further and belittle people who ask what strategic goals the surge was meant to serve, and whether it is achieving them, are doing something worse.

You see, crack is whack. The rest is well worth the read, as Hilzoy continues to rock the bells of those that boost the dose...

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