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Monday, July 31, 2006

That's No Straw Man

In the comments to Paul Krugman's latest column, there is a statement along with a quote from the column saying that Krugman is making things up and creating a straw man:

[T]heir belief that if the United States used its military might to “hit someone” in the Arab world, never mind exactly who, it would shock and awe Islamic radicals into giving up terrorism — was, all too obviously, a childish fantasy.

I think that here Krugman is making things up, and creating a fairly disingenuous straw man.

I've heard this claim more broadly, so let's deal with it. Is Krugman "making things up, and creating a fairly disingenuous straw man" by saying pundits and government officials wanted to hit someone, anyone, to create 'shock and awe'? Let's roll the tape and see. This is Jonah Goldberg writing in the National Review Online on

The Case for War Why did we target Iraq?, by Jonah Goldberg, NRO:

Q: If you're a new sheriff in a really bad town, what's one of the smartest things you can do?

A: Smack the stuffing out of the nearest, biggest bad guy you can.

Q: If you're a new inmate in a rough prison, what's one of the smartest things you can do?

A: Pick a fight with the biggest, meanest cat you can — but make sure you can win.

Q: If you're a kid and you've had enough of the school bullies pantsing you in the cafeteria, what's one of the smartest things you can do?

A: Punch one of them in the nose as hard as you can and then stand your ground.

Q: If you're the leader of a peaceful and prosperous nation which serves as the last best hope of humanity and the backbone of international stability and a bunch of fanatics murder thousands of your people on your own soil, what's one of the smartest thing you can do?

A: Knock the crap out of Iraq.

Why Iraq? Well, there are two answers to that question.

The first answer is "Why not?" (If it helps, think of Bluto burping "Why not?" in Animal House.)

The second answer: Iraq deserved it. ...

Now, the war with Iraq was obviously less cut and dry than 2+2. But it still always added up to the right decision in my book. But, since everyone's looking for a single persuasive equation, I should say the kicker for me was simple: We needed to kick someone's butt (other than Afghanistan) and Iraq was by far the best candidate. Indeed, nearly a full year before the war — in April of 2002 — I wrote: "The United States needs to go to war with Iraq because it needs to go to war with someone in the region and Iraq makes the most sense."

I got grief about that from all quarters, but that was cool with me. Interestingly, for a long time I was the only person I knew of to make that case explicitly until ten months later — and a couple months after the war — when Thomas Friedman of the New York Times came out and said the same thing: "The 'real reason' for this war, which was never stated," he wrote on June 4, 2003, "was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world...Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it and because he was right in the heart of that world."

Which brings me back to where I started. Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is to beat the tar out of a bad guy — even if that bad guy was "innocent" of the specific offense that ticked you off. ... I doubt Saddam had anything to do with planning 9/11 and frankly I don't give a damn. ... And if the resultant harsh light of day is unpleasant or inconvenient to you, too frick'n bad. The United States is taking care of business and we've got nothing to apologize for.

    Posted by on Monday, July 31, 2006 at 01:44 PM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (99)


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