Dienstag, Februar 27, 2007

From the guys who keep on getting it wrong, another fine idea...


Today's FT column by Gideon Rachman is a case example of what is wrong with at least parts of the MSM.

First of all: he misses the whole damn point.

Second, he is so appallingly smug and smarmy - not ingratiating himself with the powers that be, perhaps, but most certainly ingratiating himself with the MSM - that I felt like washing my hands after reading it to get the pomade out.

Where to start?

First, as I said, he misses the whole damn point: he calls out what I would call the boogeyman argument, that the same politicians who called Saddam Hussein's bluff - have we forgotten that we know it was a bluff precisely because that bluff was called? - are now calling for the world to call Iran's bluff as well.

What he does is to bluntly state, without bluntly stating, that the causus belli in Iraq didn't exist and all those who saw it were blind (implying, of course, that he himself is among the sighted): the problem is that this is not merely a wonderfully imaginative interpretation of history, but also factually wrong: the causus belli, for those who have forgotten, was Iraqi failure to comply with the ceasefire as brokered by the UN. The failure wasn't forgetting to dot an i and cross a t, but rather was the deliberate policy of SH to mislead the UN and its proxies in order to continue to pursue actions that he had pledged to give up. The causus belli wasn't stockpiled of weapons of mass destruction, but rather the fact - the fact, Mr. Rachman - that Iraq was found in violation of its own ceasefire accords.

He does imply this: he does admit that the boy who cried "Wolf" was actually vindicated at the end of the day. But his analogy dies right there: those recognizing the causus belli were not the boy, but rather the men of the village who kept on coming when "Wolf" was cried, and decided, in variance with Aesop's fable, that it was time to kill the wolf rather than listen to the boy, who in this case is the MSM.

Mr. Rachman is, however, so smugly sure of his "facts" that he cannot concieve that the threat posed by Iran is anything more than a bluff. If we knew that Iran was bluffing, then there is no need to actively counter what Iran is doing, but could simply write it off as the usual pathetic posturing by a failing nation-state, the rhetoric a tad over the top, but hey, we all know how volatile Middle-Eastern rhetoric can be. So we don't need to take the Iranians seriously: they're just a bunch of wogs, after all (wog in the sense of "wily oriental gentlemen" and not in the pejorative).

What Rachman fails to understand is that the "failure" in Iraq is first and foremost a failure of the Iraqis. The failure (or does he only use the word "catastrophe" or "disaster" or whatever word the MSM defeatists are using today?) in Iraq had nothing to do with the causus belli: it has everything to do with the fact - I do realize how little the MSM is interested in facts - that Iraq was a failed state before even the first Gulf War, and Iraq thereafter was a causus belli waiting to happen, with massive financial and logistic support for terror groups - proven, not a neo-con fantasy - and with the despotic leader of that country, SH, dedicating significant assets to the development of the weapons that he claimed he never had.

But what is particularly galling is this flip and smarmy comment:

In a notably smug editorial written on the eve of the war with Iraq, the editors of The Weekly Standard wrote: "The war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction." Well, indeed. And they ended with a flourish: "History and reality are about to weigh in and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts." Well, the verdict's coming in, chaps – and it is not looking good.

In most professions, a record of failure counts against you. Architects whose buildings fall down and doctors who maim their patients tend to suffer some sort of consequence. The same rules should apply to people who advocate disastrous wars. Take a look at the people who are arguing for an attack on Iran, consider their records – and run a mile in the opposite direction.

Well, first of all, Mr. Rachman: history's verdict won't be coming in according to your timetable. Iraq isn't over yet - despite the desperate desires of the left and the MSM (did I just repeat myself?) - and history's verdict won't be in for the next 20 years, if even by then. Only a rather smug newspaperman could believe that history's verdict will be delivered by a deadline of his own devising and according to his own desires.

Second of all, the editors of The Weekly Standard weren't being smug - not that they can't be at times - but rather I find it interesting that Mr. Rachman apparently can't tell the difference between notable smugness and being honest: the editors in that editiorial didn't say that they would be vindicated and that they would be right: the war itself clarified that (and as it turned out, clarity was stranger than anyone thought at the time, Mr. Rachman's selective memory notwithstanding.). History and reality did weigh in. But they're not done yet. Sorry, old chap.

I was originally going to call this entry "Smug and Smarmy" but decided not to: this entry title is a bit better.

You see, the MSM still keeps on getting it wrong: oddly enough, there is no discussion about the abilities and facts, but all sorts of rather silly speculation about intent. If journalists knew anything about intelligence - sigh - then they would know that knowing intents is, in the immortal words of Rumsfeld, one of the known unknowables. Abilities and assets are the facts of the world: that the West was fooled by the interesting epistomological challenge of the confusion, under a despot, between reality and perception is an interesting footnote, but one that is ultimately futile to disprove without the benefit of perfect hindsight (which the French still believe can be taught in advance). If your enemy believes that they have certain capabilities - under pain of hideous death if they don't - then it behooves any serious thinker to take their existence as a given: if your enemy is bluffing, then it is, to put it bluntly, silly that he also bluffs himself into believing that he has WMD when there "really" weren't any.

And as for that last bit of snide advice: I dare say the record of failed journalism is more than a tad longer. And yes, journalists suffer no sort of consequence for being appalling wrong, catastrophically wrong - Dan Rather may be out of his job, but he is certainly not suffering - and there is a basic rule to public discourse that applies here as well:

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Take a good look at the people who are arguing that Iran is bluffing and that the Imams are just mouthing rhetoric, consider their records - and throw away the newspaper.

Keine Kommentare: