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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Critics, Do Your Homework!

Prof. Krugman has started a fight he should have avoided, and can not win, with his "Thanks For The M. R. E.'s" column, and this follow-up, which provided our title.

The Man Sans Q has links and commentary, but I will add these:

TAPPED: Phil Carter says Paul Krugman was flat wrong on military privatization.

Prof. DeLong simply presents without comment the source for one of Prof. Krugman's assertions, and the detailed rebuttal by Phil Carter.

Mark Kleiman, a lefty who is a bit too independent a thinker to be a perfect contra-indicator, says this: "Phil Carter, who speaks from experience, demonstrates to my satisfaction that Krugman is, in this case, talking through his hat."

Ignore Prof. Krugman's constant critics (yes, especially me!). It's when your normal supporters drift away that one knows the end is near.

And, for those handicapping this, Phil Carter is a law student at UCLA who was formerly an officer in the US Army. Prof. Krugman has roughly my military background, which is to say, none. But I bet I have watched more Clint Eastwood flicks.

Mr. Carter disputes Prof. Krugman on a number of issues. The most vivid is the question of whether our troops are really operating in the desert with a mere 3 liters per day of water.

Mr. Carter explains that Prof. Krugman's source is referring to tastier, supplemental bottled water, and that the Army routinely plans for its water requirements. However, what Prof. Krugman originally wrote was:

Letters published in Stars and Stripes and e-mail published on the Web site of Col. David Hackworth (a decorated veteran and Pentagon critic) describe shortages of water. One writer reported that in his unit, "each soldier is limited to two 1.5-liter bottles a day," and that inadequate water rations were leading to "heat casualties."

We suppose there is a small possibility that Phil Carter is wrong, that the Army has never thought of its water situation before, and that they really are providing their troops with a mere 3 liters per day.

However, that would contradict what seems to be US military guidelines readily available through Google.

And, if we follow the charts, it appears that desert conditions call for roughly one quart per hour. As the main article makes clear, officers are strictly admonished to pay attention to the condition of their troops. But maybe all of this is being ignored in Iraq, or perhaps in Princeton. We are sure that Prof. Krugman, having done his homework, is aware of these guidelines, just as we are suprised that his editors missed this.

Phil Carter seems like a chap who would be magnanimous in victory. The only remaining question providing a bit of suspense is whether Prof. Krugman will be gracious in defeat.

Bold Predictions: (1) Prof. Krugman's next few columns will focus on economics, with an emphasis on statistics rather than polemics; (2) we will see at his website a standard form "divide and conquer climbdown" - "some of my critics are deranged, and here is an example of the criticism I get; however, others have raised valid points"; and (3) as with falling off a bicycle, the Earnest Prof will return, one day, to military topics. And he will have done his homework.

We heartly endorse Mr. Carter: "Quotation does not necessarily equal fact-checking."

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