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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Thursday, August 21, 2003



Maureen Dowd "Dowdifies" Josh Marshall

If only she used her creative ellipsis on his recent post, she would produce Mr. Marshall informing us that:

...if the result of the invasion of Iraq is an Islamic theocracy, governed by Osama bin Laden, and purchasing nuclear weapons from Pakistan at bargain-basement prices, we'd... say... this was in fact... a positive development.

Why does he hate America?

Oh, come on, it's Friday afternoon, and the post is actually quite sensible.

I see from Matthew Yglesias' site that there is a notion being peddled by certain conservative columnists that the bombing of the UN mission in Baghdad is actually a sign that the bad guys are on the ropes.

I went along with the idea that bombings in Bali, rather than Berlin, or Boise, were a sign of Al-Qaeda weakness. However, I concur that this latest spin on the Baghdad UN bombing is a bit much.

I'm probably getting certain particulars of this wrong, but there's a basic principle in scientific theory: an hypothesis, to be a real hypothesis, must be capable of disproof. In other words, for an hypothesis to be a valid basis for research, there must be some data which, if found to be true, would prove the hypothesis was false. Otherwise, there's no way to test it.

Now, foreign policy is no science. But some looser version of this principle must apply here as well. To be a policy, as opposed to a theological position, there must be some potential results that would show the policy was not working. The proponents of the policy should be able to say ahead of time that if this or that result happens, the policy has failed.

...So I think it's time for the hawks to give us a few examples of events that would show that our policy was not working or at least facing setbacks. You know, just so we can put down some benchmarks, so we can know what we're working with ...


Very reasonable. And for now, my response is to duck and cover. Eventually, we hope to dredge up some cryptic comments about building a better Iraq. Probably available here.

And we definitely want to avoid the rhetorical trap of accepting the notion that war advocates (Iraqi liberation advocates? Human rights advocates? National security advocates?) are monolithic in their views. Here we see that Dan Drezner is not stuck on "flypaper."

[Mini-update: Someone was kind enough to recommend this blog to me as one I should read more carefully. The author made the same point as Mr. Marshall, albeit at greater length, back on July 9.]

We also note his preceding post, which tells us that the Saudi jihadists entering Iraq are being pushed by a Saudi crackdown, as much as pulled by a burning, unquenchable desire to burn the flesh and break the bones of the hated Amercian infidels..., oh, whatever.

I have a strong feeling that this development will be spun as good news by the war advocates. (Hey, I am one!). Flypaper Plus! Which is hardly responsive to Mr. Marshall's request for clarity in goal setting.

UPDATE: The ever-popular "Eight Steps" - Donald Rumsfeld's war objectives. We note the third:

"to search for, capture, drive out terrorists who have found safe harbor in Iraq."

Bit of a sticky wicket for the flypaper theorists - why was Rumsfeld lying to us?

UPDATE: A response to Josh Marshall.


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