Maxima culpa (eorum)

On the subject of straw men, the Associated Press could also have noted that the President is not alone in ridiculing his opponents–he is just less adept at it. In today’s *Washington Post*, Fareed Zakaria tears a page from the President’s play book; but befitting a professional opiniator, he does it with more subtlety.

After a string of *culpae eorum* (their, not his, faults) regarding the failures of intervention in Iraq, Zakaria asserts:

>And yet, for all my misgivings about the way the administration has handled this policy, I’ve never been able to join the antiwar crowd. Nor am I convinced that Iraq is a hopeless cause that should be abandoned.

Note that “hopeless” and “abandoned” sound a lot like “cut” and “run”–only less Texan. Nowhere in the piece does Zakaria address the reasonable (but not necessarily correct) alternatives to his strategy of staying the course–outside of, that is, the phrase “antiwar crowd.” So, one might surmise that the only other option to continuing with our increasingly disastrous (body count, political instability, etc.) intervention is the anti-war crowd. Despite his more reasoned tone then, Zakaria has used the straw man “some say” technique as the president, and as such, it is impossible for the reader to determine whether his three arguments for staying are any good.

Luckily, however, one doesn’t need to have present to mind an alternative to see just how bad these reasons are.

The first:

>So why have I not given up hope? Partly it’s because I have been to Iraq, met the people who are engaged in the struggle to build their country and cannot bring myself to abandon them.

And the oaths of TV pundits are written on water.


>there is no doubt that the costs of the invasion have far outweighed the benefits. But in the long view of history, will that always be true? If, after all this chaos, a new and different kind of Iraqi politics emerges, it will make a difference in the region.

It may or may not always be true that Iraq will be a disaster. But it’s very likely that it will be. It’s only getting worse. The possibility of it not being the case is hardly reason to stay. And it has made a difference in the region–it has emboldened Iran and served as a training ground and recruiting depot for all sorts of new terrorists.


>These sectarian power struggles can get extremely messy, and violent parties have taken advantage of every crack and cleavage. But this may be inevitable in a country coming to terms with very real divisions and disagreements. Iraq may be stumbling toward nation-building by consent, not brutality. And that is a model for the Middle East.

A “sectarian power struggle” sounds like code for bloody religious civil war where the victor is determined by brutality and force of arms (and perhaps Iranian intervention, among other such things). How this means they are stumbling toward nation-building by consent is simply a mystery. All of the evidence Zakaria cites points in the other direction.

But again, these three really bad reasons only make marginal sense in the context of an absurd alternative. Perhaps one as knowledgeable of foreign affairs as Zakaria could find the time to research some of them.

One thought on “Maxima culpa (eorum)”

  1. perhaps Zakaria and the rest of the consevative commentariat would like the US to employ the boot camp technique in iraq–we will unit the iraqis through their hatred of us! this is absolutly f-in’ brilliant. if we would have thought of this three years ago, this could all have been over. here’s hoping for a Will/Zakaria ticket in ’08.

    p.s. if you don’t catch the sarcasm…..

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