So, a Straw Man walks into a bar

We have frequently pointed out how the desire to be funny is often at odds with the desire for logical rigor. This is nicely illustrated in Michael Kinsley’s opinion piece today in the Washington Post. Kinsley claims that there has been a tendency towards wishful thinking in dealing with the conflict created by the double-dealing Balfour Agreement.

>This tradition continues in the Iraq Study Group report, which declared: “There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts” as a small warm-up for tackling the problem of Iraq.

Rather than critique this proposal directly, Kinsely makes little of it with humor:

>What a good idea! And then we’ll cure cancer, to pave the way for health care reform. Why, of course all of humanity should put down its weapons and learn to live together in harmony and siblinghood — most especially in the Holy Land, birthplace of three great religions (so far). In fact it is downright inexplicable that peace and goodwill have not broken out spontaneously in the Middle East, even though this has never happened anywhere else either.

Of course, if we read the ISG’s sentence they merely claim that the U.S. should make a sustained commitment to this peace. But such an idea is absurd to Kinsley, so he foregoes any attempt to deal with it seriously.

The remainder of Kinsley’s piece involves a somewhat bizarre and forced attempt to deny President Carter’s suggestion that there is an analogy between South Africa’s Apartheid and certain Israeli policies on the basis of technical differences.

If we were to turn Kinsley’s tactic upon him, we might cast his argument as claiming that “Israel and South Africa had different tax codes so how could they be similar?”

See, it’s easy when you don’t think you need to treat the other’s argument seriously.

2 thoughts on “So, a Straw Man walks into a bar”

  1. Kinsley’s dismissive humor have rightly earned him frequent postings on the Daily Howler. Arguments might be made for the absurdity of the claim he lampoons–but, as we often point out here, an argument was not made were one was needed. For Kinsley to have any kind of point, he ought to make one.

    You’re right on about the Apartheid comparison (and I was just about to post on that when I saw this). Maybe tomorrow.

  2. I suppose if we tried to say what Kinsley might be saying, we might claim that he is arguing that

    “solving all Arab-Israeli issues is unnecessary for addressing the problem in Iraq.”

    But, there is no reason to believe (on the basis of the quote at least) that this is what the ISG argues.

    In fact, for the Bush administration to engage in “sustained commitment” on the peace problems surrounding the occupation of Palestinian territories would just be for it to fulfill the promise it apparently made to Tony Blair in order to help persuade the British Government to join the “coalition of the willing.”

    And certainly making a sustained commitment is not the same thing as “solving.”

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