I think newspaper editors across the globe ought to get together and ban the following kind of argument pattern, much as they would any insistence on violating the rules of subject-verb agreement:

>They’re the guys who, in the words of leftist commentator and blogger Matthew Yglesias, “believe that America should coercively dominate the world through military force” and “believe in a dogmatic form of American exceptionalism” and “favor the creation of a U.S.-dominated ‘universal empire.’ ”

>But the term, in these Walt-Mearsheimered days, often denotes more than that. Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit.

What you have is the basic bait and switch typical of all fallacies of relevance. You start out with a serious issue (the undisputed shortcomings of a certain kind of foreign policy position), then you switch from that argument to the claims of people you imagine on the fringe who say mean things about other people. In the above passage, the first paragraph refers to things neo-cons actually believe. They’re silly enough as it is. Hardly anyone would need to turn them into straw men in order to criticize them.

The second paragraph, however, changes matters somewhat. First, it turns someone’s name into a smear. Walt Mearsheimer is a real person with a real argument. He deserves a little more than sneering dismissal. After this, Cohen mentions that there are critiques of neo-conservatism he finds silly, without, however, actually saying why, other than to imply they’re somehow racist. Nor does he even say who makes them; he relies on the foxly newsy “some say” device.

So here’s the pattern: You set up a straw man in order to make an ad hominem argument. The arguments against neo-cons are often silly chants invented by the socialist club (the straw man). And now the ad hominem: they’re kind of, like, racist, because they sound like Zionist conspiracy type theories.

In addition to the fact that the neocon arguments often appear themselves to be straw men (let’s bomb Iran, hell, it worked in Iraq), Cohen ought to spend his 750 words on something other than picking on straw racists.