Sunday, July 30, 2006


John Podhoretz (hat tip Kleiman) asks a bunch of questions about whether nice guys finish last. It's unfortunate that he included the following question, both because it's a wrong question and because it opened the door to kneejerk reactions.
What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?
You have to read the entire piece to see that the quote above just doesn't fit. Podhoretz shot himself in the foot. And no, the reason there is an insurgency has little to do with the survival of Sunni men, and the basic cause of sectarian violence is not Sunni men. It's noxious memes.

Mark Kleiman says Podhoretz is being cowardly and that he's advocating genocide. Kleiman links to a fellow called Greg Djerijian who goes on at lenth to the same effect, and to a guy called John Derbyshire in order to call him a racist.

Kleiman concludes:
Our civilization is not at risk. To think so reflects cowardice. To persuade others that we are at risk is to spread cowardice. Podhoretz's tough-guy persona hides either a man too terrified to think like a civilized human being or a man who hopes to terrify his fellow-citizens into supporting policies he favors for other reasons. He'd make a good teller of scary stories around a Boy Scout campfire. As a strategic thinker, he'd have to improve a lot to be contemptible.
Given that Kleiman is a prohibitionist I don't think he ought to be commenting about the quality of others' strategic thinking.

I think "genocide" is one of those words, like "hero" or "coward", that's great for manipulating people through emotion. Aside from the stupid quote above, Podhoretz is asking some difficult questions, and it doesn't seem cowardly at all to do so.

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