Yesterday, Nicholas Kristof brought us a peculiar editorial in which he argued:
Iraqis are paying a horrendous price for the good intentions of well-meaning conservatives who wanted to liberate them. And now some fuzzy little kittens, who want nothing more from life than lapping milk and having their ears scratched, are seeking a troop withdrawal that would make matters even worse.Well, not quite. He actually said that it was "some well-meaning liberals", not fuzzy little kittens. But the logic is about the same - some undefined group with no discernible power base is alleged to want something that is not going to happen. And this is a problem because... what? Kristof needed a hook for his columns, and bashing "well-meaning liberals" is easy? (And what would he say of those conservatives who are arguing that we should cut our losses and get out? Well-meaning, or no?)
But the weakness of his analysis doesn't end there. He claims an enormous loss of life among Iraqi civilians as a result of the invasion, arguing,
That's apparently because of insecurity. A doctor in Basra told me last year how physicians and patients alike had had to run for cover when bandits attacked the infectious diseases unit, firing machine guns and throwing hand grenades, so they could steal the air-conditioners. Given those conditions, women are now more likely to give birth at home, so babies and mothers are both more likely to die of "natural" causes.I haven't read the Lancet article, but let's take Kristof's spin that the deaths are effectively all the result of a security void, and not a direct consequence of warfare. Kristof suggests to us that the solution for a security void is to "stay the course" and... well, at a minimum keep the country from falling apart. Beyond that, Kristof has no apparent notion of what "staying the course" means - he simply predicts a humanitarian disaster with even greater loss of civilian life if we don't stay the proverbial course.
Perhaps Kristof needs to take a harder look at Islamic countries and their internal security situation. There is no question but that prior to the invastion Afghanistan was a failed state, for example, but the Taliban kept order in the streets. (Disagree with its techniques, certainly, but there was order.) That is to say, it is possible that a fragmented Iraq which falls into the hands of various factions of Islamic extremists would be far more secure for the people than the situation we have presently provided. That security would of course come at an enormous price in personal freedom, but if the goal is security police states and totalitarian governments usually have an edge over democracies.
Kristof understandably doesn't want that outcome, but instead of addressing it he pretends it does not exist. I guess, though, that it's easier to present false dichotomies, and criticize an undefined faction of "well-meaning liberals".