Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Krugman vs. Friedman: Not Very vs. Very Serious Person

Allow me to present the following contrast between the two New York Times columnists, Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman, to demonstrate the reason for Friedman's much more frequent appearances as a pundit on television.

Not Very Serious Person, Paul Krugman writes, Snow Job in the Desert:
In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressing the United Nations Security Council, claimed to have proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He did not, in fact, present any actual evidence, just pictures of buildings with big arrows pointing at them saying things like "Chemical Munitions Bunker." But many people in the political and media establishments swooned: they admired Mr. Powell, and because he said it, they believed it.

Mr. Powell's masters got the war they wanted, and it soon became apparent that none of his assertions had been true.
But, say the usual suspects, General Petraeus is a fine, upstanding officer who wouldn't participate in a campaign of deception -- apparently forgetting that they said the same thing about Mr. Powell.

First of all, General Petraeus is now identified with the surge; if it fails, he fails. He has every incentive to find a way to keep it going, in the hope that somehow he can pull off something he can call success.

And General Petraeus's history also suggests that he is much more of a political, and indeed partisan, animal than his press would have you believe. In particular, six weeks before the 2004 presidential election, General Petraeus published an op-ed article in The Washington Post in which he claimed -- wrongly, of course -- that there had been "tangible progress" in Iraq, and that "momentum has gathered in recent months."

Is it normal for serving military officers to publish articles just before an election that clearly help an incumbent's campaign? I don't think so.

So here we go again. It appears that many influential people in this country have learned nothing from the last five years. And those who cannot learn from history are, indeed, doomed to repeat it.

Very Serious Person, Thomas Friedman says, Suck On This:


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