Piling on Robert Kagan

Just because everyone else in the world has done it so far, I think I’ll add my two cents by quoting the opening paragraph of Robert Kagan’s Sunday column in the Post:

A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn’t work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.

What the hell is this about? The newspaper will presumably do its best to report whatever is going on at the time.

Why the Post lets one of its own columnists so casually attack the paper is beyond me. Would Kagan be happy if I showed those defeatists at the Washington Post a lesson and cancelled my (nonexistent) subscription? I would think he might have more regard for his employer than that. Then again, if the Post is willing to publish stuff like this, it’s evident it has little self-respect to begin with.

On the substantive issue, I’m far from a military tactician, but I imagine it’s important to make all sorts of contingency plans based on how things may or may not work out. It’s perfectly valid for the Post to report on the lack of a plan that addresses what to do if the surge isn’t a success. Somehow Kagan turns this bit of standard reporting into an insult against US efforts in Iraq.

And today comes news that the US military actually is considering options in case the surge doesn’t work out as hoped. Oops.


5 Responses to Piling on Robert Kagan

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    No self respect to publish criticism of ideas carried in other columns?

    Um, may I chalk this up to “total cluelessness about U.S. journalism and what freedom of the press, and the responsibility of the press” means?

  2. dimmykarras says:

    It’s a baseless criticism though. I probably should spell out my thinking more because I wrote this post quickly and without much quoting from the article to explain my point.

    Kagan takes a straight news story about US military planning (or the lack thereof). He then pretends that it’s an example of a defeatist mindset in the press. It’s a thinly veiled insinuation that the Post as an institution doesn’t want the United States to win in Iraq, and I doubt others at the Post are very happy to see this kind of thing in their paper.

    Kagan’s second paragraph begins, “Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy.” Next, Kagan blames the media for the creating a “psychological” situation where, “Both friends and foes in Iraq had been convinced, in no small part by the American media, that the United States was preparing to pull out.” Near the end, Kagan charges that journalists “are still selling books based on the premise that the war is lost, end of story.”

    None of these claims has anything to do with the article that Kagan mentions in his opening paragraph (in fact, the article does the opposite of one of the things Kagan suggests by emphasizing the determination of the US to stay in Iraq). He doesn’t think anyone is going to bother to go back and check, and that his allegation will go unchallenged.

    I am not making a point about freedom of the press. I just think it’s a shoddy column and that the Post shouldn’t let itself be slandered in such a baseless way (that it does suggest to me a lack of self-respect).

    I hope that’s clearer and that I seem less clueless to you now. If you feel like defending Kagan on the substance, have at it.

  3. Ed Darrell says:

    I don’t think there’s much defense for Kagan on the substance. But publishing idiot views on the war — such as the standard line from Tony Snow — is the duty of the press. If it’s a shoddy column, go after the column and make the point. Editors make mistakes, and they also listen to smart, cogent arguments about why they should issue corrections.

    The Washington Post publishes a list of corrections every day. George Bush can’t think of any mistakes he’s made in his life. Which one comes closest to accuracy?

  4. dimmykarras says:

    I agree that the paper shouldn’t censor its columnists’ views on the issues of the day, and there’s certainly been plenty of pro-war sentiment on the WaPo op-ed page (maybe too much, but that’s another issue). I also acknowledge that Kagan’s attack on press coverage of Iraq is pretty standard for those of his ideological persuasion. What makes this different is that Kagan is offering a transparently false smear of the news coverage of the very publication in which his column is being printed. That’s taking things a step further, and that it lets him do this makes me wonder about the Post.

  5. […] Counterpoint to Kagan I actually got into a comment discussion with a reader about yesterday’s Robert Kagan post, proving that people do occasionally stumble across this blog and read it. That discussion deals […]

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