Letter to Jonah Goldberg
A reader cc’d me with this letter to Jonah Goldberg and allowed me to share it here.
In your post to the Corner today (“A NEW DAY”), you leave the impression that the only emails you have received supporting Professor Cole were written by deranged anti-Semites. I sincerely doubt that was the case. However, just to be sure, I wanted to provide you with at least one email that did not fit that description.
In your post titled “EMPIRICISM”, you quote a reader who seems to value concepts above experience. In many ways, this may be a good explanation of the root of your feud with Cole. By all appearances, you view the war in Iraq much the way you might treat today’s Superbowl. Its something about which you feel free to state strong opinions and something which might provoke a certain amount of emotional argument.
You might win or lose a few dollars and/or the ability to gloat for a few days. But, in the end, its simply entertainment. Certainly, despite the strength of your convictions about aspects of the game, you don’t feel yourself qualified to actually take the place of Belichick or Reid. You wouldn’t consider for a moment strapping on a helmet and lining up in place of TO.
Cole, on the other hand, knows that war is not a game. He lived in war-torn Beirut and knows the realities of civil strife. While your opinion on whether the Eagles should pass or run will have little affect on today’s game, your support of the war from such vantage points as CNN has had a real effect. As a result of policies you have supported, people have died. Those are real people, not “conceptual” people or “theoretical” people. Those are empirical people. Yet, to you they are much like any players that will be injured today. The expected outcome of a game, but nothing about which to be too concerned.
In your post “SOMEBODY DOESN’T LIKE ME”, you make much of supposed personal attacks on you by Cole. But, you started this contretemps, by describing him as “the dashboard saint of lefty Middle East experts”. That’s hardly the best way to open discussion with someone with whom you hope to remain on civil terms. The entire tone of your discussion of Cole was demeaning and condescending. As a result, you have little room to whine about personal attacks (especially when the supposed attacks are simply statements of fact).
You then go on to say that “I don’t think I made the allegation that Saddam had nuclear weapons ‘over and over again’ on CNN or anywhere else.” Yet, this was not an allegation that Cole made. What he actually wrote was “[t]he reason he repeatedly gave was that Iraq was close to having a nuclear weapon.” This is exactly the position that you go to lengths to restate. In trying to refute Cole, you actually
confirm his allegation. However, you somehow manage to avoid the more central issue. Clearly, Saddam was not on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon, despite your claims to the contrary on CNN and elsewhere. What do you have to say about your error? Do you feel any responsibility for the real and empirical deaths that have occurred due to your mistakes of concept and theory?
Finally, I really appreciate your frankness in explaining why you are not currently serving in “the kill zone”. It is the best and most honest display of chickenhawk hypocrisy I have yet to come across. It confirms my belief that the war in Iraq is little more than a game to you. Its fun to talk about on CNN and maybe debate with someone in “The Corner”, but to expect you to put yourself on the line is out of the question. I have just one thing to ask: do you support the immediate dismissal from military duty of all over 35 fathers who request such a dismissal? If so, would you be willing to use your media pulpits to support such a policy? In theory, Professor Cole would have great praise for your so doing. In reality, its just one more time that you will show that you are simply an unprincipled coward.