Glenn Reynolds hits a new low

Sometimes Glenn Reynolds outdoes even himself.

Here’s the latest. Reynolds links to Andrew Sullivan, who in turn quotes Peter Boyer (whose credentials as a Republican hit-man are reviewed here by Matt Yglesias) attacking Wesley Clark.

Reynolds approvingly quotes Sullivan as calling Clark “Perot-crazy,” without ever even asking the question whether Sullivan’s hostile analysis, based on Boyer’s hostile account, might not be entirely accurate: which, unsurprisingly, it isn’t.

Clark, who (agree with him or not) surely qualifies as an expert on military affairs, has made an extended argument that attacking Iraq made the United States less secure than it otherwise could have been, because it distracted attention and energy that should have been devoted to hunting down Osama bin Laden and the rest of the remnants of al-Qaeda.

It is that argument that leads Sullivan, whose credentials as a military analyst are perhaps less obvious than a four-star general’s, to question Clark’s sanity:

Let’s put this kindly: This is Ross Perot-crazy. First off, there obviously was a primary and clear attempt to destroy al Qaeda and its base of operations in Afghanistan. The war against Saddam was not an alternative to going after Al Qaeda. It was a supplement. You can argue whether it is or was necessary; you can argue about how deeply it is or was connected to the war on terror in terms of tactics, philosophy, and strategy. But the notion that the Bush administration decided to go after Saddam instead of Al Qaeda is just contrary to what we know happened.

Now it’s possible to argue that the war in Iraq was intended to weaken al-Qaeda, or even that it had the effect of weakening al-Qaeda. But it’s not possible to argue that the war in Iraq didn’t interfere with the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan, which was Clark’s point. See, for example, this Knight-Ridder story:

The war against Saddam Hussein, however, may have hampered the pursuit of bin Laden and his Taliban allies. U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because intelligence matters are classified, said that as much as half of the intelligence and special forces assets in Afghanistan and Pakistan were diverted to support the war in Iraq.

So while you can reasonably disagree with Clark when he says that those assets would have been better left in place to finish off al-Qaeda, Sullivan is calling him “crazy” for asserting something that is demostrably correct. The mission of deposing Saddam Hussein conflicted with the mission of demolishing al-Qaeda. One cost of the war in Iraq was decreased attention to the bin Laden hunt.

Right, then. Reynolds is passing along to his hundred thousand readers a baseless assertion that Wesley Clark is crazy. (He earlier passed along, again without any examination, a slur on Clark’s integrity made by someone who refused to specify a basis for that slur.) That much is par for the Instapundit course.

But then Reynolds adds:

The real problem with the Iraq war is that it’s (1) waged by a Republican President; and (2) obviously in the United States’ national interest. To some people, those characteristics are enough to brand it evil.

Now since Reynolds’s post is entirely about Sullivan’s attack on Clark, “some people” in that last sentence can only refer to Clark. Reynolds is effectively asserting that Clark is hostile to anything that helps the American national interest: in other words, that Clark is unpatriotic.

[Forget for a moment all the other people who supported Gulf War I and the Afghan war, both of them waged by Republican Presidents and both evidently in the national interest, but opposed the war on Iraq. (I supported all three, though with some hesitation in the lastest case.) Again, it’s only routine for Reynolds to attribute bad motives to anyone who disagrees with him.]

But to question the patriotism of a man who won a Silver Star for heroism, and then stayed in uniform for another thirty years, finally winning the Medal of Freedom, because that man has a different idea from yours about how to defend the country, is pretty damned low. Reynolds owes Clark a humble apology. (And the New Republic should be ashamed of itself for printing Sullivan’s nonsensical slander.)

Everyone knows that Reynolds’s productivity as blogger depends largely on his willingness to write about things he only half understands, and that he lacks the time or the inclination to correct more than a small fraction of his mistakes. I really didn’t want to start another flame war (no doubt Reynolds will detect a spelling error somewhere in this post and make it the centerpiece of his response), so I wrote him a rather restrained email asking him whether he could provide any basis for impugning Clark’s loyalty, or alternatively whether he wanted to rephrase his comment.

Apparently not.

The next time one of the warbloggers tells you that it’s a myth that their side likes to question the patriotism of those who disagree with them, just think about what Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds — neither of them, unfortunately, as obscure as Ted Rall — said about Wesley Clark.

Update: Hesiod agrees. But Atrios doubts my claim of a “new low.” Glenn Reynolds responds. (His words didn’t mean what they said, and my reaction to them is “overwrought.”) Tom Maguire tries to referee the match. Digby explains what a tough time the Republicans are going to have doing the slime-job they need to do on Clark. I then parry and riposte, with my usual devastating grace.

Second update: Kevin Drum points to this speech by Clark. Sullivan’s and Reynolds’s account of what he says are about as close to what he actually says as the current occupation is to a well-planned military effort. See if you can find a single paragraph that fits Reynolds’s description of Clark as “unserious.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “Glenn Reynolds hits a new low”

  1. Glenn Reynolds, The Hack of Record

    Mark A. R. Kleiman: Reynolds [writes]: The real problem with the Iraq war is that it's (1) waged by a Republican President; and (2) obviously in the United States' national interest. To some people, those characteristics are enough to brand

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