Wrong-way Bush

Gaining yardage for the other side every day.

William Saletan is on a roll, getting shriller by the minute:

In the Bush-Cheney worldview, all foreign adversaries blur into one: “the enemy.” All U.S. options simplify to two: “offense” or “defense.” Going on offense shows “strength” and defeats the enemy. If the president starts running with the ball, and you criticize him, you show “weakness” and invite terrorism.

But what if there’s more than one enemy? What if the enemy we’re “fighting back” at isn’t the one that struck or threatened us? What if the president turns away from the team that was trying to score on us, and he starts heading for another team that’s sitting in the stands, behind our own end zone? What if his “offense” is losing yards with every stride?

In American football, running the ball into the wrong end zone is rare enough to be memorable. In soccer (what most of the rest of the world calls “football”) it’s not nearly as unusual for a team to accidentally deflect the ball into its own net, scoring a goal for the other side. There’s even a technical term for it: it’s called an “own goal.” (In le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl, a car bomber who apparently managed to kill himself and no one else by detonating the bomb early is referred to by a British agent as having “scored an own goal.”)

Whichever game you prefer, making gains for the other team is usually a bad idea. But I suppose thinking that just shows my lack of determination.

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