Monday, April 11, 2005

The desperation of the neocons

I don't normally read this guy, but Drezner makes an interesting point in this blog entry about what right and left have contributed to the debate over U.S. foreign policy in the post-9-11 world.
I fear I may botch the point I want to make here, but it's worth roiling the waters by making it anyway. Considering how both sides of the ideological spectrum have been thinking about foreign policy since 9/11, I can't help thinking that both Krugman and Brooks have a decent point. On questions of grand strategy, almost all of the intellectual ferment has come from conservatives (though bravo to the folks at Democracy Arsenal for trying to correct that imbalance). At the same time, the conservatives in power did a God-awful job of actually implementing various parts of this strategy, in part because they they were so unwilling to question the empirical support for their foundational assumptions. In contrast, "reality-based" liberals have been correct on an awful lot of particulars, but not on the big questions.
I know it's not very gracious to pile on to someone just when he's making an effort at conciliation.

But I can't resist. Reading this reminds me of Oliver Wendell Holmes's famously uncharitable remark to William James about James's effort to preserve a space for religion within a world increasingly comprehensible strictly in scientific terms. Holmes remarked that James was "turning the lights down low" in order to provide some spaces of obscurity where faith rather than reason could continue to reign.

Drezner is doing something similar here. He's saying that even though the reality-based liberals have got it right in almost every case where right and wrong can be clearly sorted out, the rightwingers have still got it more right where issues of faith and gut feeling obtain. This strikes me as a last stand position for rightwingers: a concession that whenever there's been something provably right or wong, we've been wrong, but still, trust us, because our "instincts" our sound.

How many times do you let your kid crash the car before you accept that she's either an irresponsible or incompetent driver?

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