Monday, May 16, 2005

Krugman versus Krugman, on economists who pontificiate in public about military matters pretending to know something about them...

Paul Krugman:
.. the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies ... At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable ... Meanwhile, America's strategic position is steadily deteriorating ... America has been taken hostage ... the American military isn't just bogged down in Iraq; it's deteriorating under the strain. We may already be in real danger ... something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq ... [5/16/05]
Paul Krugman:
I do not think of myself as an all-purpose pundit. I remember once (during the air phase of the Gulf War) seeing John Kenneth Galbraith making pronouncements on TV about the military situation, and telling friends that if I ever start pontificating in public about a technical subject I don't understand, they should gag me. [4/1/99]
Man, it's tough when your friends let you down!

Do we need evidence of Krugman's deep expertise on the "technical" aspects of military and strategic affairs? Well, we can start with his...

We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft
... that somehow overlooks the obscure fact that during the Cold War the military was a million men larger than today-- that's two-thirds larger -- without a draft (as is pointed out by Roland Patrick every time Krugman repeats this howler.)

How "technical" is that?

When Krugman's mastery of military analysis doesn't even reach that far ... really, there's a reason why his friends shouldn't let him don a mitre to make pronouncements on it public.

The thing is that Krugman used to ridicule experts in military and strategic affairs who voiced opinions on economics and trade -- Edward Luttwak comes to mind -- specifically for their conceit in believing that knowleddge of their own field translated into any sort of understanding of economics.

But now Krugman the economist -- who doesn't know even literally the first thing about the volunteer military, the history of its size -- deems himself expert on the limits of American military and strategic capabilities.

"... the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable ..."
Even though he can't get past the lamest of unthinking clichés.

Vietnam? If Krugman's study of military affairs extened just to reading the newspaper he writes in, he'd have read this comparison of Iraq and Vietnam...

American forces in Iraq have often been accused of being slow to apply hard lessons from Vietnam and elsewhere about how to fight an insurgency. Yet, it seems from the outside, no one has shrugged off the lessons of history more decisively than the insurgents themselves.

The insurgents in Iraq are showing little interest in winning hearts and minds among the majority of Iraqis, in building international legitimacy, or in articulating a governing program or even a unified ideology or cause beyond expelling the Americans. They have put forward no single charismatic leader, developed no alternative government or political wing, displayed no intention of amassing territory to govern now...

Rather than employing the classic rebel tactic of provoking the foreign forces to use clumsy and excessive force and kill civilians, they are cutting out the middleman and killing civilians indiscriminately themselves...

Counter-insurgency experts are baffled ...."Instead of saying, 'What's the logic here, we don't see it,' you could speculate, there is no logic here," said Anthony James Joes, a professor of political science at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and the author of several books on the history of guerrilla warfare. The attacks now look like "wanton violence," he continued.

"And there's a name for these guys: Losers. The insurgents are doing everything wrong now," he said...[NY Times]
Does that really sound like an "echo of Vietnam", Paul?

Krugman has become everything he used to mock.

"Paul Krugman, America's heir apparent to J.K. Galbraith" -- The Guardian.