Thursday, February 10, 2005

Trust those who actually know stuff

In the Goldberg-Cole spat, most of the attention has gone to whether chickenhawks like Goldberg are being hypocritical when they support a war that could use more people, while they have no plan to go and fight themselves. But the major issue that really grabs me is how partisans who don't know anything get major media placement while experts who know tons of stuff work in the shadows.

Jonah Goldberg -- as far as we can tell -- hasn't read a single book about Iraq. He doesn't understand Arabic, so he can't read Arabic-language newspapers. Juan Cole, on the other hand, has spent many years of his life studying the Middle East. Why does Goldberg get hired by CNN and NPR to talk about Iraq while Cole doesn't? Does anointment by conservative think tanks and the National Review count more than a Ph.D and decades of study? (Obviously, yes.)

It must be really hard to be Juan Cole. You have enormous knowledge of a region of the world, and yet you just have to sit and watch while the opinions of the ignorant about that region gain influence and tragically misdirect our policy. I've occasionally thought that Cole's fury at this situation makes him slightly less effective than he could otherwise be -- there are more effective postures and rhetorical tactics which he might use if he weren't so angry about the hijacking of Middle East policy by people who really don't know anything. But as Gibbard will tell you, there's a difference between what justifies having some attitude and what justifies wanting to have some attitude. Cole is warranted in being furious, even if we are justified in wanting him to be less furious.

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