The Worst Column of the Year

Now that Tom Friedman is expressing a few doubts about the Afghan War, David Brooks is ready to take over as cheerleader-in-chief for endless war in Central Asia. In his column today, he claims to have spoken with various “military experts” (without naming any of them, of course), and-surprise, surprise — all of them channel ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
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577970_091030_davidbrooks2.jpg
WASHINGTON - APRIL 15: Columnist David Brooks of New York Times speaks during a taping of "Meet the Press" at the NBC Studios April 15, 2007 in Washington, DC. Brooks spoke on the controversy that was created by radio talk show host Don Imus' racial and gender comments to the players of Rutgers University women's basketball team. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press)

Now that Tom Friedman is expressing a few doubts about the Afghan War, David Brooks is ready to take over as cheerleader-in-chief for endless war in Central Asia. In his column today, he claims to have spoken with various "military experts" (without naming any of them, of course), and-surprise, surprise -- all of them channel Brooks' unsupported belief that the only thing that matters in Central Asia is Obama's "determination." There's no analysis, no facts, no weighing of pros and cons, no attempt at cost-benefit analysis, and of course, no sources. Has Brooks bothered to read any of the recent studies of this problem -- including Gen. McChrystal's own assessment -- which make it clear that we face a daunting task? Even those that favor continuing the war understand that victory is far from certain even if we do commit more resources and stay a long time.

This is the kind of "journalism" that gave the Times a black eye over Iraq, and you'd think Brooks (and his editors) would have been chastened by that experience. But I forgot: being a neoconservative pundit means never having to admit error, or apologize for the lives you've helped squander.

The best thing one can say about this piece is that it provides yet another illustration of the behavior that is gradually discrediting mainstream journalism. I read it and immediately thought: "more grist for Glenn Greenwald's mill." Glenn doesn't disappoint.

Now that Tom Friedman is expressing a few doubts about the Afghan War, David Brooks is ready to take over as cheerleader-in-chief for endless war in Central Asia. In his column today, he claims to have spoken with various “military experts” (without naming any of them, of course), and-surprise, surprise — all of them channel Brooks’ unsupported belief that the only thing that matters in Central Asia is Obama’s “determination.” There’s no analysis, no facts, no weighing of pros and cons, no attempt at cost-benefit analysis, and of course, no sources. Has Brooks bothered to read any of the recent studies of this problem — including Gen. McChrystal’s own assessment — which make it clear that we face a daunting task? Even those that favor continuing the war understand that victory is far from certain even if we do commit more resources and stay a long time.

This is the kind of “journalism” that gave the Times a black eye over Iraq, and you’d think Brooks (and his editors) would have been chastened by that experience. But I forgot: being a neoconservative pundit means never having to admit error, or apologize for the lives you’ve helped squander.

The best thing one can say about this piece is that it provides yet another illustration of the behavior that is gradually discrediting mainstream journalism. I read it and immediately thought: “more grist for Glenn Greenwald’s mill.” Glenn doesn’t disappoint.

Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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