Saturday, March 09, 2013

Bad Arguments Against Saletan

via Sully, here is a terrible argument against listening to Saletan: he got things wrong once.

Look, supporting the Iraq war was dumb. But I myself was torn on the issue, because I was pushed toward that position by administration propaganda and a strong inclination against dogmatism. It never seemed to add up to me, but I kept thinking I must be missing something. At any rate, you'll note that the Saletan piece to which deBoer points is uncharacteristically bad. In fact, it's not even clear what Saletan is trying to argue for. He seems to be spinning out a kind of hypothetical about a possibly changing nature of war. He's wrong, and the piece isn't good. But it doesn't make any sense to say that he should never be listened to again. Sometimes similar ad hominems are reasonable--e.g. Bill Krystal is wrong so often that there's basically no reason to waste minutes reading him anymore. That's a sensible position. But someone like Saletan, who is usually reasonable, cannot rightly be classified as so wrong he needn't be read. In general, of course, one's conclusion stands or falls with the strength of one's arguments, unless one is giving testimony. Nobody thinks Saletan should be treated as if he were speaking ex cathedra...but his arguments generally deserve a hearing.

At any rate, de Boer's screed is in no way a substantive criticism of Saletan's recent drone piece, as it is apparently supposed to be.

Nothing in the Saletan piece settles legal questions about the targeted killing policy. Those questions are separate. Defenders of drones are generally merely defending them as a means. Such arguments typically have the form: if you're going to do x, then drones are better than methods a, b, c....


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