On Dave Weigel

Dave Weigel is leaving the Washington Post after some creep leaked off-the-record comments he made on a private list-serv. Matthew Yglesias and Adam Serwer  have both written superb blog posts that pretty much say everything that needs to said on the matter. But I want to make a few points that need to be stressed in the strongest possible terms.

1. Dave Weigel is a great reporter who has covered a tough and important subject (the conservative movement) with fairness and intelligence. The real losers in all of this are the readers of the Washington Post, who will no longer benefit from his intelligent and informed reporting.

2. Whoever leaded those private emails is a lowlife. The leaked emails were deliberately choosen in a way to make Weigel look bad and hurt his career.

3. In the back of all this controversy was a kind of conservative identity politics. Some conservatives are upset because Weigel is covering the conservative movement but he’s not part of it. Conservatives usually decry the sort of sort of identy politics that requires only blacks to write about blacks or gays to write about gays, but some conservatives have adopted the same ethos.

4. Every good reporter has private communications — letters, emails, conversations — that make them look opinionated. That’s because any good reporter is a lively and engaged human being with a strong point of view. It’s an absurd form of positivism to require reporters to be a blank slate — no such reporter could possibly exist. The merit of a reporter’s writing is to be judged by whether his or her articles are factually accurate, bring new facts and arguments to light, and advance the conversation on a topic in a meaningful way. By that criteria, Weigel is a superb reporter while some of his critics (notably Jeffrey Goldberg) are far inferior. Yglesias is especially good on this point.

The Romance of Counterinsurgency

John Wayne: the great hero of 1960s counterinsurgency.

The romance of war doesn’t just appeal to conservatives who have spent too much time reading Kipling and watching old John Wayne movies. Liberals also have their own tendency to glamorize war, going back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson’s absurd celebration of the First World War as a great battle for democracy.

For the last half-century, counterinsurgency has been the type of war that liberals are most likely to idealize. In theory, counterinsurgency sounds great: it’s war fought to win “the hearts and minds” of the people, war that involves building alliances with the local population, war done with the best of intentions, war as a giant social welfare program (with guns).

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