I always hesitate before linking to blogs that are vastly more popular than mine; I mean, what are the odds that you're reading this, but managed to miss SDB's defense of his previous strategic overview of the War on Terror?

His critics are calling him a raving lunatic-idiot, and there are only two cases in which a person will resort to such ad hominem attacks: when the person being attacked is so obviously in the wrong, and their position so clearly devoid of merit, that there's just no reason to respond rationally; and when the attacker has no logical, coherent ammunition of his own. Clearly the attacker would always like his listeners to assume the former, but more often than not that's just a bluff, and the true situation is actually the latter.

SDB uses a lot of words, but the real meat is near the end:

Many on the left are still spending their time mooning those of us over here who've been advocating war. And it's becoming apparent that they are frustrated by the fact that it doesn't seem to be having any political impact.

They're also deeply worried because we advocates seem to be getting a lot more attention. For instance, in the Yglesias comment thread, Peter Jung says, "Den Beste is a raving psychotic, and it is alarming that someone of his ilk is allotted space on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal."

When someone tries to use a strategy which is dictated by their ideology, and that strategy doesn't seem to work, then they are caught in something of a cognitive bind. If they acknowledge the failure of the strategy, then they would be forced to question their ideology. If questioning the ideology is unthinkable, then the only possible conclusion is that the strategy failed because it wasn't executed sufficiently well. They respond by turning up the power, rather than by considering alternatives. (This is sometimes referred to as "escalation of failure".)

Attempts by the leftists to show how emphatically they oppose war don't seem to be having any impact. Invective and ridicule has failed to discredit those of us who have been advocating war. (And that's puzzling, too. In college, denouncing someone as being "conservative" would instantly discredit them and silence them. Why hasn't that been working in the debate about the war?)

So they're turning up the intensity of the ridicule and invective. If they can somehow find the right magical ad hominem characterization for their opponents, the opponents will vanish and take their dangerous messages with them. (So if "conservative" doesn't work, maybe "psychotic" or "racist" will.)

By refusing to consider the idea that they might need to engage in cogent debate on the issues, including making attempts to present credible alternatives, they're taking themselves out of the game.

Welcome to Real Life, where sincerity alone counts for just two things, and Jack just left town.



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