I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable
constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years
time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare
right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV
reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would
measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat:
Because I don't think it's right to bet on such serious matters for personal
gain, if I win, I'll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is.
And Cole, for whom four lines in some op-ed piece is as good as a thousand-word response from him, feels compelled to clarify his own position:
This man really does see Iraqis as playthings. He is proposing a
wager on the backs of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis are going through winter with
insufficient heating oil. They are jobless. The innocent 250,000 Fallujans are
homeless. Imagine what $1000 means to them... This entire paragraph is an
excellent symbol for the entire project of the neo-imperial American Right. They
are making their own fortunes with a wager on the fates of others, whom they are
treating like ants. Get in their way and they stomp on you. Make an anthill the
wrong place and they blow it up.
I fail to see how Cole's position is any less cynical than Goldberg's. Cole's third-favorite mode of discourse on his web log, next to the "dire prediction" and the "conspiracy theory," is the casualty report. He especially loves the ones about soldiers who are maimed and mutilated in action, but who nevertheless have to go home still alive. He has made superficially charitable attempts to find ways to connect with individual soldiers, but only within the tight confines of his political agenda. In Juan Cole's perverse sense of reality, U.S. soldiers come in two varieties - the ones that are still alive and healthy, all still following orders and thereby in the midst of committing war crimes; and the ones laying in hospitals with their limbs permanently damaged and therefore somehow qualified to receive the wellspring of leftist sympathies. Since Cole will probably never admit to such logic himself, I'll go ahead and break it down for you - to this guy, the only good soldier is a dead or dying soldier, and I sincerely doubt that there are many soldiers willing to accept his conditional sympathy.
With such a record for poisoned rhetoric, why would Cole want to take on anyone, much less somebody with national standing like Jonah Goldberg? I simply fail to grasp his strategy. However, there is evidence that even some of Cole's supporters believe he has taken this thing too far. Even Abu Aardvark dismissed Cole's new-found obsession with a convenient one-liner: "Juan, a word of advice I heard a while ago and took to heart: Never wrestle with a pig. You end up covered in mud, and the pig likes it." It's good advice. I hope he takes it.
So much for that distraction. Now back to studying Arabic.