Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Peeling A Grape - How a book review should be done

I love book reviews where the reviewer slaps the author over the knuckles with some hard evidence. Jonah Goldberg at the The Corner posted exercpts from WSJ's Brett Stephens' review of Nancy Soderberg's book "The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might".
As Goldberg said, he peels her book like a grape.

Begin with the simplest errors of fact. The aggregate value of global trade was not $4 billion when President Clinton took office; it was $4 trillion, according to the OECD. The Palestinians have not had "several" prime ministers since 2003; they've had two. Richard Perle has never been a member of the Bush administration. The Iraqi National Museum was not significantly looted in April 2003; Britain's leftist Guardian newspaper put paid to that legend in 2003. Israelis did not support the dovish Geneva Accords by 53.3%; the actual figure was 31%, while a plurality of 38% opposed them. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 not 1989. Trivia, really, but when Ms. Soderberg snickers about how candidate Bush struggled through a foreign-policy pop quiz in 2000, one is compelled to snicker back.

Next are larger, but equally basic, errors of analysis. "It is now believed that [Abu Musab] Zarqawi operates independently, and even in competition with bin Laden." She must have missed Zarqawi's declaration of fealty to Osama bin Laden in October. (Bin Laden certainly noticed it: He recently ordered Zarqawi to widen the scope of his efforts beyond Iraq.) "While [Ahmed] Chalabi was popular in certain powerful circles in Washington, he had virtually no support in Iraq." Funny, then, that Mr. Chalabi did well enough in January's elections to be in serious contention for the premiership. "The war in Iraq drew the Bush administration's focus away from Afghanistan during the critical two years following the overthrow of the Taliban, making the job there infinitely harder." Infinitely? Ten million Afghan voters missed that nuance.

And then there is the Soderberg Whopper: "The hegemons' experiment has failed in Iraq," she writes. "Whether other benefits of the war cited by the administration will materialize, such as promoting democracy and reform in the Middle East and a resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, will take years to evaluate. Early signs indicate the war set back rather than promoted these goals." Early signs being...Palestinian elections? Iraqi elections? The Cedar Revolution? The "Kifaya" ("Enough") movement in Egypt? The end of the intifada? As the lady says, you can always hope that "this might not work."


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