April 30, 2012
Krugman’s bravery, second round
My post on The ‘bravery’ of Beinart, and Krugman made some waves, some understandable and expected, some the result of misreading or misunderstanding. Since I’d like to make sure we’re all on the same page – we don’t have to agree, but would like that we agree on what we disagree – I offer the following comments to complement the previous post on the subject.
I was writing about Krugman’s post, not about Beinart’s book. That Krugman decided to crown Beinart a hero does not change what one thinks about Beinart’s book or its author. As many of my readers well understand, I do not much like Beinart’s book (if you want to read critical reviews of the book try here and here). However, it is not his fault that Krugman confuses provocation with bravery.
That is the really the gist of what I was trying to say: Bravery isn’t something that should be accredited lightly to people who write in free countries about topics on which there is free debate and when there’s no personal price involved on the part of the writer. Salman Rushdie wrote a brave book when he was writing about Islam – it put his life in danger. Yu Jie is brave – he was jailed and beaten and had to flee China for speaking truth to power. Beinart is not brave. Criticizing Israel in liberal publications like The New York Review of Books – rightly or wrongly - is not bravery.
I read some of the comments sent by Rosner readers following my post. Some readers liked what I wrote, many readers did not.
One reader defind my post: “extreme nitpicking”. I’d readily admit that some level of nitpicking was involved. He also says I’m trying to “stifle honest debate”. I’m not – I’d welcome any debate that is based on facts. I couldn’t find a single convincing fact in Krugman’s post; all I found was broad generalities.
One reader asks: “Don’t you have anything real to write about?” Well, I do. But since Krugman is a well-known and influential columnist I think his comments on Israel are worthy of scrutiny. Just so you know: He made the front pages of some of Israel’s most-read news sites.
One reader writes: “Rosner is not in Krugman’s league”. I’m sorry to report he’s right – but this makes Krugman’s sloppy post worse, not better (one expects more from the man in the higher league).
Marc Tracy of Tablet, referring to my post (and basically agreeing that Krugman’s post was a “far too casual, tossed-off blog post), writes: “I’d bet Krugman has something interesting to say” about Israel. And I must say: Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is a noble thing to do, but I’m not sure why Tracy has such belief in Krugman’s ability to say something “interesting” about Israel. Does he believe that a brilliant economist must have something interesting to say about every topic he puts his mind to? Does he believe that Krugman is just pretending to avoid thinking about Israel – that he is a really closet-expert on all things Israeli?
Look at the following quotes – do you agree with any of them?
Evacuating the Gaza Strip was “extremely immoral and extremely stupid”; those who “want peace now will never get peace”; “compromises and gestures [for peace] achieve the opposite of what they are supposed to achieve”.
In other words: If you think Nobel laureates in economics have a lot to say about Israel’s policies, why Krugman and not Prof. Yisrael Aumann?