November 17, 2007

Earlier this month it appeared the State Department was going to force a handful of Foreign Service Officers to serve their country in Iraq. There was much diplomatic hand-wringing in Foggy Bottom at the prospect. God forbid diplomats do their duty at a time and in a place their country needs them most. Though this "diplomatic crisis" has come to an end thanks to a few honorable volunteers, the ample news coverage the "revolt" received brought renewed attention to the difficulties the US Government is, nay has been, having coming to terms with the international threat environment ever since the end of the Cold War.

Two op-ed pieces on this very topic recently appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The first and by far the best one is written by Hans Binnendijk, a professor at the National Defense University (here). The inferior op-ed, written by Max Boot, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is here.

Why is Max Boot's op-ed inferior? Because it is glaringly inaccurate, shallow in analysis, and betrays a significant lack of knowledge of the subject matter. Unlike Binnendijk, who has extensive experience in national security policy and a Ph. D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Max Boot is, well, a journalist with zero policy experience but possessing a flair for writing and an interest in security issues. To use a football metaphor, Binnendijk is a player and Boot is a cheerleader. Who do you think is going to write a more informed football op-ed?

Lamentably, Boot's lack of experience has not prevented him from becoming an influential voice in some policy circles, thanks to his former perch at the Wall Street Journal and the rise of neoconservativism. This is a shame. People with such limited knowledge should not be so influential. In my next post I will comment on Boot's op-ed in detail.

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