Lead on, David Brooks

by Kieran Healy on September 24, 2004

On CNN’s Newsnight last night, David Brooks took his favorite rhetorical trope—that there are two kinds of people in the world—to its realpolitik conclusions:

You’ve got to have a political strategy and you’ve got to have a military strategy. … You’ve got to use our Iraqis, the Iraqis who want a democratic Iraq to give them something concrete, win them over. But then you’ve got to have a military strategy too and those are the people who, like Zarqawi, who just want to spread death and destruction. So, what you do is you win over the people you can, town by town and then you kill the people you can.

Brooks was ready to fly to Iraq and lead the army from house to house in Iraq using his magic glowing finger to distinguish the Iraqis we must kill from those we must win over, he did not go on to say.

{ 41 comments }

1

Jeremy Osner 09.24.04 at 3:35 pm

You’ve probably seen this already but if not: Be sure to read Brooks’ take on breakfast.

2

Kieran Healy 09.24.04 at 3:47 pm

It’s linked in the post above — the link to ‘two kinds of people in the world.’

3

djw 09.24.04 at 3:48 pm

Brooks is apparently one of the few people in this world who give Bush, Rumsfeld, and team less credit than I do. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I actually assumed they already knew that it’s probably best to treat our unalloyed supporters in a different matter than vicious,cold-blooded killers.

4

Jeremy Osner 09.24.04 at 3:50 pm

Oy — that’ll teach me not to follow links… sorry…

5

Andrew Brown 09.24.04 at 4:19 pm

Surely, on a point of logic, his last post should read “You win over the people you can, and then you kill all the rest?”

6

Andrew Brown 09.24.04 at 4:21 pm

Brooks’ last “sentence”, not “post”. I spend too much time reading blogs. Sorry.

7

Kieran Healy 09.24.04 at 4:22 pm

it’s probably best to treat our unalloyed supporters in a different matter than vicious,cold-blooded killers.

Well, exactly. Either he’s just saying “We should be kind to our friends and hard on our enemies” or he’s saying “We should be kind to our friends and raze to the ground cities containing our enemies.” The first it true, but unhelpful, and the second is just plain unhelpful.

8

elizabeth 09.24.04 at 4:23 pm

djw:

How do you tell between the two?

9

Verity 09.24.04 at 4:27 pm

There is a third kind of person Brooks failed to mention. People like Brooks who articulate this kind of “reasoning” as rational and sensible. I wonder how many viewers heard that and did not even blink and completely bought it as the next meme to repeat endlessly until it is made into truth. These would be the fourth kind of people. And it could go on.

Every time I think things cannot get worse, no one else can possibly get uglier, someone steps forward and does just that. I am so tired of picking my jaw off the floor. I am beginning to develop a perpetually surprised expression on my face and I blame that wholly on this WH, their lackeys and their foot-in-mouth disease.

10

P O'Neill 09.24.04 at 4:36 pm

Brooks’ unironic use of the term “our Iraqis” is an especially nice touch.

11

Gozer 09.24.04 at 4:39 pm

You’ve got to use our Iraqis, the Iraqis who want a democratic Iraq to give them something concrete, win them over.

How patronizing.

12

Philboid Studge 09.24.04 at 4:51 pm

If it weren’t for bloggers, I would be very happily unsullied by Brooks’ bullshit. It is an easy matter to skip his NYT column, and no problem to surf past his gleaming pate when Bobo is punditifying on the TV. My question, then, is why serious people pay attention. If we ignore him, won’t he just go away?

13

Aaron 09.24.04 at 5:08 pm

Babbling Brooks strikes again?

As Philboid suggests, if the NY Times hadn’t enlisted him (apparently as the result of an “affirmative action” campaign for intellectually disadvantaged white conservatives) would anybody be paying attention to him? If so, why?

14

George 09.24.04 at 5:31 pm

Brooks may be saying something simple, but he’s addressing a fairly common misperception: that “the Iraqis” believe or want one thing or the other. This shows up in arguments both pro and con: “the Iraqis will greet us as liberators,” “the Iraqis hate us,” etc. Different Iraqis want different things. If this is already obvious to you, congratulations.

15

Alex 09.24.04 at 5:32 pm

Brooks’s theory is so yesterday.

Didn’t he read Rummie’s brilliant observation that Iraqis will eventually get tired of getting killed?

When that happens, they’ll all become “our” Iraqis. And voila — Victory!

16

Rich 09.24.04 at 5:32 pm

There’s a grain of truth to what Brooks says, but I’d recast his terms. There are what the Irish refer to as the “Hard Men”, the folks who do the actual hands-on shooting, bombing and stabbing.
There’s everybody or the potential sympathizers. The sympathizers greatly outnumber the Hard Men and can be won over via ordinary politics. Fixing up their sewer systems, re-establishing electricity, organizing garbage collection, etc., will go a very long way towards winning over the sympathizers. That’s why people are so furious over the Bush Administration’s failure to spend more of the $18 billion Congress voted for reconstruction.
Once the sympathizers have been won over, do you go around shooting the Hard Men? Not necessarily. Without popular support, people to provide services such as lookouts, places for sleeping quarters, food, etc., insurgents become plain vanilla criminals.
So Brooks’ prescriptions have a germ of a good idea, but he misreads the situation in an excessively bloodthirsty way.

17

Tom Parmenter 09.24.04 at 5:36 pm

From my web log:

Babbling Brooks

H.G. Wells said “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t.:

The contemporary version might be, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who take seriously David Brooks and his multiple attempts at discerning the two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t, who ignore David Brooks, or perhaps have never even heard of this “liberal’s favorite conservative”.

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who are dope and those who are dopes.

There are two kinds of people inside my single skull.

18

abb1 09.24.04 at 5:55 pm

Different Iraqis want different things. If this is already obvious to you, congratulations.

True, different Iraqis do want different things, but hardly anyone wants things like, say, liver cancer or living under military occupation.

19

Dave 09.24.04 at 6:06 pm

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who do not.

20

Sam 09.24.04 at 6:14 pm

True, different Iraqis do want different things, but hardly anyone wants things like, say, liver cancer or living under military occupation.

Whether people want to live under military occupation depends on the alternatives. My great-great-grandfather moved from Germany to Mississippi in 1867–apparently, even occupied Mississippi was better than Germany. Similarly, I agree that most/all Iraqis would prefer some Iraqi government to a military occupation; I rather suspect, though, that a considerable number prefer the present military occupation both to Saddam’s government, and to al-Sadr or Zarqawi’s desired government.

21

Michael Shea 09.24.04 at 6:22 pm

I am reminded of the Tom Robbins line,”There are two kinds of people in this world : those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.” (Still Life with Woodpecker)

22

George 09.24.04 at 6:22 pm

Actually there are a zillion ways people can be categorized, resulting in two or however many groups, but one of the most *instructive* category sets is the tolerant and the intolerant. That is, those who can peacefully co-exist with others and those who cannot. You can have any number of groups differing in any number of characteristics, but if they are otherwise tolerant everything will be cool. But introduce one intolerant group into the mix and there will be bloodshed.

Simplistic, of course, but in almost every conflict there is at least one group of people (however small) that simply must be killed or otherwise neutralized for there to be resolution. The tough part, of course, is identifying those people.

23

Travis_Bickle 09.24.04 at 6:24 pm

From the Good the Bad the Ugly

You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend… those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.

24

dnexon 09.24.04 at 6:27 pm

Why all the fuss. Just kill them all; God will know his own.

25

dnexon 09.24.04 at 6:29 pm

Why all the fuss? Just kill them all. God will know his own.

26

yabonn 09.24.04 at 6:57 pm

If we ignore him, won’t he just go away?

No. He’ll go uncontradicted, and his views, however moonbatesque, will progressively gain mainstream credential.

Then there will be two kinds of people in the world, those knowing it’s stupid, and those surprised that somemone finds something so mainstream stupid.

Any typo to be credited to Spaten, Franziskaner-Bräu, München.

27

abb1 09.24.04 at 7:13 pm

He’s already gained mainstream credentials. Along with Friedman, Dowd, Safire and Kristof whose opuses aren’t any smarter.

28

Romdinstler Jones 09.24.04 at 7:25 pm

Spoken like the truest of chickenhawks, Mr. Brooks! Give that man an honorary, lifetime membership in the American Enterprise Institute!

29

djw 09.24.04 at 7:33 pm

Kieran, right, agreed.
Elizabeth, exactly. I was clumsily making the same point y’all were making about just how unhelpful Brooks really is.
abb1: Kristof and Safire write many very stupid things, but they’re clearly smarter than Brooks. I suspect Dowd is too, but if I am correct, her writings serve to obfuscate that fact.

30

Jeremiah Elias 09.24.04 at 7:34 pm

Why does this fucking piece of shit even have a job at the New York Times where he is allowed to publish his poisonous and idiotic spew in such a manner as to give it some kind of crediblity?

For that matter, why does anyone even read the New York Times anymore?

31

Ibid Anon 09.24.04 at 7:49 pm

There are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary and those who do not.

32

Kirk 09.24.04 at 7:49 pm

Brooks is right, he’s just about 50 years too late. This is how imperialism works. You win over those you can, and kill the rest. However, that strategy worked much better before the advent of television, the Internet and the AK-47. The AK gives those who disagree the power to fight back, which the mass media makes it harder for us “Good Guys” to go into a country and commit genocide.

33

oneangryslav 09.24.04 at 9:13 pm

Actually, there are THREE types of people in the world; those who can do math and those who can’t.

34

ruralsaturday 09.24.04 at 9:16 pm

The important thing is to start the killing.
Then the ones who beg us to stop, and who bargain with us, are our allies.
The ones who fight back are our enemies.
Adducing cause is quibbling, our soldiers are being attacked; questioning the validity of their mission is treason.
Once the killing stops we can discuss causes and solutions, like reasonable men.
The killing will stop when the people we’re killing stop fighting back.

35

stupidliberal 09.24.04 at 9:17 pm

“…people who, like Zarqawi, who just want to spread death and destruction.”

maybe someone can explain how killing everyone that you can’t “win over” is different from spreading death and destruction. ‘Join me or die’, very convincing.

36

r. clayton 09.24.04 at 9:22 pm

The tough part, of course, is identifying those people.

No, the tough part is setting yourself up to be the one who makes the decision. After that everything’s easy.

37

Warthog 09.24.04 at 10:25 pm

Is it really so difficult to figure out that the guy with the gun pointing in your direction is the bad guy?

38

kc 09.25.04 at 12:13 am

Did they edit the transcript? I didn’t see the Brooks quote in there.

39

kc 09.25.04 at 12:40 am

Never mind, I found it. Duh . . .

40

Hans Panclam 09.25.04 at 12:33 pm

41

nick 09.26.04 at 6:46 pm

Good old Baghdad Bobo, dividing the sheep from the goats.

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