American Pseudo-Religion; Science and Experience

The title of David Brooks’s op-ed Tuesday, “The Neural Buddhists” (The New York Times, 13 May 2008), sounded cyberpunk and that was enough to entice me to read it. Turns out it’s some comments on the trend in neurological and genetic research toward characterizing the religious tendency and the religious experience. A lot of the editorial is wishful thinking on the part of a religious conservative, but then there’s the musings from which the piece draws its title:

This new wave of research will not seep into the public realm in the form of militant atheism. Instead it will lead to what you might call neural Buddhism.

In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate. The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It’s going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.

I often point out that the fastest growing religion in the U.S. today is not Mormonism or any branch of Christianity, but the poorly conceptualized “spiritual but not religious” (“Teens: Spiritual, But Not Religious,” smarties, 11 January 2005). This isn’t some entirely post-1960s baby-boom or gen-X phenomenon. It is the latest manifestation of a long line of uniquely American religion stretching from the Enlightenment deism of the founding generation to the transcendentalism of the late Nineteenth Century to the Progressive era psycho-spirituality of William James. It pulls together an idiosyncratic combination of Christianity, grand historical conspiracy theories à la the Freemasons, various strains of mysticism, yeoman pragmatism, naturalism, popular science, amateur philosophical speculation, do-gooderism, health fads, self-help, popular psychology and positive thinking. It’s all of a piece with American mesianism, paranoia, individualism, pragmatism and the melting pot. It’s a little incipient and a little too convenient for the American way of life, having dispensed with the hard truths and the dark side of religion as well as any of the really imposing moral injunctions, but there it is. And Mr. Brooks is right to point out that the best fit for this among the ancient religions is Buddhism.

As for the rest of the article, it’s just the ontological argument for the existence of god without the minor premise. And the refutation is the same today as it was in the Eighteenth Century: you can’t imagine something into existence. A recurrent dream of Pegasus, however deeply felt, is not the existence of Pegasus. Conversely, the Pegasus of the recurrent dream is not what people would mean were they to speak of the existence of Pegasus. The question isn’t whether one has a particular brain experience. People have all manner of experiences, imaginary and not, as well as everything in between — in fact, the vast bulk of human experience probably lies somewhere between the real and the imagined. The question is whether or not a given experience correlates to an existent external state of affairs.

Amidst the natural sciences the question of correlation between a purported experience and a state of affairs external to mind is not something determined in some crass way. “It really happed.” “No it didn’t.” “Yes it did!” There is simply no sense dwelling on a single instance. Scientists discount a sample size of one. If there is too much dispute over a particular instance, simply drop it in favor of further inquiry. Fleeting and unitary experiences are dismissed in scientific practice in favor of what might be called the intersubjective (see e.g. intersubjectivity or intersubjective verifiability), the societal nature of scientific knowledge or a Wittgensteinian denial of a private language in favor of the essentially public nature of our scientific discourses.

For all of Nietzsche’s fretting that the death of god had unchained the Earth from the Sun, religion was every bit as arbitrary and subjective as its adherents today accuse irreligion of being. In the end, the whole of society swings over the abyss on a tether of fundamentally ungrounded beliefs. Science at least has the merit of basing its propositional criteria on egalitarian public discourse. Religion is based on all manner of purportedly private experience — revelations, miracles, conversations with the gods, passions, et cetera — all considered beyond criticism. Some people are chosen, enlightened or who knows what — the plans of the gods are inscrutable — and the rest of us, not so exalted, accept or reject religious belief on the authority of those possessed of such experiences. To those who prefer something more determinate, Jesus reiterates the Deuteronomic injunction, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7, Deuteronomy 6:16).

This is one of the major divisions between science and religion. Were science to start poking its nose into religious business, the religious person would object that the spiritual is a realm of deeply personal experience, not subject to the critical dissection of all comers. And yet in it’s public aspect, religious practitioners are expected to take the word of people having had religious experiences. No attempt is made to abstract an experience away from an individual experiencer. Religion believes every obscurantist story that any old quack tells, at least where not condemned by religious authority.

A recognition deeply built into the practice of natural science, even if never properly conceptualized or explicitly taught, is the recognition of the fallibility, or at least the broad diversity in function, of the human mind. The well observed fact of low brain performance, stretching from simple poor judgment, forgetfulness, error, misperception and dishonesty to careerism, optical illusions and dreams, all the way to delusion, mental disorder, group psychology and mass hysteria has been incorporated into the background of scientific practice. In this regard a particular theory of mind is a part of the body of scientific practice. And, importantly, it’s not a complicated theory of mind — though one can pursue it to various levels of sophistication — but rather one built upon rather day-to-day observation of human foibles. I think the books of reference here are not any of the ones that Mr. Brooks lists, but David Linden’s The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God or Gary Marcus’s Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind.

One doesn’t have to search very far in one’s own life to find examples of how the brain, while a miracle of evolution, only works so well. At least a couple of times a week I experience a random, spasmodic jerk of some extremity. My cube neighbor at work, my brother, my highschool physics teacher and a former priest all have facial ticks, some rather elaborate, of which I am certain they are completely unaware and were they to become aware, would not be able to control. So-called religious phenomena — feelings of destiny, hearing voices, talking to god, heightened emotional states, impulses, a sense of unity, feelings of disembodiment — are of a piece with this. I don’t deny that religious people have the experiences that they claim. Subjective experiences are experiences nonetheless. What I deny is that such experiences have any greater significance.

Or for that matter there is the even more commonplace matter of difference in perspective. In this sense science is a highly stylized political methodology for producing consensus amidst the rocky shoals of vast differences in human experience.

These commonplace observations are the cause for the emphasis on repeatability and independent verification in scientific practice. It’s not enough for one person to have had an experience, or even for a very large number of people to have shared that experience for it to be established as a scientific fact. The standard for a scientific fact is that it must be something accessible to all; it must be something determinately replicable. A scientific community employs a fairly common engineering method for combating error: given that humans are cheap and plentiful, accommodate for the very low performance of each individual unit of scientific production by performing each task in redundancy. The inaccuracy of any given unit is cancelled out over the span of the entire system.

This is also the cause for the conservatism in science when it comes to abandonment of a long-standing theory. Nonscientists are fond of pointing out one or two contrary studies or a handful of unexplained mysteries and thinking a major theory overturned. The more efficient explanation is to discount early anomalies as human fallibility. The efficient practice when dealing with a theory propped up by thousands of observations, millions of person hours of labor and the consilience of logically related theories and at the same time a small set of recalcitrant data is to wait and see. That’s not to say that anomalies are dismissed — from economics, to discount something is to calculate the present day value of something that will potentially be of a different value in the future — they are merely tabled pending additional information. But should the accumulation of anomalies reaches a critical mass, they will eventually be widely admitted into the corpus of accepted fact. It’s the other side of the redundancy equation.

“We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution. It’s going to have big cultural effects.” True, just not the ones Mr. Brooks is thinking of. I think that what we’re seeing is essentially Antony Flew’s “Theology and Falsification” playing out on a societal scale. Atheists keep on raising unanswerable objections to religious belief — and not just in polemics, but ubiquitously in the zeitgeist — and religious people are staging a fighting retreat by continually lowering the bar and circumscribing ever more narrowly the propositional territory it is that they are defending. Neural Buddhism, spiritual but not religious — people may continue to profess all manner of confusion on the matter — it’s all a track to an essentially irreligious society.

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Books I Haven’t Read

Since I just bought Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, I guess that I should post on it now, not having read it, rather than later when maybe I will.

I became a book collector fairly early on and all the way up through my early post-college years I could still name the author and title of every book I owned and I had honestly familiarized myself with at least a significant chunk of each one. But then as my income grew while my available free time stayed constant or even has diminished slightly, the portion of my book collection with which I have that level of familiarity has shrunk precipitously. At this point I have to confess to being as much a book collector as a book reader. In fact, it occurred to me a few nights ago, after recently having installed three new shelves, that I may have to start budgeting my book acquisitions in shelf-inches rather than dollars (“I’m only allowed three inches this month so its either the thousand page tomb or the two 350 page jobs”).

When S. saw me unload this latest acquisition from my bag she was rather amused that I had found just the right book. But with the seed planted, on no less than three occasions throughout the day did I catch myself and stop to point out that I was just that moment talking about some text that I had not in fact read.

And this dovetails well with David Brooks’s column a few weeks ago on “The Outsourced Brain” (The New York Times, 26 October 2007) where he said,

I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less.

In a follow-up, Ezra Klein really makes the not reading point (“The External Brain,” 26 October 2007):

But so long as [Google’s] around, I don’t need to really read anything. I just need to catalogue the existence of things I might one day read. I don’t so much study web sites as scan for impressions, for markers, for key words I’ll need if I want to return. I don’t need the knowledge so much as a vague outline of what the knowledge is and how to get back.

Indeed, not reading is the wave of the future.

When I was younger and not yet even a dilettante, still just groping toward my present pissant snobbery, my younger and even more bizarre brother, brought us both into contact with the film The Metropolitan. The class issues were lost on me at the time, but it was a revelation: people just hanging around talking about ideas and drinking cocktails. What more could a person possibly want?

The snippet of dialogue that then as now stands out to me the most is one of their salon go-rounds:

Audrey Rouget: What Jane Austen novels have you read?

Tom Townsend: None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it’s all just made up by the author.

To this day I probably read twice as many book reviews as I do actual books.

Kinsley on Brooks

I don’t want to seem as if I started a blog solely to rant about David Brooks, but Michael Kinsley’s very clever review (“Suburban Thrall,” The New York Times, 23 May 2004) of Brooks’s new book, On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (and Always Have) in the Future Tense warrants a few remarks. First, Kinsley points out how easily liberals have been duped by Brooks:

For several years, in the world of political journalism, David Brooks has been every liberal’s favorite conservative. This is not just because he throws us a bone of agreement every now and then. Even the most poisonous propagandist (i.e., Bill O’Reilly) knows that trick. Brooks goes farther. In his writing and on television, he actually seems reasonable. More than that, he seems cuddly. He gives the impression of being open to persuasion. Like the elderly Jewish lady who thinks someone must be Jewish because “he’s so nice,” liberals suspect that a writer as amiable as Brooks must be a liberal at heart. Some conservatives think so too.

There is a prize for being the liberals’ favorite conservative, and Brooks has claimed it: a column in The New York Times.

Lay off, Kinsley. I admit it: I thought that he seemed cuddly too. I was excited by the New York Times column. I am five posts into this thing and already I’m airing opinions this easily lampooned.

The problem that I am having with Brooks it that the humor serves to weaken, or at least confuse the critical faculty. I don’t know how to read Brooks. Is he a political humorist like P.J. O’Rourke or Al Franken? But I don’t have trouble reading O’Rourke and Franken: they are sure to be clear about when they are interjecting a joke or two and when they are making a serious point. Is he a sociologist who employs a snappy commercial shorthand instead of the dry phrasing of academia? But Brooks seems to want an undue amount of hyperbolic license to make his case, to the point where his exaggerations becomes simply misleading.

Citing Sasha Issenberg’s fact checking of Brooks (“Boo-Boos in Paradise,” Philadelphia Magazine April 2004; to be filed right next to Thomas Frank’s essay and my earlier post), Kinsley spends some time on the essential unseriousness of Brooks’s analyses: “Brooks does not let the sociology get in the way of the shtick, and he wields a mean shoehorn when he needs the theory to fit the joke.” This is a more genial version of Frank’s criticisms, which recognized the insidiousness of Brooks’s under the radar take on class in America:

The tools being used are the blunt instruments of propaganda, not the precise metrics of sociology. The “two Americas” commentators showed no interest in examining the mysterious inversion of the nation’s politics in any systematic way. Their aim was simply to bolster the stereotypes using whatever tools were at hand …

Even if his chosen style makes a muddle of it, Brooks is correct to point out the deep divides separating Americans. As his structuring metaphors of consumerism call out, much of this has to do with materialist factors. Here is Kinsley’s attempt to make sense:

… our defining — and uniting — characteristics as Americans, according to Brooks, are that we’d rather leave than fight, and we’re always thinking about the future instead of dwelling on the past. That means the enormous gulfs in values, aspirations, understanding of the world and food preferences he outlines so wittily in the first part of “On Paradise Drive” don’t turn Americans against one another … We all prosper in our various cultural cul-de-sacs (or as Brooks puts it, much better: “Everybody can be an aristocrat within his own Olympus”), and we don’t trouble ourselves about what the folks in the next cul-de-sac might be up to.

I bookmark this phenomena because I will have a lot more to write about it in some future posts on micro-fame and the technological changes that drive and structure it.

Okay, now I’ll lay off Brooks for a while.

What’s Wrong With David Brooks

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who thinks that David Brooks is lost in la-la land. Thomas Frank, whose book, What’s the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America is currently receiving a good deal of liberal acclaim, writes the following in an excerpt thereof published in Harper’s (“Lie Down for America,” April 2004, p. 37):

David Brooks, who has since made a career out of projecting the liberal stereotype onto the [red and blue map of the 2000 election], took to the pages of The Atlantic to admit on behalf of everyone who lives in a Blue zone that they are all snobs, toffs, wusses, ignoramuses, and utterly out of touch with the authentic life of the people:

We in the coastal metro Blue areas read more books and attend more plays than the people in the Red heartland. We’re more sophisticated and cosmopolitan — just ask us about our alumni trips to China or Provence, or our interest in Buddhism. But don’t ask us, please, what life in Red America is like. We don’t know. We don’t know who Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are … We don’t know what James Dobson says on his radio program, which is listened to by millions. We don’t know about Reba and Travis … Very few of us know what goes on in Branson, Missouri, even though it has seven million visitors a year, or could name even five NASCAR drivers … We don’t know how to shoot or clean a rifle. We can’t tell a military officer’s rank by looking at his insignia. We don’t know what soy beans look like when they’re growing in a field.

One is tempted to dismiss Brooks’s grand generalizations by rattling off the many ways in which they’re wrong: by pointing out that the top three soybean producers — Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota — were in fact Blue states; or by listing the many military bases located on the coasts; or by noting that when it came time to build a NASCAR track in Kansas, the county that won the honor was one of only two in the state that went for Gore. Average per capita income in that same lonely Blue county, I might as well add, is $16,000, which places it well below Kansas and national averages, and far below what would be required for the putting on of elitist or cosmopolitan airs of any kind.

It’s pretty much a waste of time, however, to catalogue the contradictions* and tautologies** and huge, honking errors*** blowing round in a media flurry like this. The tools being used are the blunt instruments of propaganda, not the precise metrics of sociology. The “two Americas” commentators showed no interest in examining the mysterious inversion of the nation’s politics in any systematic way. Their aim was simply to bolster the stereotypes using whatever tools were at hand: to cast the Democrats as the party of a wealthy, pampered, arrogant elite that lives as far as it can from real Americans; and to represent Republicanism as the faith of the hard working common people of the heartland, an expression of their unpretentious, all American ways, just like country music and NASCAR. At this pursuit they largely succeeded.

* Consider what we might call the snowmobile dilemma. David Brooks insists that one can trace the Red-state/Blue-state divide by determining whether a person does outdoor activities with motors (the good old American way) or without (the pretentious Blue state way): “We [Blue state people] cross country ski; they snowmobile.” And yet in Newsweek’s take on the Blue/Red divide (it appeared in the issue for January 1, 2001), a “town elder” from Red America can be found railing against people who drive snowmobiles precisely because they signal big city contempt for the “small town values” of Bush Country!

** In the selection printed above, David Brooks tosses off a few names from the conservative political world as though they were uncontroversial folk heroes out in the hinterland, akin to country music stars or favorite cartoonists. But the real reason liberals don’t know much about James Dobson or Tim LaHaye is not because they are out of touch with America but because both of these men are ideologues of the right. Those who listen to Dobson’s radio program or buy LaHaye’s novels, suffused as they are with Bircher style conspiracy theory, tend to be people who agree with them, people who voted for Bush in 2000.

*** The central, basic assertion of the Blue state-Red state literature is that the Democrats are the party of the elite while the Republicans are the party of average, unpretentious Americans. Accordingly, David Brooks asserts in his Atlantic essay that “Upscale areas everywhere” voted for Gore in 2000. As a blanket statement about the rich, this is not even close to correct. Bush was in fact the hands down choice of corporate America: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bush raised more in donations than Gore in each of ten industrial sectors; the only sector in which Gore came out ahead was “labor.” In fact, Bush raised more money from wealthy contributors than any other candidate in history, a record he then broke in 2003.

Nor is Brooks’s statement valid even within its limited parameters. When he says “upscale areas everywhere” voted for Gore, he gives Chicago’s North Shore as an example of what he means. And yet, when you look up the actual 2000 voting returns for those areas of the North Shore known for being “upscale,” you find that reality looks very different from the stereotype. Lake Forest, the definitive and the richest North Shore burb, chose the Republican, as it almost always does, by a whopping 70 percent. Winnetka and Kenilworth, the other North Shore suburbs known for their upscaliness, went for Bush by 59 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

And there were obviously many other “upscale areas” where Bush prevailed handily: Fairfax County, Virginia (suburban D.C.), Cobb County, Georgia (suburban Atlanta), DuPage County, Illinois (more of suburban Chicago), St. Charles County, Missouri (suburban St. Louis), and Orange County, California (the veritable symbol of upscale suburbia), to name but a few.

David Brooks Through the Looking Glass

When David Brooks first began writing for The New York Times editorial page, I thought that a better selection could not have been made. Brooks is funny, cleaver and unorthodox1 — exactly the sort of conservative that should be writing for this country’s “newspaper of record.” As his output has begun to pile up, though, I have begun to think that he will need a star chart to locate the current state of debate.

His latest editorial, “Looking Through Keyholes” would be more aptly titled, “Through the Looking-glass.” He argues that D.C. commentators, rather than focus on the critical events in Najaf and Falluja, are a’chatter about the books and testimonies of Richard Clarke, Condoleezza Rice and Bob Woodward — all dealing with events prior to 2004. “This is like pausing during the second day of Gettysburg to debate the wisdom of the Missouri Compromise.” Time spent preparing for hearings and defending the administration against the myriad accusations is time not spent on solving the problems of Iraq. He dismisses criticisms of Bush as mere Washington conceit. “The first duty of proper Washingtonians is to demonstrate that they are smarter than whomever they happen to be talking about. It’s quite easy to fulfill this mission when you are talking about the past.”2

The fact is that for nearly two years now, Washington insiders have been trying — to no avail, but in the worst case, to their peril — to contribute to the debate over how to handle the situation in Iraq.

Regarding troop levels, General Tommy Franks initially planned to go into Iraq with a force comparable to that of the first Gulf War, but, under pressure from Rumsfeld, continually whittled it down. General Shinseki told congress that a few hundred thousand soldiers would be required in Iraq for up to five years. Retired military personnel voiced concern about troop levels.3 John McCain and even General Abizaid have both called for additional soldiers and for a more international force.4

Pentagon personnel were prohibited from, or reprimanded for, participating in CIA war games that simulated the disorder of the aftermath of invasion.5 In the Pentagon sponsored war games, those acting the role of the enemy were specifically prohibited from employing tactics similar to those used by Iraqi irregulars during combat. Hence Lt. Gen. William Wallace’s controversial remark, “The enemy we’re fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed gainst.”6

A parade of Iraqi exiles met with administration officials, including Bush, to warn about the dangers of a lapse in order.7 Reports by the Army War College, The Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Foreign Policy also warned about the dangers of a breakdown in civil administration and the disbanding of the Iraqi army.8 French officials warned Rice about an insurgency and ethnic tensions.9 Former Central Command chief Anthony Zinni telephoned a general inside his old command to remind him of planning and simulations for an occupation of Iraq that Zinni had conducted in 1999.10 The State Department’s Future of Iraq project spent nearly a year producing a thirteen volume report11 and Powell circulated among the National Security Council a fifteen page memo on the history of U.S. occupations that argued that troop strength and postwar security would be critical factors.12

The administration was still maintaining that oil revenue would pay for Iraq’s reconstruction, when Lawrence Lindsey gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal in which he estimated that the cost of the war would be $100 to 200 billion.13 Throughout the FY2004 budget negotiations, Bush stuck to his original budget for Iraq despite close Congressional questioning. Even after the $87 billion had been authorized, the Chiefs of the Army, Marine Core and Air Force warned that it only covered about eight months of operations.14

The rewards for this diligency have been few. Shinseki was severely dressed down about his estimates with Wolfowitz calling his estimate “wildly off the mark” and Rumsfeld reiterating the same.15 Zinni has gone from special envoy to Israel and Palestine to personae non grata. Iraqi exile Kanan Makiya, whose book, Republic of Fear was closely read in administration circles, has gone the same way since voicing his concerns.16 Rumsfeld specifically told Jay Garner to disregard the Future of Iraq report and that the project’s chief, Thomas Warrick, was to be removed from his staff. Garner resisted the disbanding of the Iraqi army, but it went ahead after he was replaced. Lawrence Lindsey was fired for his forthrightness on the costs of the adventure in Iraq.17 Retired army personnel who spoke out on force levels were slandered as “Clinton generals,” “armchair generals” and the like.

Of course, I am skipping over the reams of excellent commentary in the media because, as Bush has said, “I rarely read the [news] stories.”18 One could have a bang-on solution for our problems in Iraq and may as well leave it tri-folded in one’s jacket pocket for all the impact it will have. Even interventionist extraordinaire Max Boot is saying that the administration is in “a political cocoon where they cut themselves off from outside criticism, just dismiss it as being naysayers.”19

But there is something more fundamental here. We live in a democracy and are approaching an election. The president is up for his quadrennial review. President Bush is continually saying, “I look forward to talking to the American people about why I made the decisions I made.”20 Conservative pundits defend Bush’s use of September 11th as a campaign issue saying “Sept. 11, its aftermath and the response…are central to deciding the fitness of George W. Bush to continue in office.”21 What people like Brooks who complain about the criticisms of Bush miss is that this is exactly what a discussion of Bush’s record looks like. All the hullabaloo that Brooks derides is about “deciding the fitness of George W. Bush to continue in office.” Brooks and other defenders of the administration are frustrated that the “discussion” is two sided, not merely the Bush campaign — sole owner of all information and opinion regarding its record — talking at a pliant audience.

I think Bush would agree with me that the presidential campaign ranks at least as high as our problems in Iraq, because after neutralizing (not solving) the Falluja problem, the man overburdened with Iraq jumped on a campaign bus for a tour of battleground states.

As for Brooks, despite the deployment of French culture as window dressing, he is merely repeating the Republican boilerplate of “You cannot criticize the president. He is a war president.” That sort of intellectual thugery has about as little place in the “newspaper of record” as Jayson Blair.

Notes

  1. Do you doubt me? Though some of his political writings for The Weekly Standard are perhaps more true to form, I judged him on the cultural work such as BOBO’s in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2000; “The Organization Kid.” The Atlantic Monthly. April 2001. http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2001/04/brooks-p1.htm; or “Patio Man and the Sprawl People.” The Weekly Standard. 12-19 August 2002. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/531wlvng.asp
  2. Brooks, David. “Looking Through Keyholes.” The New York Times. 27 April 2004. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/27/opinion/looking-through-keyholes.html.
  3. E.g. Hoar, Joseph P. “Why Aren’t There Enough Troops in Iraq?” The New York Times. 2 April 2003; McCaffrey, Barry. “Gaining Victory in Iraq.” U.S. News & World Reports. 7 April 2003. p. 26; McCaffrey, Barry. “We Need More Troops.” The Wall Street Journal. 29 July 2003.
  4. Schmitt, Eric. “General in Iraq Says More G.I.’s are Not Needed.” The New York Times. 29 August 2003; McCain, John. “Why We Must Win.” The Washington Post. 31 August 2003. p. B7. Schmitt’s article was given a misleading title. Abizaid did say that additional American troops should not be sent, but because he worried about “the public perception both within Iraq and within the Arab world about the percentage of the force being so heavily American.” He did however say that more soldiers from other countries were needed and that the training of native Iraqi forces should be hastened.
  5. Fallows, James. “Blind Into Baghdad.” The Atlantic Monthly. January/February 2004. p. 58. http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2004/01/fallows.htm.
  6. Kaplan, Fred. “War-Gamed.” Slate. 28 March 2003. http://www.slate.com/id/2080814.
  7. Brinkley, Joel and Eric Schmitt. “Iraqi Leaders Say U.S. Was Warned of Disorder After Hussein, But Little Was Done.” The New York Times. 30 November 2003.
  8. Fallows. p. 68; Elliott, Michael. “So, What Went Wrong?” Time. 6 October 2003. p. 34.
  9. Mann, James. The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet. New York: Viking. 2004, p. 349; Burrougil, Bryan, Evgenia Peretz, David Rose and David Wise. “The Path to War.” Vanity Fair. no. 525. May 2004. pp. 288-289.
  10. Ricks, Thomas E. “For Vietman Vet Anthony Zinni, Another War on Shaky Territory.” The Washington Post. 23 December 2003.
  11. Fallows. pp. 56-58.
  12. Packer, George. “Letter from Baghdad: War After the War.” The New Yorker. 24 November 2003. pp. 61-62. http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?031124fa_fact1.
  13. Davis, Bob and David Rogers. “Bush Economic Aide Says Cost of Iraq War May Top $100 Billion.” The Wall Street Journal. 16 September 2002.
  14. Schmitt, Eric. “Service Chiefs Challenge White House on the Budget.” The New York Times. 11 February 2004.
  15. Schmitt, Eric. “Pentagon Contradicts General on Iraq Occupation Force’s Size.” The New York Times. 28 February 2003.
  16. E.g. Makiya, Kanan. “The Wasteland.” The New Republic. 5 May 2003. pp. 19-21. http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030505&s=makiya050503; Makiya, Kanan. “Hopes Betrayed.” The Observer. 16 February 2003. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,896611,00.html.
  17. An administration insider confirms that this was the specific reason for his firing. Allen, Mike, David Von Drehle and Jonathan Weisman. “Treasury Chief, Key Economic Aide Resign as Jobless Rate Hits 6 Percent.” The Washington Post. 7 December 2002. p. A1.
  18. Bush, George W. Interview with Brit Hume. Fox News Chanel. 22 September 2003. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,98006,00.html.
  19. Boot, Max. Lou Dobbs Tonight. CNN. 30 April 2004. http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0404/30/ldt.00.html.
  20. E.g. Bush told Tim Russert that he was “looking forward” to a discussion seven times. Bush, George W. and Tim Russert. Meet the Press. NBC News. 8 February 2004. http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4179618/.
  21. Krauthammer, Charles. “Why 9/11 Belongs in the Campaign.” Time. 15 March 2004. p. 100.