Evaluating the KP debate experiment.

The results of the first attempt to host a debate between a right-focused blogger and left-focused blogger here at KP have been decidedly mixed. The idea was to show that reasonable people with opposing ideologies can have a civilised debate about matters of contemporary import in a common forum rather than slag each other across the blogosphere. Since I have good regard for Sagenz writing on strategic issues at New Minister in spite of the company he keeps over there (PM excepted and Gooner occasionally forgiven) and the fact that we disagree on 95% of everything political, I invited him to debate me here on the proposition that the Iraq invasion was a success. Kindly enough, he agreed, even while acknowledging that he was entering opposition turf in doing so.

I assumed that readers would focus on the merits of our arguments, using the ends-means/costs-benefits rationales that are the essence of strategic thought. I thought that the debate would centre on my short to medium negative appraisal versus Sage’s long term mixed success scenario, in which short term failures could lead to longer-term success from a US/Western standpoint. I assumed that people had read enough to look beyond the pretext for the invasion (WMDs), and that they were conversant in the ample literature directed to the topic.  I assume that people would leave their (anti-American and anti-Israeli, in particular) biases at home and concentrate on the merits of the argument as given. My assumptions were wrong.

Although there were a few good comments, what we mostly got was the usual partisan diatribes, several of which were clearly uninformed by a thorough read of what was written. Some were completely off-thread. Then there was the nitpicking troll from Japan who had little substantive to offer, another rant directed at me that actually was about something Sagenz wrote, capped off by the king of pompous armchair revolutionaries harping about me being vaingloriously mean to the troll. The bulk of the comments did not debate the merits of the arguments or even address the subject as specified. That was disappointing.

Even so, after expressing my unhappiness with Lew and Sagenz and hearing back from them, I would like to try the debate experiment again and invite people to submit topics and possible authors. I think that  because KP tries to keep things civilised, we can offer a good hosting platform for some worthwhile, stimulating and reasoned left versus right arguments. But ground rules for comments will be established so that if comments deviate from the subject matter as framed by the debate question, they will be deleted.

Surely this is a worthwhile venture and not to much to ask for people to stay within the margins of the debate as framed. If nothing else, doing so helps improve intellectual discipline because it forces both authors and readers to check their biases and assumptions at the door in the attempt to be concise and to the point.