Andrew Sullivan Is Frightened by Complexity

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Somehow, in the midst of grappling with Andrew Sullivan's attack on me (in which he lied about what I have written, what I think, what I believe, and what I've reported, and shows no understanding, by the way, of reporting itself -- but, hey, what are friends for?) I missed this beauty of a tweet from him: "Jeffrey Goldberg's reaction to (Peter) Beinart's book is his classic, condescending 'You Don't Get The Complexity' bullshit."

If it is condescending to think that Andrew Sullivan -- formerly an embarrassingly rabid Zionist, who lately has become an embarrassingly rabid anti-Zionist -- doesn't know much about the Middle East, and fears its complexity, well, I guess I'm guilty. The main problem with Andrew's view of the world, and with Peter Beinart's book, is the systematic downplaying of Palestinian mistakes in order to blame the impasse in the peace process on Israel. (I remember when Andrew, of course, characterized Palestinians as devils and thought Israelis wore halos, but this was before, as he told me over lunch one day a couple of years ago, he realized that Netanyahu, in his opinion, was standing in the way of President Obama's destiny. Once Netanyahu got in the way, Andrew said, he was finished defending Israel).

It's fairly obvious that both sides in the conflict have screwed-up, in different ways and at different times. But to acknowledge that this is all very complicated is to forgo the opportunity to demonize Israel and its Jewish supporters, and Andrew wouldn't want to miss that opportunity.

Anyway, Dylan Byers at Politico, writing under what might be the least thrilling headline ever written -- "Goldberg, Sullivan Fight Over Israel" -- explains why Andrew has no idea what reporters actually do:

The very short version of this very long debate -- as I see it, and I could be wrong -- is that Sullivan believes Goldberg is cheerleading for a war he can't make happen, whereas Goldberg believes he is just doing his job: talking to people on the inside and reporting back.

But even Sullivan seems to acknowledge that without Goldberg or reporters like Goldberg, our insight into Netanyahu's thinking would be severely curtailed.

(snip)

.. Every conversation about Israel and Iran (or Israel and Palestine) benefits from having up-to-date knowledge about what Israel's leaders are actually thinking. Goldberg and Israeli analyst Ronen Bergman are privy to that information, and they've reached the same conclusion.

I don't understand why making an informed but inaccurate prediction in 2010 precludes making an informed and possibly accurate prediction two years later. If we wrote off every informed reporter who ever got it wrong, everyone on the campaign trail would be out of work.

That last bit is in reference to my cover story in 2010 in which I stated that, if current conditions pertained, there was a better than 50 percent chance that Israel would strike Iran by the fall of 2011. By the summer of 2011, the entire national security infrastructure of the United States reached the conclusion that Israel was seriously contemplating a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. So the story appeared a couple of months too early, I guess.

And so: Enough with Andrew for the moment. One thing I was struck by yesterday afternoon: The number of Goldblog readers asking me not to respond to his smears. I know I should listen to the readers, but sometimes I can't help myself. This is one my favorite e-mails:

Jeffrey, don't respond any more.  Listen to a Dylan record, play with your kids, read Jonathan Sarna's new book about Grant, go to Teasim even and pay those crazy prices, but whatever you do, don't respond to Andrew again.

I'm pretty sure I won't take him up on the suggestion.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/andrew-sullivan-is-frightened-by-complexity/254838/