Stuart Smalley for SecDef: Times Columnist Advises Raising Our 'Emotional Intelligence'

Give New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof credit for a couple things. First, he is as far from an armchair pundit as you can get, having been virtually everywhere and put himself on the line innumerable times. Check his bio. Second, he makes no bones about what he is proposing in Iraq in his pay-per-view column of today. "Cut and walk" isn't my gloss; it's Kristof's headline.

That said, Kristof's column reads like something that might have been written by warm 'n fuzzy Stuart Smalley, the SNL character Al Franken hilariously immortalized before deciding he had serious things to say.

According to Kristof, the key to success in Iraq is raising our EQ - our "Emotional Intelligence Quotient." We "desperately" need more emotional intelligence. And because we're not "sensitive enough," we empower extremists who destabilize the country.

Kristof offers what he calls "Exhibit A" in support of his theory one Abu Deraa, a Shia madman who "specializes in using electric drills on [Sunni] skulls" and is reported to have driven "ambulances into a Sunni neighborhood and used loudspeakers to call on young men to donate blood to help fellow Sunnis injured by Shiites. Dozens of young men came forward — and were executed."

Kristof himself describes Deraa as "a psychopathic thug." Does the Times columnist really believe that giving Deraa a hug and getting him to join in a round of "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and, Doggonnit, People Like Me!" is going to change anything?

Kristof then moves to his recommendations for ending the conflict - or at least US involvement in it. Predictably, he endorses the anticipated recommendation from the Iraq Study Group that we undertake talks with Iran and Syria.

Then, reverting to theme, he counsels us to "raise our E.Q.," "take account of Iraqi emotions and nationalist sensitivities," and "quickly give back up to 50 of our 55 military bases in Iraq" while stating that "we will not keep any permanent military bases in Iraq."

Most breathtakingly, he asserts that "the same logic argues for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, ending by November 2007." I suppose "the same logic" does. In calling for an apparently total pull-out in less than a year, Kristof one-ups even the Nancy Pelosis of the world. Kristof acknowledges "there is a real risk that the bloodbath will worsen significantly." But hey, that doesn't matter - as long as we feel better about things.

I have not been a regular Kristof reader. But if this column is any indication, great experience has not brought with it great wisdom.

Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq. Contact him at

Foreign Policy Iraq New York Times