Michael Rubin Continues To Misrepresent Others' Work

February 14, 2012 3:38 pm ET — Walid Zafar

American Enterprise Institute fellow Michael Rubin has a habit of distorting the truth. In a post at neoconservative flagship Commentary, where he is a frequent contributor, Rubin goes out of his way to entirely misrepresent someone else's work in an effort to paint those who don't share his views as supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Rubin is upset with this post by UN Dispatch editor Mark Leon Goldberg, a rather cut-and-dry explanation of why a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Syria is unworkable. Rubin not only accuses Goldberg of "siding with Assad," he goes so far as to bring Ted Turner into the mix. Turner, the billionaire media mogul, gives money to the UN Foundation, which funds UN Dispatch.

Rubin writes:

Alas, it seems that neither the United Nations nor self-described progressives have learned anything since UN dawdling over such arguments led it to stand aside as nearly a million died in Rwanda massacres in the mid-1990s. But, so far as Ted Turner's money speaks, its message is "the UN will look the other way; let the massacres continue."

If you're one of those people that read through these pieces without clicking on the links, you might actually get the impression that Goldberg is arguing that we should let the massacres continue. But here's what is actually written in the piece in question:

As of now, the Assad regime has expressed no intention whatsoever of consenting to foreign troops operating on Syrian soil.  Ergo, there is no chance that the UN would even contemplate a peacekeeping mission.  If, at some future point the Assad regime agrees to a ceasefire and invites a peacekeeping force to monitor and help implement the ceasefire or peace agreement then we can start talking about a peacekeeping force. For now, though, the idea is basically a non-starter.

It's obvious that Goldberg isn't siding with Assad; he's explaining how the United Nations works and how the body dispatches peacekeeping missions. It's highly unlikely that Rubin doesn't understand this. In fact, Rubin has actually argued against the efficacy of U.N. peacekeepers before (something that Goldberg, it should be noted, does not do here). During the 2006 Lebanon War, Rubin wrote that "with its long and troubled history in the region, the idea of sending a peacekeeping force should be dead on arrival." What was then "dead on arrival" is now suddenly the only way to prevent continued bloodshed.

Goldberg left this comment on the Commentary site pointing out the problems with Rubin's post:

Explaining how UN peacekeeping operates helps inform a discussion about our actual policy options vis-a-vis Syria. That was my intention in writing the post. It is disingenuous to suggest that describing the limitations of UN Peacekeeping equates to "siding with Assad."

Commentary tends to treat its opinions as unchallengeable facts. Unfortunately, Goldberg's earnest attempt at explaining to Michael Rubin how a multilateral institution actually functions won't do anything to change that.


UPDATE: Ironically, Rubin is now upset at someone else for doing what he just did to Goldberg. In another post up at Commentary, Rubin complains that a writer at Real Clear World "falsely summarizes my argument."

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