Random Jottings and others have made fun of the latest Paul Krugman column, in which the random jotter (John Weidner) points to "a couple of howlers":
In one he claims that our soldiers are swapping food packs or M.R.E.'s (meals ready to eat) with Italian troops. Being an economist you would think he would do some research and find out the U.S./Italian food ration "exchange rate."
I think Weidner's point can be sharpened: unless Italian soldiers are remarkably stupid, either MREs aren't all that bad, or Italian rations aren't all that good: in any case, they can't be much better than MREs, or no one would trade them at any exchange rate. After all, if Italian troops were lunching on lobster and champagne, snacking on truffles, and dining on filet mignon while American troops subsisted on the proverbial "greasy grimy gopher guts", "mutilated monkey meat", and "disconnected birdy feet", how would any American soldier ever have been able to convince any single Italian soldier to trade food even once? Did Krugman even think about what he wrote, or does he not care how implausible it is as long as he can bash Bush? In short, is he dumb enough to believe this, or does he think we're dumb enough to believe it? (He probably thinks our soldiers don't have spoons, either.)
Correction: (8/14, 11:50 PM)
As Dwight Meredith points out in the first comment, Krugman does not actually say that American troops were trading MREs for Italian food. If the New York Times hadn't rejected my last attempt to register for access, I would have been able to check for myself.
Of course, my gross factual error does not excuse Krugman's errors, though my particular line of argument is vitiated. I am curious as to what Krugman thinks our soldiers are trading away: surely not their weapons or vehicles or anything else essential. And if they have things to trade that the well-fed Italians want enough to give up some of their scrumptious food, they can't be all that ill-supplied, can they? Unless they're trading away the home-baked cookies their moms send them.
It's worth noting that Chief Wiggles, who is on the scene, has traded MREs for empanadas and other delicacies with the crew of a Spanish ship. He was surprised that they would want his "dogfood": perhaps the Spaniards don't want to eat the MREs, just display them back home as samples of horrible American cuisine. Phil Carter of Intel Dump gives a much better-informed review of Krugman's claim: scroll down to "Prof. Krugman: 'Critics, do your homework!'" if the direct link doesn't work.Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 13, 2003 10:28 PM