Monday, October 18, 2004

Antibiotic Resistance

Inadequate doses of antibiotics have the predictable effect of promoting resistant strains of bacteria by natural selection. Which is why all those pill bottles bear a tag encouraging the patient to finish the prescription. I think we should take this advice to heart in our military policy, but half measures seem to be the rule both in Afghanistan and Iraq where we are running what amounts to a training program for terrorists. We certainly don’t have the overwhelming presence that would be required to put down the multifaceted rebellion by main force, and it’s a good bet that our enemies will gradually figure out how to evade or defeat the military technology we are so dependent upon. Many right-wingers think of themselves as military philosophers, but they seem to have forgotten the rule of thumb they themselves formerly invoked to criticize previous administrations: only the long-term application of a considerable numerical advantage can defeat a popular insurgency. Absent that, random violence and torture merely toughens and strengthens the opposition. We are breeding a generation of superbugs.

At this point I should insert a bit of boiler plate about how the Bush strategy in Iraq is of a piece with many other policies based on a principled contempt for the lessons of experience. These folks are addicted to wishful thinking.

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