PolySciFi Blog

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Three Simple Lessons and Seven Specific Comments

Simple Lesson 1:
If you believe A, claim A, then A turns out to be wrong, then it is neither a lie nor a canard. It is an error. (Perhaps a pretty big error, but not a lie nor a misrepresentation of the facts).

Hypothetical Example of Lesson 1:
Person in charge of decision making: “How confident are you that A is true?”
Person in charge of making sure A is correct: “It’s a slam dunk.”
Person in charge of decision making: “Ok then. I’ll go in front of the public and say A.”

Simple Lesson 2:
If you believe A and B, and both A and B support course of action C, then stressing A over B in the course of arguing over C is neither intentionally misleading nor lying.

Hypothetical Example of Lesson 2
Jody: “Let’s go for a walk. It’s a nice day out and it’s good exercise. Did I mention that it’s a nice day out?”

Simple Lesson 3:
There are an infinite number of outcomes in the world, failing to account for all of them is not inadequate planning, particularly when you have an intelligent opponent.

Hypothetical Example of Lesson 3
Consider any strategy game that you (any reader) might have played with me.

Seven Specific Comments to this post
1. I don’t take too kindly to having my ethics slurred.

2. Giving Tommy Franks the Medal of Freedom was definitely the correct decision. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were two of the most successful operations in military history, and even though it created the later perception of inadequate planning, the decision to quickly press into Baghdad was an excellent one. If you have a beef with the actions of the military post invasion, then it's more appropriate to take it up with Abizaid.

3. Giving Paul Bremer the Medal of Freedom was probably the right decision. On the negative side, stopping the first attack on Fallujah was probably a bad idea. On the plus side: there’s a government there now; there’s no civil war between the Shiites, Sunis, and Kurds; Iraq didn’t have to be partitioned.

4. Giving Tenet the Medal of Freedom was probably the wrong decision. On the plus side, he was quite instrumental to the Afghan effort – probably the most successful war largely fought by the CIA. On the negative side, he f*d up the intelligence on Iraq pretty badly and on 9/11. While there’s the egg-on-the-face factor that faces the US now (and causes otherwise smart people to call errors “lies”), its more serious effect was causing our troops to have to carry and sometimes fight in CW suits (seriously limiting our effectiveness), and to overestimate the resistance in Baghdad (twas supposed to be our Stalingrad) slowing down the assault and causing our resources to be allocated in a less than optimal manner.

5. On “Could we spend 1/10th of the effort spent selling the war on winning the peace?”
Color me thoroughly confused (I think that's a shade of orange).

6. On not spending money to improve the army, I assume Matt is referring to the humvee armoring issue which a) didn’t solve the IED problem (signal jamming did) and b) is a long term bad idea for the army (it makes those humvees useless for anything but peace keeping as it destroys handling and speed).

On the larger issue of funding to improve the army (which is what was actually written), I have to assume Matt is ignoring a) the investments we’ve made in UAVs (which have proved the single best investment we've made during this war) and improved communications (which has also been tremendously useful) and b) that $85 billion supplemental that a certain Senator was for, before he was against (and the other supplementals).

7. "Politically palatable" in the context of the article is for the British, not the Americans (sic semper tyrannis, no?). I'll assume the juxtaposition of the politically palatable graph with American diplomacy was just the result of a simple reading comprehension error.


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