Monday, December 18, 2006

The Immaculate Dodge

Back in August, I took a whack at the tendentious claim put forth by Iraq war supporters that because some that opposed the Iraq war made predictions that did not come to pass, somehow the anti-war camp was as mistaken and lacking in prescience as the war supporters that foretold of cakewalks, dominoes and easy victories. Something like, "Don't trust them, they were wrong too."

Mine was a lengthy attempt at point by point refutation of a particular rendition of this refrain, but perhaps Matt Barganier better captures the soul of wit:

Yes, millions of people opposed the Iraq invasion, and I’m sure that at least a few of them offered highly specific predictions that were way off. But let’s skip the outliers and focus on the broad sweep of antiwar thought. The gist of pragmatic arguments against the Iraq invasion...was that so many things could go horribly wrong that almost certainly some things would go horribly wrong.

At this point, I’d like the pro-war people reading this to eliminate all distractions in their surroundings, take a few deep breaths, and concentrate really, really hard, because I’m about to throw a brain-buster out there. Ready? OK: We didn’t say that all of the bad things that could have happened were going to happen. In fact, some of the nightmare scenarios we offered were mutually exclusive. The Iraqi army could either stand up and fight the invaders to the death conventionally, inflicting horrific casualties for a few months before ultimately losing, or they could slink away and regroup as guerillas, bleeding the occupiers slowly. Obviously, they couldn’t do both, but they probably would do one or the other. Either way, many lives would be lost, the ensuing occupation would be brutal for soldiers and civilians alike, and the U.S. triumph would likely turn increasingly Pyrrhic over the long term.

Still too hard? Fine. Let’s say you and I are walking down a crowded street. You point out some random guy and announce, “I’m going to go kick his ass.” I grab your arm and say, “Wait! I’m not sure what good you think will come of this, but I assume you foresee some twisted ego boost in it. Whatever. What will most likely happen in the world outside your cranium, however, is one of the following: One, your would-be victim turns out to be more of a badass than he looks, and, win or lose, he knocks your teeth out. Or two, you successfully pummel him – then somebody calls the cops, you go to jail, and he launches a civil suit against you for all you’re worth.”

You proceed to purée the guy with ease. Later, when you call me from jail, your life ruined, your property liquidated, you chuckle, “You moron – you said he would knock my teeth out.”

Sound familiar?

So, would you trust your friend the next time they counseled against starting a fight, or point to the fact that everything predicted didn't go wrong and, therefore, trust your instinct again?

(via J-Hen)

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