Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stuff and nonsense on Iraq in the Times

What is it about people using hindsight and claiming that because a prediction appears to have come true the prediction should've been what was adhered to before the eventual knowledge from hindsight was known?

This is the sort of intellectually banal argument that I was faced with in this morning's Times from Martin Samuel. Under the title of "Damned if you leave, damned if you don't" this wasn't actually a serious addition to the discussion about Iraq, this was a classic piece of doublethink from the anti-war crowd which deliberately ignores the reality of the pre-war decision making process and exploits hindsight knowledge to argue that they were right all along. According to Samuel
"The argument that there can be a no-mess, no-blame divorce from the chaos exists only to feed a desperate need for vindication on the part of those who took us to war, and those who supported the decision."
I'm sorry Mr Samuel but it doesn't. Those who too the decision to go to war, and those who supported, are not searching for a vindication of their decision or support at all. The vindication of their decision is known very well in the history which surrounded it.

We were faced with two options. The first was to act against a man who had consistently played games with the UN, and who, as UNSCR 1441 unanimously agreed, had weapons mass of destruction. Or do nothing and allow this man to continue along the route of developing weapons which the international order of nations unanimously believed he had.

The decision to go to war in Iraq can, is and remains justified and vindicated when contextualised within the historical reality of which it took place.

It doesn't however just stop there for Samuel, he continues along this route of using hindsight and accuses those (like me in this very post I guess) who point out the fallaciousness of his argument as merely "peddling falsehoods". According to Samuel,
One of the main reasons to oppose the invasion of Iraq was its entirely predictable aftermath. It suits many commentators to peddle the falsehood that the events of the past three years could not have been foreseen when the basic problems were glaringly obvious
There is no falsehood in stating that it is impossible to know what will happen in the future. The only falsehood is the post facto claim that if predictions of historical events do indeed happen then those that predicted the events actually knew the future. Whilst I don't doubt the arguments about the Iraq War will go on and on the reality of the decision to go to war is rather plain if one is objectively honest. When placed within the historical context in which it was taken, the decision to act against Saddam far outweighed any deicsion not too.


Anonymous said...

Hi I do not agree that it was justified. The same reasoning applys to North Korea,Iran(next year maybe),Mr Mugabe is not a nice man lets bomb ZIM , Sudan needs a good thumping and anyone wo beats us at cricket ,football,rugby or conkers.

dizzy said...

Actually the same reasoning does not apply, and you're actually arguing past my point, but that's ok, it's common place when the subject of Iraq is ever mentioned, especially online where linguistic trickery rules supreme.

To address your sidestep argument though, just because a state chooses to act in a particularly way over one set of circumstances it does not follow that in other similar circumstances it must act the same way.

Thus the reasoning that the argument in favour of the Iraq has the logical conclusion of attacking other states such as North korea, Iran, Zim etc is in fact flawed because it attempts to bind the actions of state's outside the historical context in which they occur. International relations does work like that.

Benedict White said...

The comment I would make is that the mess as it is could have been predicted and indeed was because many Generals knew there was not enough resource on the ground, and the job was done badly. Not that we went in at all.

dizzy said...

You're failing to make a dinstinction between predictions and knowledge.

Guthrum said...

Any military man will say its not about predictions its about contingency. The Kriegspiel played by the Pentagon in 1999, came to the same conclusion as the current situation in Iraq. The Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, stated that the Iraqi army would melt away and not fight a superior foe in the field (Sun Tzu). Our forces were over stretched and undersupplied, the Americans under Rumsfeld went for invasion-lite. Wars are easy to get into, bloody hard to get out of if you have little post conflict planning and war aims. This campaign was ill advised and planned, because Bush surrounded himself with can do sir yes men. On the balance of probability the Military had knowledge that this was going to be a disaster, their political masters were itching to get into Iraq for domestic reasons. Diplomacy was not given a chance. We are now in the bloody hard to get out of stage and looking foolish

dizzy said...

You're using 20/20 hindsight for your argument I;m afraid.

Guthrum said...

Not sure I am, enough people were sacked or resigned for stating that this outcome was on balance the most likely one after invasion. I have a working knowledge of Iraq for over twenty years and this bloodbath was predictable and yes I am anti this war.

dizzy said...

You're not using 20/20 hindsight. Instead you're confusing predictions of what might happen (all things being equal), with what was actually known. Oh yes, and you've thrown in an ad verecundiam argument at the end for good measure.

Fundamentally though, you (like peter) are actually arguing past the point and applying doublethink in order to ignore the historical contextualisation of the decision that was taken.