A supposedly interesting post that I'll never write again

In a fit of pedantry, I decided to put on my critical thinking cap and try to figure out what's up with those two sets of memos from my last post. The results are after the jump. Read on if you dare!

First, neither set of memos comes from an unimpeachable source. In the case of the British memos, we don't have any guarantee that the events transpired as the British chronicler says that they did. For all we know, in fact, the story was leaked by Blair's cronies to give him political cover. In the case of the Iraqi memos, they emerged years after the invasion through the auspices of a national security apparatus that none of us have any great reason to trust. But let's assume that both sets of memos are genuine.

Another thing to notice is that neither set of memos really supports the most provocative readings that they have been given.

Here are two options: (a) George W. Bush seriously considered painting a spy plane in U.N. colors and deliberately arranging for it to get shot down; or, (b) George W. Bush made a joke about such a plan. It strikes me that b is much more plausible, and not so much because a is batshit crazy, as because b is strongly in keeping with what we know about George W. Bush's unserious approach to the presidency and a is batshit crazy.

Nor do the Iraqi memos show that Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship with Al Qaeda. In fact, the memos include a bald statement to that effect, though the anonymous author seeks to minimize that admission by noting ominously that Al Qaeda engaged in terrorist operations eight months after Al Qaeda representatives met with Iraqi represnetatives. Those of us who know about causal fallacies will not be fooled.

What, then, is a critical thinker to think?

From the British memos it is clear that the diplomatic posturing in the weeks before hostilities began was just that, posturing. The U.S. and its British allies had decided that there was going to be a war and there was nothing the Iraqis could do to stop it. Moreover, it is clear that neither Bush nor Blair foresaw that significant difficulties would remain even after their forces triumphed on the battlefield. None of this is a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention, but it's always nice to have documentation.

From the Iraqi memos it is clear that Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen and intelligence services spent years planning and training for exactly the sort of insurgency that we're seeing on the ground in Iraq now. It's also clear that Saddam Hussein was a pragmatist who was willing to consider an alliance of convenience with Al Qaeda. Again, none of this is a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention, though you have to wonder if this documentation won't force the folks over in Rightyville to admit that the insurgency -- or whatever it has metastasized into -- isn't the sort of thing that's likely to be "in it's last throes" any time soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

eXTReMe Tracker