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Unintended Consequences

February 15, 2007

Rob asked me for some thoughts on unintended consequences. Here they are.

I’m fully aware of unintended consequences, I just don’t think
they’re limited to the use of force. Everything has unintended
consequences, because we are not divine and cannot see the future.
Non-violence has consequences- are you aware of them? Does it
invalidate your position? Of course, not, and it doesn’t undermine my
position either. We cannot control our world, no matter what we do. We
can only act according to our principles, trust God and hope for the
best. Nothing is guaranteed.

I think it could be argued that WWII did not lead to the Cold War as much as not fully prosecuting WWII
lead to the Cold War. Some people wanted to take on Stalin at the end.
FDR, wisely I think, said no. What more hot war at that point would
have brought, who knows. It could have been worse, it could have been
better. One thing is for certain: we’ll never know. I’m not prepared to
say we made the wrong choice, which is another way of saying I can live
with the consequences.

The Al Queda situation was also complex and full of unforseen
circumstances. As I’ve noted before, one of Bin Laden’s specific
grievances cited as reason for 9/11 was the presence of our troops in
Suadi Arabia- part of enforcing the no fly zone as part of the Gulf War
aftermath. That was a peacekeeping type mission, with full world
approval. Did that save us? No.

Then there’s Iraq sanctions, which did much to corrupt and undermine
the moral authority of the UN via oil-for-food, not to mention punish
the Iraqi people. All unforseen. Folly to try in the first place? No
way. But let’s not fool ourselves again.

Look, we’ve been ignoring Islamic extremism as long as I can
remember- from Carter and the hostages thru Regan and Clinton. It was a
non-issue in American politics right up through the 2000 election.. The
result was 9/11. Continuing the same policies is the insanity of
expecting different results from the same actions. That doesn’t mean
everything has gone pefectly- it obviously hasn’t. But I feel the safe
world you imagine by following a rigorous process of dialog is no
longer a possibility.

So I think it’s a draw on the issue of unforseen circumstances. More
importantly, debating the merits of possible past actions is just
wankery IMHO. We need to figgure out what we’re going to do next. To
point out that whatever we do will have unintended consequences is not
a terribly profound insight in that regard. I probably haven’t shown
this enough in my comments here or on my own blog, but I feel like I
have ample appreciation for the reality of unintended consequences.
That’s why I’m so frequently appalled and the lack of awareness of such
as expressed here. You have faith in a process of dialogue. I don’t
anymore- not at all times and all places.

Lastly, can you please stop exaggerating my claims? All of you nuancy-boys. Geez Tim you use a howitzer to swat a fly. I
made the tiniest claim that in the tension between freedom and
equality, that conservatives tend to favor freedom, and liberals favor
equality. Leftists (that is communists) have made something of a
religion out of it, something that has no parallel on the right.
Obviously there is more ways to cut up the world with arbitrary
distinctions but that didn’t prevent any of you as using that as a
launching point for imagined grievences. Instead of trying to grapple
with the idea that there might be a tension between freedom and
equality, you all demonize me for supposedly demonizing you. This from
the supposed masters of subltey. Oh the irony!

At the base of all this, I suspect we’re really just saying we
differ on the worth of the consequences of the war. So far, I can live
with them, and I see reason to think that the consquences long-term
will be even better. Maybe we should just leave it at that.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Tim C. permalink
    February 16, 2007 7:48 pm

    Grec, to this request:

    “Lastly, can you please stop exaggerating my claims? All of you nuancy-boys. Geez Tim you use a howitzer to swat a fly. I made the tiniest claim that in the tension between freedom and equality, that conservatives tend to favor freedom, and liberals favor equality…. Obviously there is more ways to cut up the world with arbitrary distinctions but that didn’t prevent any of you as using that as a launching point for imagined grievences.”

    Hmmmm. Actually, I was trying to do what you asked for:

    “I also think the underlying tension between freedom and equality that Dennis Prager talks about is evident in our disagreements. Prager thinks that Liberals value equality and Conservatives value freedom. I would love to see you and your commenters grapple with that one…”

    So after asking a couple times for good examples of Prager’s argument, my response was trying to honestly grapple with Prager’s arguments that you presented as persuasive to you…as you asked, and not to demonize you.

    But my response WAS however trying to really engage with Prager’s statements and post what I found …that they were pretty faulty all around.

    Timmy C

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