A Wee Discussion
McCain is insisting that the Dems admit that the surge worked. The following started running in a loop through my head, so I spat it out. It's very informal and sketchy, obviously, but I'm just expelling it from my head so that I can get back to work.
Proposition 1: The surge worked
Evidence: After the surge, violence in
Objection: Proposition 1 does not follow from the evidence. In fact, this is an instance of the post hoc fallacy, i.e., of inferring that x caused y from the fact that y happened after x.
Response: In this case, the fact that the decrease in violence followed the surge is at least some reason to believe that the surge contributed to the surge. We don’t have proof that it did, but we don’t have proof that it didn’t. Unless we get serious about investigating the causes of the decrease in violence, the smart bet here (at the level of casual discussion) remains that the surge contributed to the decrease in violence. Ergo the surge did what it was supposed to do, i.e. help to decrease violence.
Objection: Other factors seem to be responsible for the decrease in violence. For example, neighborhoods had been largely ethnically homogenized (“Ethnically cleansed”) by the time of the decrease in violence. That’s what was really responsible for the decrease in violence.
Response: Here you seem to be arguing that violence went down after communities were homogenized, therefore it’s the homogenization that’s responsible for the decrease—post hoc ergo propter hoc. Yet you rejected that reasoning in the case of the surge. But we must either accept the reasoning in both cases or reject it in both cases. (And, p.s., the fact that you accepted the very same kind of argument in one case and rejected it in another suggests that you’re cheating for your favored conclusion. So cut it out.)
Objection: The surge didn’t work, because decreasing violence was only the proximate goal. The ultimate goal was to achieve political reconciliation. That was not achieved. So the surge did not work.
Response: If I do x in order to achieve y in order to make achieving x possible, and x succeeds in achieving y, then, even if z doesn’t happen, it is reasonable to say that x was successful. For example, if we do surgery on you in order to clear up a heart condition in order to allow you to live longer, and we succeed in clearing up the heart condition, the surgery is a success even if you are hit by a meteor the next day and killed.fin
I don't think the Dems will admit that the surge worked (supposing it did). That's the way this game is played, and it's part of why our politics is so disastrously irrational. I think it'd be better if the Dems said "yeah, it looks like it probably worked. You were right. We were wrong." But, of course, I also think that the Republicans should admit that the entire Iraq invasion fiasco was wrong. Which they won't do. So, since both sides, for political reasons, must continue to hold absurd positions, they are then forced into holding other absurd positions in order to defend the initial absurd positions...and so on, and so on. The irrationality snowballs.