March 23, 2009

"It’s complex decisions, the ones that involve lots of information, that benefit the most from unconscious emotional processing."

"The conscious brain can only handle a very limited amount of information at one time — seven digits, plus or minus two. Unconsciously, however, you can process tons of information. It’s these complex decisions — like choosing a car, an apartment, or a leather couch — that often require the rational brain to turn off to some degree."

Jonah Lehrer on how we decide.

Could he do a Bloggingheads with Justice Scalia?

***

And here's the Bush/Obama part:

So if our gut is best at weighty decisions, a leader ought to think, “Should we go to war? Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about this”?

Well, here’s the big caveat, and this is maybe the main distinction between Obama and Bush. There’s been extensive research over the last few decades about the danger of certainty, about believing you’re right. What that causes the brain to do is ignore all the evidence that suggests you’re wrong. We clearly tend to filter the world to conform to our ideology, to our preconceived notions. So if I had to identify one flaw of the Bush administration, it’s not that simply Bush trusted his gut instincts or that he was a “decider.” It was that he and his entire administration fell victim to the certainty trap. And I think you saw that very clearly with the Iraq war and WMDs. They believed they knew that Saddam Hussein had them. And so they ignored lots of relevant evidence and dissenting voices telling them that there were no WMDs. It wasn’t simply his gut instincts that led him astray, it was the fact that he didn’t seek out those dissident voices. And that’s a very natural human flaw, one of the frailties of the human brain. It’s also why liberals watch MSNBC and conservatives watch Fox News. It’s nice to have one’s beliefs reinforced. But it’s dangerous when leading a country.

69 comments:

Peter V. Bella said...

Looks like the Obama administration is falling into the same trap.

rhhardin said...

He's wrong about certainty about WMD. The reason for Iraq was setting an example for Islam of a functioning country in the middle of the Islamic world. The strategic idea is showing a reason to ``move this way,'' and the reason to move this way is so that there isn't an eventual nuclear war that settles the matter in favor of the West instead, after the first repeatable attack on a US city.

Bush was doing Islam a favor; as were our soldiers.

The Bush was wrong idea somehow established itself as a certainty, you could say.

(I recommend den Beste, written in 2003.)

Fen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fen said...

Uh huh. We did find WMDs in Iraq. You won't hear about it till its declassified [opsec re achilles heel]. Lots of "smart" people will be pretending they didn't say what they said.

Bissage said...

Wow.

It turns out our brains suck.

Who knew?

How did we ever come so far?

Must have been dumb luck, all along.

John Lynch said...

Well, duh. Of course it's dangerous to simply ignore contrary data. The trouble is that a leader has to make decisions based on incomplete and contradictory data. So he has to ignore some of it or he never decides. Whether he agonizes over it or simply follows a gut instinct isn't that important.

Leaders should be rated by the results of their decisions, not by the process. We don't know the process most of the time. And it doesn't really matter compared to the results.

The fact that the Bush administration ignored contrary WMD evidence isn't as important as the fact that there was no WMD in Iraq. That seems like the same thing but it's not. The process we can argue endlessly about but the fact we cannot.

EDH said...

Haven't read the article, but isn't he lifting the thesis of Gladwell's Blink?

And why doesn't he address the absolute certainty that Saddam could easily acquire WMD in strategic or tactical quantities when he so desired, especially if sanctions continued to unravel. The issue was the regime, its motives and capabilities, not stockpiles.

And this guy thinks he's the deep thinker? Reminds me of Joe Biden on two counts.

John Lynch said...

Yeah, it sounds like Blink.

Freeman Hunt said...

Well, if Bush versus Obama is the case study, I'll take whatever Bush has going on in his brain over whatever is going on in Obama's. Or is there some sort of handicap, like in golf, that you're supposed to apply to someone so incompetent and reckless as Obama as been since taking office?

"Well, his way would be better were he not also a narcissistic fool." Is that part of the argument?

Maguro said...

And so they ignored lots of relevant evidence and dissenting voices telling them that there were no WMDs.

Funny that he doesn't name any of the "dissenting voices". In fact, I don't recall anyone credible claiming that there were no WMDs. A lot of people thought that Iraq's WMD program could be managed through the UN inspection regime, but nobody really doubted that Saddam had WMDs stashed away somewhere.

As for the intel people, if a CIA analyst had written a memo before the war stating that there were no WMDs in Iraq, it would have been leaked by now.

Fen said...

And why doesn't he address the absolute certainty that Saddam could easily acquire WMD in strategic or tactical quantities when he so desired, especially if sanctions continued to unravel.

Or at least the fact that Saddam farmed out his WMD programs to Libya.

David said...

And so they ignored lots of relevant evidence and dissenting voices telling them that there were no WMDs.

Like, say, from Kerry and Clinton and all the other Democratic pols who said that Saddam was a threat and that we had to wipe out his WMD's?

This guy has a great theory, if you ignore the historical facts.

Now--here's the deal. Very smart people have an ability to see the answer to a complex problem without running through it step by step. It's not really intuition, it's rapid processing and a bit mysterious.

It's the difference between Larry Summers and Joe Biden. Larry Summers doesn't ignore the dissenting voices, he weighs them and reaches a conclusion. He's impatient with people who can't keep up with him, who are still at step 3 of an eight step thought process. He knows exactly why he reached a conclusion as soon as he reaches it.

Joe Biden will fix on to one idea and pound away at it, until he comes in contact with another that alters his view. He will never be entirely sure what his conclusion is, or how he reached it.

Fen said...

True, and even the feckless IAEA said Saddam would resume WMD manufacture once sanctions were lifted.

But hat tip to rhhardin in post#2. Excellent summation by den Beste

Bookmarked.

SteveR said...

So let's see. Was Baghdad Bob the dissenting voice he was supposed to be listening to?

madawaskan said...

O/T

On a personal note.

It has come to my attention that I was namejacked here-most likely by the usual suspect.

That person Michael/LuckyOldson used my handle to cast dispersions on Host with the Most and Joe.

That's just the two that I know of-

For some reason it bothers me-and I would like to apologize to those two commenters-

Host with the Most and Joe because there isn't a damn thing I have ever disagreed with when they comment.

They are bang on-commenters and there is no way in hell I'd start ad hominem with either of them.

Or really anyone else for that matter so if there are other commenters who feel that I have done that to them please consider that it was that poor soul Michael/Luckyoldson.

Thanks in advance.

Curtiss said...

A couple of things:

How do we know that Mr. Lehrer hasn't fallen victim to the "certainty trap"? Hell, how can he even be certain?

Second, as mentioned by others above, besides Saddam Hussein, who, exactly, were the dissenting voices so certain that there were no WMD's?

Third, I like to watch MSNBC and Fox News. Does that mean I'm confused (I am, of course) or what, Mr. Leher? Maybe I just like to have my views refuted. It must have something to do with mother.

Can three things be referred to as "a couple"? I'm not certain.

Christy said...

Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking premises that it is the prepared, experienced mind that yields good gut decisions. Obama's experience is what again?

Kirk Parker said...

David,

Sure, the intellectual difference between Summers and Biden is laughable--or would be, if only Biden weren't in the position he occupies today. Woe is us.

But I'm not sure that processing speed really is the difference, and that there's nothing intuitive (or at least holographic-seeming) about it.

Now I'm too lazy to actually go looking for a citation, so you'll have to keep in mind that you'd be foolish to simply accept any unsourced thing you read from an unknown commenter on the internet (trust me on this!), but I recall reading about a study of chess grand masters and how they played the game. It turns out that they didn't consider more moves than the lesser players, but rather fewer--but the ones the evaluated we all better ones.

TMink said...

Christy wrote: "that it is the prepared, experienced mind that yields good gut decisions."

A fine point. Intuition is the fruit of a well prepared mind. I have clinical intuition every day, it is what I do and have done over the last 18 years.

I never get intuition about golf or cutting hair, there is no preparation.

And for all his bad old deciveness, W sure kept us safe. Time will tell if our current President, who recently criticized the "Cheney approach" as not working, will be so effective.

Trey

Paul said...

That's just stupid. Of course Saddam had WMDs.

If you set up a police presence and blockade around a crackhouse but wait nine months before breaking down the doors would you surprised if you didn't find any drugs?

Paul said...

"Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking premises that it is the prepared, experienced mind that yields good gut decisions."

"First, master your instrument. Then forget all that shit and play."

Charlie Parker

Freder Frederson said...

Funny that he doesn't name any of the "dissenting voices". In fact, I don't recall anyone credible claiming that there were no WMDs. A lot of people thought that Iraq's WMD program could be managed through the UN inspection regime, but nobody really doubted that Saddam had WMDs stashed away somewhere.

Um, how about Scott Ritter for one? Whose personal life was dragged through the mud because he was willing to say that maybe Saddam didn't have stockpiles of WMD (and he was ultimately proved to be right and not as was claimed at the time, just shilling for Saddam)

My God, talk about rewriting history. By early 2003, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the intelligence about WMD in Iraq was seriously flawed. In spite of insistent declarations by the administration that they knew "exactly" where the stockpiles of WMD were and where the weapons were being produced and that there was "no doubt" that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear program and was producing biological weapons in mobile labs (which later turned out to be hydrogen generators for weather balloons), by early 2003 it was obvious to anyone not bent on invading Iraq that the intelligence was deeply flawed.

The inspectors were finally being granted the kind of access they had demanded. Yet when they went to the "production" and "storage" sites that the U.S. was "absolutely certain" were active, they were finding nothing. Even after the invasion, Rumsfeld was assuring us we knew "exactly" where the weapons were stockpiled. His assurances were about as ridiculous as those of Baghdad Bob.

As for the claim that we did find WMD. Even the Bush administration in the end had to admit that Saddam had destroyed all his WMD and disbanded his programs in the mid-90s. So Fen's claim that there were WMD but we just haven't been told about them yet is just complete and utter bullshit.

John Stodder said...

They believed they knew that Saddam Hussein had them. And so they ignored lots of relevant evidence and dissenting voices telling them that there were no WMDs.

There were few dissenting voices, publicly saying "there were no WMDs." Most of the war's opponents in the pre-war stage granted as if it was fact that there probably were WMDs. Certainly, Hussein's refusal to allow unfettered inspections, combined with his past use of WMDs tended to bias the case in favor of the idea that they were there, and most war opponents granted that these were troubling signs. The argument was over whether invasion and occupation were the correct response to a threat widely believed to be real.

Conversely, the Bush Administration at times acknowledged that the WMD evidence was less than 100 percent solid. Why, in the run-up to the war, did Bush feel compelled to ask the CIA director if the weapons were really in Iraq? (To which Tenant replied, famously, "slam dunk.") Evidently, Bush wasn't completely sure.

The judgment in that case came down to Bush having to make a risk assessment of the failure to respond to the perceived WMD threat vs. taking military action based on less-than-complete intelligence.

The 9/11 context was an important driver of how the ultimate decision came down -- and why so many of today's comfortably smug war opponents were in fact supporters of the decision at the time, the only time it mattered.

I'm not particularly religious, but I wonder if this "unconscious processing" is what Bush was really doing when he was praying to God for guidance. Is prayer kind of like a switch to get the unconscious processing machine up and running?

For me, it's exercise and showers. I will stupidly stare at a computer screen or have conference calls in order to get an answer when an hour of body-surfing or walking my dog ends up being the pathway that gets me there.

dbp said...

"I think the danger right now is that without effective inspections, without effective monitoring, Iraq can in a very short period of time measured in months, reconstitute chemical and biological weapons, long-range ballistic missiles to deliver these weapons, and even certain aspects of their developing of nuclear weapons. program"

^ a b Online NewsHour: Scott Ritter - August 31, 1998

Ritter resigned from the United Nations Special Commission on August 26, 1998 and would therefore have no special knowledge beyond that point in time.

John Stodder said...

Freder, you're making your point with a lot of bluster but a few too many weasel words.

"The intelligence was flawed" is a statement that could be made about virtually all intelligence regarding an adversary throughout the history of spycraft. Especially if the adversary is a closed, dictatorial society in which any hint of disloyalty to the leader would lead to horrific acts of torture against the suspected spy. It wasn't becoming "increasingly clear" by 2003 -- it was always the case. Our intel about the USSR was also "flawed" throughout the Cold War. Decision-makers will never have enough intel before the decision is upon them. The only way were were ever going to find out the truth of Hussein's WMD program was by invading.

You conflate these normal doubts with the certainty of a Scott Ritter, who seemed at the time to be a little bit unhinged. You're the president, let's pretend. All your intel sources are telling you that a sworn enemy of your country, at a time of great turmoil and fear of more and worse terrorist attacks, has WMDs. Even countries who are opposed to your invasion have intel saying this. You're really going to dismiss all of that to listen to a lone individual who seems to be carrying a grievance, and who is taking a position 180 degrees opposed to what he'd said previously? Be serious.

Big Mike said...

I was with John Lynch at first, but the notion that only the results matter bothers me a lot.

Why am I the only person who remembers the time? There's a reason why so many senators voted to go ahead into Iraq -- everybody believed that Saddam had WMD. Am I the only person who read Woodward's book Plan of Attack? The head of the CIA, George Tenet, is pictured as assuring Bush that the case for WMD in Iraq is "a slam dunk" in response to Bush's observation that the intelligence data was "pretty thin." (Yes, I'm aware that Tenet has tried to recast his remark as having been taken out of context, but he has to admit having said what he said.)

Finally, am I the only person who has read Valerie Plame's self-serving memoir? It turns out that she was in charge of analyzing WMD in Iraq. And she admits to being as stunned as anyone else that there were none.

As a Harvard MBA George Bush probably also addressed the issue of downside risk. What if the intelligence on Iraqi WMD was wrong (as it was)? He'd have to deal with casualties, but given how relatively bloodlessly the US took down Afghanistan, maybe not too many. And Saddam Hussein would no longer be a problem for the United States. On the other hand, what if Saddam did have WMD and the US did nothing? The downside might be a chem-bio attack on American cities, or a nuclear fireball incinerating New York or Washington or LA. What would the American public have been saying under those circumstances?

If I knew what Bush knew -- at that time and not having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight -- I personally would have made the same call. I think nearly everybody else would have done the same. The main place where I'd have differed from George Bush is that I'd have dumped Rumsfeld within 24 hours of his having made his notorious comment about "you to to war with the army you have, and not the army you might want..."

For all of that the primary error that Jonah Lehrer makes is to equate the decision making that goes into going to war with the decisions that must be made immediately and under great stress. "Sully" had no option to ask for more input -- he had to decide immediately what to do with his aircraft because in another instant of time the questions would have been moot.

But there's little doubt in my mind that if either of our 21st century presidents were called upon to make the instantaneous, under stress, decisions like the one made by Captain Sullenberger, George Bush, who as a young man flew the the notoriously challenging F-102, would be much more likely to exhibit that type of decision-making than the present occupant of the Oval Office.

Cedarford said...

Lehrer is trying to rewrite history, as Maguro pointed out.

"he and his entire administration fell victim to the certainty trap. And I think you saw that very clearly with the Iraq war and WMDs. They believed they knew that Saddam Hussein had them. And so they ignored lots of relevant evidence and dissenting voices telling them that there were no WMDs. It wasn’t simply his gut instincts that led him astray, it was the fact that he didn’t seek out those dissident voices."
Lehrer conveniently ignores the real debate was not over the consensus intelligence that Saddam had WMD, because no one believed he was crazy enough to spread the word all through his inner circle and Republican Guard where spooks had various sources - if he didn't - the debate was whether or not to go to war about it.

Britain - We are sure he has WMD, go to war.
Russia - We are sure he has WMD, don't go to war!
France - We are sure he has WMD, Don't go to War!
China - Yes he has WMD. But no war - let the UN contain him!
Turkey - Our intel consensus is he has WMD, don't go to war!
Germany - He has WMD. But give the UN inspectors more time.
Saudi Arabia - He has WMD, but war would be a horrible mistake!
Iran - Of course we know the SOB has WMD. But no war. No infidel bastards in our backyard.
Israel - OF course Mossad knows everything. WMD are indisputable as is the need for immediate war to install Chalabi. Then for America to attack Syria, Lebanon, and Iran following that for their...errr..dire Evildoer threat to America!
Jordan - Our agents know Iraqi WMD are indisputable. But no war, please!

Lehrer also conveniently ignores Woodward and others with access who report that Bush, Rice, and Powell had doubts. It was Cheney, who set up his infamous "Special Review Team" and Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz and various Neocons who had influence then who had absolute certainty.

What "turned" Bush and Powell's doubt into resolution was when they brought up the CIA consensus was not unanimous on WMD? It was the CIA Director's George Tennets assurance that it was "a slam dunk". The final opinion of the CIA. Which matched the final opinion on the matter of WMD from the Russians, Brits, Israelis, Arabs, Iranians, French, and others.

NO matter how much Lefties say theu were "right" as Fidel, Putin, de Villepin and King Abdullah of KSA were to oppose war - it can be best understood as a SWAT team matter.
Cops get a call that Gangsta Thug S Hussein, already convicted of shooting several people and with illegal weapons arrests is telling all people around him that he has some great new weapons he plans on using. In fact, he is walking around now, in the neighborhood, with a bulky object in his hands under a blanket.
Cops are dispatched after all the neighbors say S Hussein is making threats and refusing to show what is under the blanket - But they only want the cops to talk to him, to reason with him.
Arriving cops point M-16s at S Hussein. Who ignores orders to show his hands or open most of his car up for inspection. He does say if the cops shoot at him, they will be "wiped out". He partially complies with orders, pulling one hand from under the blanket 'Nothing here!' then putting it back under the blanket and gripping something. After a long standoff, S Hussein is shot after refusing to show his hands fully and finally making what cops said was a threatening move.

Neighbors are shocked, absolutely shocked, and denounce the cops when the only thing found under the blanket was a pistol-grip hair dryer. S. Hussein, killer and illegal weapons convictee - had simply gone nuts.
Neighbors said the cops bore all the blame. Clearly, once everyone saw the hair dryer, S Hussein was not a threat...At least not that day...

Joe said...

This also completely misses the point that there were plenty of reasons other than WMDs to rid the world of Saddam. These reasons were outlined repeatedly. I was advocating since the min-90s that we should toss the guy on purely humanitarian grounds (genuine embargoes, i.e. sieges, are vile things--they don't hurt the powerful, but the weak.)

More importantly, Bush understood that to change the middle east, you had to do something extremely disruptive. Aside from Saddam (who would have likely been replaced by one of his sons who were even more insane and cruel), Iraq was the best strategic country in which to cause such a disruption.

A strong, democratic Iraq is the best weapon against Iran and Syria. It's also a very subversive weapon against Saudi Arabia.

The biggest danger now is that Obama will squander what we've helped cause in Iraq for petty reasons and a complete ignorance of effective foreign policy and how to wield power.

Methadras said...

Why do the moronic lefties always fall back on WMD? Saddam gave the impression he had them, he most certainly had the facilities to produce them, the vehicles to deliver them, and the apparatus to continue their development. Al-Tawaitha was certainly completely ignored by the Moronic Stream Media. His Al-Sammud II missiles modified to fly beyond their 80 mile range and had their tips modified to carry biological/chemical warheads where given 30 minutes of coverage and ignored. High purity aluminum tubing claimed to be for mortars, but in reality where made and designed for nuclear material processing where given some coverage but summarily ignored. Not to mention the vast theft of HE (High Energy) explosives from Saddams stockpiles where never given a blip on the radar and the list goes on and on.

So Bush may have suffered from "certainty" syndrome, but the information relayed to him by several intelligence sources that this was going on was again ignored by the MSM leads on to conclude that the assessment about complex decision when faced with deciding to go to war leaves on to conclude only 1 of two options. Go to war or don't, but that you suffer the consequences of either action. If I were in Bush's shoes I would have done the same thing with the information I had. Not because I overlooked other intelligence, but that the recipe as outlined in my speech to Congress and the Nation following 9/11 outlining how islamo-terrorism must be stopped along with it's proponents be they individuals or states had merit and the rest of congress with all but 2 went along with me.

You want to blame an administration but absolve Congress and the intel they had to help them make that decision too? This strains the level of credulity and in Hillary Clintons own words, the willful suspension of disbelief. Decision are made daily that hang peoples lives, money, and honor in the balance. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are not. Either way, you live with them and move on to either correct them or ignore them completely. We as Americans do not ignore our obligations, right or wrong.

And for idiot leftists and liberals to try and come to the table and point the finger of blame in hindsight is as stupid as they are.

Synova said...

It's not Bush's certainty that was a problem, it was that the uncertainty, the waffling, the anguish over the decision wasn't carried on in full public view and for some people that means that it never happened.

Decisions must be made.

Decisions isn't what is being complained about while talking about the "danger of certainty" or Bush falling into the "certainty trap." What is being complained of is that Bush didn't go around wringing his hands in public, but once a decision was made *projected* certainty and confidence... which isn't decision making at all, but leadership.

And it's the sort of leadership expected by the military who understand as part of military culture that the argument and back-and-forth and discussion of pro's and con's and risk assessments and *listening* to dissent happens behind doors.

And Rummy's remark about the Army you have bothered me not at all. It was an unexceptionable expression of a fundamental truth right up there with the fact that you've been trained to fight the *last* war.

Synova said...

Neighbors are shocked, absolutely shocked, and denounce the cops when the only thing found under the blanket was a pistol-grip hair dryer.

Well done! I think that the whole analogy gets it right on target. Saddam committed unspeakable atrocities, used WMD, chemical warfare on his own people (at the first election after we arrived a Kurdistan blog casually mentioned that voters where he lived were 3 to 1 female because that many men had been killed by Saddam) out and out genocide of more than one ethnic group, and he was doing everything he could to act as if he had big bad weapons and was willing to use them again.

And all of that is ignored, and the "cops" are to blame.

Sissy Willis said...

"There’s been extensive research over the last few decades about the danger of certainty, about believing you’re right. What that causes the brain to do is ignore all the evidence that suggests you’re wrong."

That explains the blind followers of Obama who are only now starting to have the scales removed from their eyes.

Palladian said...

"Lehrer also conveniently ignores Woodward and others with access who report that Bush, Rice, and Powell had doubts. It was Cheney, who set up his infamous "Special Review Team" and Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz and various Neocons who had influence then who had absolute certainty."

Those wily Jews again!

Buford Gooch said...

I didn't care much for Bush, but this is just another horse shit attack on him. Teddy Kennedy, among others, was also convinced that Iraq had WMD. Let's hear the same crap about the Dems, who had equal access to the spy reports, as we do about the Repubs.

Fen said...

Alpha: As for the claim that we did find WMD. Even the Bush administration in the end had to admit that Saddam had destroyed all his WMD and disbanded his programs in the mid-90s.

Yes, Alpha. The Bush administration did say that. Doesn't refute my point though.

So Fen's claim that there were WMD but we just haven't been told about them yet is just complete and utter bullshit.

You'll eat crow. Years from now, bottom of page A18 in WaPo. A small blurb that "recently unclassified documents [field reports of NBC weapon finds] have experts questioning.."

[Alpha quickly turns the page]

tim maguire said...

I often find that my gut reaction to something is correct even when it takes days or weeks for my rational mind to figure out why.

Sadly, this powerful divining rod is too often shouted down by hope and desire--my twin nemeses.

Mike said...

Others have pointed out the main rationale for war in Iraq was not WMD, but even if it was the author falls into a "trap" of repeated leftist canards. The Bush administration had the SAME opinion about WMD in Iraq as the UN, France, Germany, Russia, and the consensus of US intel agencies. There were not "many" differing viewpoints on that subject and everybody in authority in 2002 knew the CIA had been dead wrong about Saddam's program in the 1980s when "everybody knew" he didn't have a nuclear program.

Jeremy said...

Considering what we now know about the failed intelligence and skewing of what we had, defending the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq is at odds with the facts at hand. Saddam was truly evil, but removing him doesn't square with the loss of lives and continuing costs.

And we'll probably be there for some time to come.

Jeremy said...

Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but "Blink" is an interesting book that relates to making instantaneous decisions.

Jason said...

The trope that there were no WMDs in Iraq is a lie.

As of 2006, we had recovered about 500 chemical munitions, containing degraded mustard or sarin chemical agent.

As of June 2006, the Director of National Intelligence assessment was that more stocks, both filled and unfilled, were assessed to exist.

Anyone who's still trying to argue "THERE WERE NO WMDS!" is either ignorant or a liar.

http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/Iraq_WMD_Declassified.pdf

Anthony said...

Well, I'm certainly glad that liberals are listening to dissenting voices in the global warming, errrr, climate change, errrrrr, CLIMATE CRISIS debate.

Oh wait, there is no debate. It's settled. "Everybody" is "certain" the globe is warming and we are to blame.

Gosh, you'd think these sorts of arguments were only applied to conservatives or something. . . .

Revenant said...

The conscious brain can only handle a very limited amount of information at one time — seven digits, plus or minus two. Unconsciously, however, you can process tons of information. It’s these complex decisions — like choosing a car, an apartment, or a leather couch — that often require the rational brain to turn off to some degree."

I have highlighted the one part of this statement that isn't incorrect. :)

Kirk Parker said...

Joe,

"genuine embargoes, i.e. sieges, are vile things--they don't hurt the powerful, but the weak."

No kidding! Thanks for mentioning this. The left were against the sanctions, while they were actually in place.

Jack said...

Ann Althouse,
How could you possibly post something so amazingly disrespectful of the former president, actually having the nerve to suggest that he was wrong about WMD or, for that matter, anything.

I thought you were a proud loyalist, willing to suppress any and all criticism of the former leader. You did it for years on end; I hardly think this is the time to change -- the time for you to go full America-hating moonbat on us.

David said...

Kirk: "It turns out that they didn't consider more moves than the lesser players, but rather fewer--but the ones the evaluated we all better ones."

My point exactly. But they don't think it--in the sense of cogitating on a string of premises and conclusions. They just see it.

dick said...

Jeremy,

You lost it at the first turn. As soon as you say considering what we now know about the failed intelligence has absolutely nothing to do what we did know or what was assumed right at the time. That Saddam had WDM was the considered truth by almost all parties concerned except those who were anti-Bush. The French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, Israelis, Russians, Argentinians, Libyans - all assumed that Saddam still had WMD. Whether they were for attacking or not they all agreed that Saddam most probably had WMD. Applying what we supposedly know now to the situation then is a really cheap shot.

That also does not negate the other 22 reasons that Bush gave for the attack.

John Lynch said...

This is what I meant when I said we can argue about decision making processes endlessly. It doesn't matter. Reality matters. A decision is good or not depending on the results. WMDs do not matter if Iraq becomes the next South Korea. That sounds bizarre, but South Korea in 1954 wasn't a good bet, either.

If Iraq collapses into chaos or just becomes another Arab dictatorship, then all those lives lost may be for nothing.

Arguing about why and when a decision was made isn't as important as the consequences. Since we can observe those much more objectively, that's a better thing to talk about.

jdeeripper said...

Palladian said..."Lehrer also conveniently ignores Woodward and others with access who report that Bush, Rice, and Powell had doubts. It was Cheney, who set up his infamous "Special Review Team" and Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz and various Neocons who had influence then who had absolute certainty."

Those wily Jews again!


Come on Palladian, you're a bright guy and I know you hate Cedarford but he made a great post.

And yes the neocon movement is an essentially Jewish ethnocentric, Israeli-centric movement. It's driven by an "is it good for the Jews and Israel" mentality.

There was a clearly understood view that if Saddam was a threat to anybody other than citizens of Iraq it was Israel.

The main reason American Jews and Israelis were opposed to attacking Saddam was that they were more concerned about Iran and the emergence of a Shiite crescent from Iran to Lebanon if Saddam was eliminated.

Accusations of anti-Semitism have become the conservative version of the liberal tactic of calling everybody racist for daring to disagree with Obama or for criticizing anybody black at any time for any reason.

The war in Iraq was fought in no small part for the perceived if not actual interests of Israel.

That's the whole reason for the existence of the so called "neo-conservative" movement.

Stop trying to get moral brownie points by accusing everybody of anti semitism or racism or whatever. Argue the merits of the case.

blake said...

Shouldn't he have ended each paragraph with: "I think. Maybe."?

Fen said, Years from now, bottom of page A18 in WaPo. A small blurb that "recently unclassified documents [field reports of NBC weapon finds] have experts questioning.."

Absurd, Fen. There isn't going to be a Washington Post years from now!

John Lynch said...

I think Saddam's actions showed him to be a threat to Iran and Kuwait, and indirectly a threat to us through our oil supply. That's not supposition, it's what he actually did. If he'd just hung out in his palace, and wasted the oil money, we never would have attacked him. He had control of his own fate.

I'd argue that Saddam Hussein was the most important historical figure of the last 30 years. As a result of the Iran-Iraq war, he ran up a huge debt. To pay it back he invaded one of his creditors and threatened the rest. As a result, the US deployed to Saudi Arabia. Because of that, Al Qeada formed. The rest we know. Saddam Hussein didn't plan for that to happen, but the results of his decisions are everywhere.

Again, look at what actually happened. People like to ignore the whole invading countries thing. They only notice when we do it.

Revenant said...

A decision is good or not depending on the results.

No, a decision is a good one if it was the right decision to make given the available evidence.

We cannot have perfect knowledge of the world. We have to make a choice based on what information we have available. The right thing to do is the thing which seems right given what we know.

For example, had we known in 1942 what we know today, we could have ignored the war in Europe entirely. Germany would still have fallen to the Soviet army, with the added bonus of the USSR being even weaker afterwards. The war with Japan would have even sooner, and the United States could have returned to peace perhaps as much as a year earlier.

But does that make it accurate to say "Roosevelt's decision to wage war on Germany was wrong"? I don't think so, no. Roosevelt was making a decision based on what he knew then.

Synova said...

"genuine embargoes, i.e. sieges, are vile things--they don't hurt the powerful, but the weak."

No kidding! Thanks for mentioning this. The left were against the sanctions, while they were actually in place.

War by another name and only useful to the extent that misery and pain are the result... and only useful as a strategy in a situation where there is sufficient responsiveness of the government to the people so that the government can not ignore the misery of its citizens.

TMink said...

Rev wrote: "I have highlighted the one part of this statement that isn't incorrect. :)"

Would you elaborate please? Thanks!

Trey

TMink said...

JDR wrote: "And yes the neocon movement is an essentially Jewish ethnocentric, Israeli-centric movement. It's driven by an "is it good for the Jews and Israel" mentality."

Many of the neocons are Evangelical Christians. Most of us Evangelicals are very pro Israel and hold Jews in high esteem. We consider ourselves adopted Jews, and look at the Jewish people as our big brothers in a spiritual way. To complicate things, we view them as big brothers in the faith who have lost the true faith.

Complicated.

Trey

Roy Lofquist said...

I just skimmed the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002". I sure don't have the patience to read all 44 "Whereas"'s again but there were only a handful that mention WMD.

The reason that WMD's became a prominent part of the discussion is that our allies leaned on us to seek UN authorization. Because of the rules of the UN and the nature of the 14 previous resolutions we were constrained to pursue the WMD argument. We got the 15th resolution, but the 16th, the trigger, was blocked by Russia and China.

Revenant said...

Would you elaborate please? Thanks!

Lehrer made three claims:

(1): Our unconscious minds can process enormous quantities of information
(2): The conscious brain can only handle the informational equivalent of a nine-digit number at one time.
(3): Complex decisions require that "the rational brain" be turned off at least in part.

The first claim is correct. The other two are not, at least not the way he's presenting them.

The general thrust of the second point has some truth in it, in that our higher brain functions can only analyze relatively small chunks of data at a time. He's wrong about the upper limit being nine digits. He's also wrong in that he's ignoring the fact that data can be processed sequentially and the results of each step remembered for later, which means that the amount of data that can be processed at one time is often not relevant. If it was, nobody would ever be able to balance a checkbook or do their taxes. :)

As for point three, he's right that there are a lot of decisions that require us to bypass our higher mental functions and rely on the "unconscious". It is just that the three examples he cites are examples for which this is not true. Better examples are ones he cites elsewhere in the interview, like flying a plane or identifying your favorite jam. Picking a car, house, or sofa can be done rationally, and usually ought to be.

Big Mike said...

@John Lynch -- I'm with Revenant. Until we succeed in building time machines, we can't know how things will eventually turn out and we still have the decision staring us in the face.

BTW, at this point we still don't even know how Iraq will turn out on balance. We've had several years of the Democrats and their allies in the MSM telling us that Iraq was a horrendous mistake, but we're years away from knowing even that for certain.

Hoosier Daddy said...

For example, had we known in 1942 what we know today, we could have ignored the war in Europe entirely. Germany would still have fallen to the Soviet army, with the added bonus of the USSR being even weaker afterwards.

The US never entering the ETO is a great 'what if' of history. Whether or not the Soviets would have defeated Germany isn't a foregone conclusion in my opinion. Take away the landings in Italy and France not to mention unmolested German war production (no strategic bombing) and a Luftwaffe free for battlefield deployment instead of homeland defense against the 8th Airforce and suddenly its a whole different outlook for Uncle Joe and the Red Army. Also remember that the Soviet Army rode to Berlin in 100,000 US trucks versus riding shotgun en masse on T-34s.

I'm not saying Germany would have won but you would have probably seen a stalemate somewhere east of the Vistula.

Shame both couldn't have lost ;-)

jdeeripper said...

TMink said...Many of the neocons are Evangelical Christians.

Not true.

Most of us Evangelicals are very pro Israel and hold Jews in high esteem.

True. Evangelicals are in a sense using the Jews and Israelis as part of their own Christian theological fantasies.

But "neo-conservativeism" is Jewish ethnocentrism on steroids. It is all about asserting a Jewish male will to power, a muscular, Sabra, desert fighter Judaism as opposed to the Jerry Lewis/Woody Allen mieskeit, momma's boy, weak liberal Jewish male stereotype.

It's an extension of both post '67 war Jewish pride in Israel and urban black/Jewish tensions in the 1960s.

The Evangelicals are not the source or majority in this movement. They are merely the "useful idiots" whose goyishe kopf is used by their more intelligent yet equally cynical betters.

Jeremy said...

Dick, I think you need to read more about what we know and what Bush wants us to believe.

Revenant said...

Also remember that the Soviet Army rode to Berlin in 100,000 US trucks versus riding shotgun en masse on T-34s.

Oh, I don't think the Soviets could have defeated Germany without American aid. Just without American troops.

Freder Frederson said...

As of 2006, we had recovered about 500 chemical munitions, containing degraded mustard or sarin chemical agent.

If you are arguing that 500 odd old shells that got overlooked when Saddam's stockpiles were destroyed in the mid-90's vindicate the statements made by the administration before and during the early days of the invasion about the threat of Saddam's WMD program, then you simply watch too much Fox News and are beyond help.

Freder Frederson said...

Cops get a call that Gangsta Thug S Hussein, already convicted of shooting several people and with illegal weapons arrests is telling all people around him that he has some great new weapons he plans on using.

Actually, the correct analogy Cedarford, would be that Gangsta Thug claims he has changed his ways, has gotten rid of all his illegal weapons and has even offered to let to cops come in and search his home to see that he is clean. But the cops insist, based on tips from an informant (who they didn't get to interview personally) with the street name of "Freaking Liar", that Hussein continues to manufacture meth in his kitchen and has stockpiles of weapons in his basement. When asked why, after they had searched Hussein's basement and kitchen and found nothing, they still believed that Hussein was dirty, they said. "Well Freaking Liar told a source who told us it was true, so it must be. Besides, they guy who really is causing trouble, B. Laden, is just too damn hard too catch and lives in a neighborhood where our cars don't work as well. We figured it would just be easier to pick on Hussein. After all one raghead is as good as another, right?"

Hoosier Daddy said...

Oh, I don't think the Soviets could have defeated Germany without American aid. Just without American troops.

Well Stalin's begging for a US & UK second front would suggest otherwise. Again, I think US strategic bombing is often overlooked in terms of the damage to German war production, including the divergence of resources to shelter factories not to mention forcing the Luftwaffe away from the battlefield to shoot down our bombers. While air power alone won't win a war, it's damn difficult to win without it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

After all one raghead is as good as another, right?"

Actually Freder you have a point. I've argued that we should have made nice with Saddam and could have found a solid ally against Islamofacism AND kept the mullah's next door in check. Hell, we should have simply let Saddam roll into Saudi Arabia back in 1990. being the secular raghead that he was, he could have been shoving radical Whabbists (but I repeat myself) in wood chippers and tossing them off buildings by the truckful thereby invoking the wrath of Osama rather than us.

Damn shame isn't it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Keep in mind that Freder hearkens back to the good old 90's when the economy was sound, Islamic terrorism was just a mere nuisance and our military adventures were limited to carpet bombing small Balkan countries without UN or Congressional approval and that posed zero threat to our national security.

Jason said...

Freder,

Hey, it's your side that's constantly claiming 'no WMDs' were found.

It wasn't that hard to prove that position to be the lie that it was. Being a leftie, and by extension intellectually dishonest, here you are trying to move the goalposts again.

Now, here's a straightforward multiple choice question for you: Under the terms of the cease fire agreement and the UNSC resolutions, Iraq agreed to destroy

A.) None of its chemical weapons stocks
B.) Some of its chemical weapons stocks (with special exemption made for some 500 munitions manufactured pre-1991.
C.) ALL chemical weapons stocks.

It's not that friggin' difficult.

And since the cease fire was signed in 1991, it's not that much of a frigging stretch to assume that its terms applied to chem stocks that existed prior to 1991.

Jeez. It's amazing what libtards will make excuses for.

By the way, I watch precisely zero Fox News. The source wasn't Fox anyway, but John Negroponte. So as for your veiled ad hominem distraction: FAIL.

Revenant said...

Well Stalin's begging for a US & UK second front would suggest otherwise.

I don't think so. It suggests that the USSR was in a nasty and costly war and wanted help.

Certainly our bombing of German industry helped, but even if German industry had been left intact that wouldn't have been enough. Germany just wasn't big enough to withstand the USSR once it got going. It needed to cripple Stalin with the initial attack, and that failed. After the winter of 42-43 any hope of defeating the USSR was lost.

Freder Frederson said...

Jeez. It's amazing what libtards will make excuses for.

It is patently disingenuous to claim that because a few old WMDs showed up that means that "we found WMDs" in the sense that it vindicated the pronouncements of the administration.

As for your multiple choice question. C is the correct answer. Iraq destroyed all the chemical weapons it could find. The ones found after the war existed only because of shoddy bookkeeping and inventory control. It is like including the chemical weapons we continue to uncover in France and Belgium every year from WWI in the inventories of England, France, Germany and the U.S.

Take away the landings in Italy and France not to mention unmolested German war production (no strategic bombing) and a Luftwaffe free for battlefield deployment instead of homeland defense against the 8th Airforce and suddenly its a whole different outlook for Uncle Joe and the Red Army.

The impact of Allied (primarily British and U.S.) strategic bombing, especially prior to mid-1944, is usually overstated. The cost to the allies, in men (very highly trained ones at that) and materiel, especially in 1942 and '43 when casualty rates exceeded 30%, and diverted production probably wasn't worth the damage to German war production. It is perfectly reasonable that the money and manpower (160,0000 casualties and 1.6 million men between Britain and the U.S.)could have been used more effectively elsewhere. By the time the raids were truly devastating, effective and not that costly to the allies, Germany was truly beaten.