Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Praise and Damnation

If we wish to perpetuate a problem rather than solve it, we can formulate no better fudge than to pronounce the problem "a priori" (before the fact) or "prima facie" (on the face of it) unsolvable. Yes, fellow dropouts from Uncle Jim-Bob's Charter Hillbilly Homeschool! Just by lookin' at stuff and before even thinkin' 'bout anythin' we can conclude that we haven't a prayer of coming up with a "good" (or whatever other self-defeating modifier you prefer) solution. This dialectical dodge usually takes the form of saying, colloquially: "We have no 'good' options" or "damned if we do, and damned if we don't," et cetera. Yet, as Charles Sanders Peirce said of all such a-philosophical attempts at "blocking the road of inquiry": merely "pronouncing a thing inexplicable does not explain it." In precisely the same way, pronouncing a problem insoluble does not solve it. But then, some people prefer the problem. That odious observation should seem obvious even to the obtuse.

In fact, we [meaning America as a nation] have some "very good," if not "excellent" options for getting out of Iraq and saving two nations in the process. For example, ceasing to spend EIGHT BILLION DOLLARS just this MONTH on uselessly bouncing some rubble up and down -- while getting THREE THOUSAND Iraqis and SEVENTY GIs killed amid all the pointlessly bouncing rubble -- sounds like an excellent savings (or "winnings") to me. (See Ben Franklin for an equivalent aphorism involving pennies saved and earned). I'd sure prefer "winning" those lives and dollars by leaving than "losing" those lives and dollars by staying. Multiply the preceding example by TWELVE (plus an escalation-due-to-disintegration factor) if you wish to know what America and Iraq will "win" by America staying in Iraq just one more year, let alone the "long time" (presumably much longer than just one more year) projected the other day by Donald Rumsfeld's new lightweight clone: a Mr. Gates or something like that (not that the identity of such a clueless cipher means anything noteworthy). Things have only gotten worse the longer we've stayed in Iraq and things will only keep getting worse the longer we stay in Iraq; but this will not stop paradox-producing pundits from claiming that things will get "even worse" if we leave. As Bart Simpson would exclaim in utter disbelief at such self-serving, self-fulfilling prophecies: "Ay, Carumba!"

Come to think of it, paradox-producing American pundits have little to offer by way of even "new" bullshit about "winning" and "losing" quagmires like Iraq since, for the most part, they've never even become aware of the "old" bullshit-debunking slogan we finally learned in getting out of Vietnam forty years ago: namely, "We lost the day we started and we won the day we stopped." We will forthwith exit from Iraq once we learn to formulate our choices in achievable terms rather than in self-hobbling conundrums. Once we "win" what we can and stop "losing" what we need not, future generations will say of us what the world said of our previously long-postponed enlightenment in Southeast Asia: "Praised when they left and damned when they didn't." It all depends on what we mean when, and if, we really desire to mean anything at all.


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