Certain Termination

February 20, 2006 § 39 Comments

If you are going to launch a just war, a just war that would otherwise not occur if you didn’t launch it, then you’d better be right about the nature of the lasting, grave, and certain threat. That is what it means to be objectively certain.

Anyone who works for me who tells me he is certain about something life and death, and makes a decision based on that certainty, had better turn out to be right. If he turns out to be wrong, or if it isn’t crystal clear that he was right after the fact, then he’d better come to me with a pre-typed resignation letter and no excuses: no mass hysteria, no everyone else thought it was true too, no “I really was certain”, no excuses. “Everyone else” didn’t make the decision based on putative certainty. Bring me the resignation letter and just possibly I might not accept it. Fail to bring it to me of your own accord, without me prompting you, and don’t even bother coming to see me. You are fired.

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§ 39 Responses to Certain Termination

  • William Luse says:

    I knew you’d be a hard taskmaster.So who should George Bush have fired? Or should he fire himself, i.e., resign?

  • zippy says:

    I suppose any remote indication that anything remotely like it was happening, as opposed to the excuse-making and after-the-fact justifications on other grounds, would be refreshing. The last occupant of the Oval Office set the example that oral sex is not sex. This one had a rather rare opportunity to demonstrate that a man has honor. I suppose my idea of perfection might be something like this:“My fellow Americans. I made a mistake. I really did believe that Saddam had WMD’s; many others thought so too, but they did not make the decision to go to war, I did. I firmly believe that freeing the Iraqi people is a noble goal in its own right, and I am very proud of our brave men and women who have carried that out. They deserve our continued unequivocal support to bring Iraq to a stable condition, where a new prosperity will be possible (though that will depend upon the Iraqi people themselves).But that is not the threat that I told you existed. I told you that Iraq had advanced WMD programs and was developing WMD’s in order to give those WMD’s to terrorists. I was wrong. So it is with sincere regret that I must tender my resignation.The war on terror is one of the most critical challenges that the United States has faced since the Cold War. It must be carried on with resolve, patience, and in the manner of the noble and moral people that we are. One man does not make or break the war on terror. I made a grave mistake, an error for which I am responsible, and because of that I pass on the responsibility to carry on the war on terror to others. May God bless the United States of America.”

  • zippy says:

    And, if the polls suddenly said in response that 90% of America did not want him to resign – which would not surprise me, in fact, if we were suddenly faced with that reality – I would be content with him carrying on. But my sort of man would offer the resignation. <>I<> would offer the resignation.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy-The main problem with that scenario is that is would place Dick Cheney in the Oval Office. You have now, finally, proposed a choice to me where I opt for Bush, hands down, no regrets.

  • zippy says:

    One of the advantages of doing the noble thing and accepting a personal Calvary freely is that it has the tendency to call everyones’ bluff.

  • TS says:

    I generally like the captain goes down with his ship philosophy though that’s always more fun if the captain could’ve done something to prevent it. The captain of the Titanic could’ve insisted there were more lifeboats. Of course we’ll disagree, but in my opinion there’s not much that Bush could’ve done differently, short of enrolling in a few mind-reading or E.S.P. courses pre-presidency.Still that would send a properly chilling effect with respect to going to war, and from a Christian perspective it’s better to error on the pacifism than militarism.

  • decker2003 says:

    I’m with you Zippy. A real leader admits when he got it wrong. And when you tell the nation to go to war based on certain information, you take responsibility for the accuracy of that information. If it turns out that your underlings fed you bad information, you take responsibility for their error because ultimately, it’s your job to make sure these decisions are based on accurate information. A president who gets it wrong on such a serious matter needs to lose his position, or else I guess we really don’t care as a nation whether our leaders get these decisions right or not.

  • zippy says:

    <>Still that would send a properly chilling effect with respect to going to war…<>Not only that, but it would be a strike against the dictatorship of relativism. Right now “certainty” is being treated as a subjective matter, wherein it isn’t morally relevant whether or not we were actually <>correct<>, just that we <>really, really thought we were correct<>. That subjectivism is worth repudiating. If I take the ship down it doesn’t matter how sincerely I thought there was no iceberg or how sincerely I thought that the lifeboats were superfluous. When an honorable captain turns out to be wrong he faces that fact, and we all respect him for it. We understand the guy who sneaks aboard the lifeboat while others drown, and those of us who are honest with ourselves even have some empathy for him; but all the same we know that he isn’t being the man he should be.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–I still don’t understand what makes you so certain that the Bush camp *thought* that they were right. All that can amount to is your gut feeling that a good old boy like Bush is somehow rendered incapable by the corporate mind-set of engaging in intrigue; that conspiracies never actually exist in the real world, for men are univerally too disorganized, or disinterested, to conceive and execute them. Everything is always simply what it seems to be.On the other hand, whatever scant evidence exists in black-and-white, or in oral testimony from persons not in the Bush camp, would argue to the contrary, that conscious lies were told…by someone. I offer the “mobile chemical weapons labs” as a prime example; there were maps of their locations; there were even photographs of them, and they were total chimeras. I refuse to be bullied into conceding that the weapons were there but just weren’t found, or even that it was fervently believed by our leaders that they were there, by being labelled “a conspiracy nut.” It is far more believable to me that there was a conspiracy to float bogus evidence before the public to justify going ahead with a pre-planned agenda, than it is that every intelligence network in the Western world and its allies was completely wrong. I know that you say you don’t care, but I do. Morally, it is an entirely different matter to be mislead, than it is to be a liar. If a man with grave public responsibilities is a liar, he should be called on it, not merely allowed to withdraw with his “honor” intact. Clinton, for instance, was called on it. Bush should be also.

  • zippy says:

    <>I still don’t understand what makes you so certain that the Bush camp *thought* that they were right.<>“Certain” is the wrong word for my attitude about Bush’s honesty. I have found that things in general tend to be more explicable when we listen to what people say and take it seriously; and I think this is more true with Bush than with most politicians. Nothing that has happened requires me to posit a liar in order to have a reasonable explanation, so why posit a liar?

  • Rob says:

    “…so why posit a liar?”Why did Congress posit a liar in the case of Bill Clinton? They did so because the preponderance of the evidence suggested that he had lied.I don’t say that Bush should be convicted of lying without a hearing, I say that the issue should be formally investigated.Bush has a right to be a liar as a private citizen without being publicly called to task for it. As POTUS and Commander-in-Chief, he does not have that right.You would prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt, based at least in part, on class affinities. I don’t have that impetus to look the other way.

  • zippy says:

    <>Why did Congress posit a liar in the case of Bill Clinton? They did so because the preponderance of the evidence suggested that he had lied.<>Whether it was wise of them to do so or not aside, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” is an epistemically different sort of claim from “Saddam has WMD’s”. The former is a first-person account which is demonstrably false: Clinton in fact did lie, and anyone who denies it is either lying, ignorant, or has lost the ability to reason. The claim that Bush lied about WMD’s, on the other hand, is a claim to know his internal state of judgement about third-party evidence. If you can’t see the difference there isn’t much I can do to help you.<>You would prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt, based at least in part, on class affinities.<>Not at all. “Bush lied about WMD’s” is not a demonstrably true statement. It assumes that Bush knew that Saddam did not have WMD’s but said that Saddam did have WMD’s. That is implausible for any number of reasons, not least of which is that it implies that Bush is a clever nefarious conspirator and at the same time an idiot. If a clever man in his circumstances had lied, and had <>expected<> to find no WMD’s, he would have had his ducks in a row instead of being caught obviously flat-footed.The “Bush lied” meme isn’t just assumed false by virtue of benefit of the doubt, it is objectively quite implausible (though it is metaphysically possible, like finding little green men on Mars is metaphysically possible). And your accusation of class affinity does not do justice to my own objectivity in the matter.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–And by the same token “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” was not a demonstrably false statement until it was proven, by DNA evidence, and Clinton’s forced confession. Monica never ratted on him, that I remember.We won’t know whether “Saddam has WMDs” was a lie until there is a formal investigation.

  • zippy says:

    You don’t get it, Rob. “Saddam has WMD’s” is a statement of belief about third-party evidence. Whether it was a lie when stated or not is independent of whether or not Saddam actually had WMD’s. If he had them and Bush thought he didn’t, it would be a lie. If he didn’t have them and Bush thought he did, it would not be a lie. In order to say that it is a lie, you have to see into the man’s head. Now, you might counter that the same has to be said of Clinton, and it is true in a sense but not a relevant sense: yes, we have to assume that Clinton was conscious of being serviced by the intern as it occurred. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was sleepwalking at the time. Maybe aliens took over his mind. But I am unconcerned about those possibilities, because while they are metaphysically possible they are not plausible.The notion that Bush lied, on the other hand, is itself very implausible. If he had known <>or even suspected<> that Saddam in fact did not have WMD’s, he would not have been caught flat-footed politically. He would have been ready. Obviously he was pretty sure that we were going to find WMD’s. Either that or he is simultaneously a clever liar and an idiot: and I think the “Bush lied” meme is just a manifestation of the Left’s irrational, contradictory feelings about the man, and about the Right in general. In order to disagree with the Left one must be an idiot, but in order to beat the Left politically one must be extraordinarily clever. The “Bush lied” meme is a mental disease of the Left, not a plausible thesis about a matter of fact.Now, is it <>possible<> that some paper trail will bear out the Left’s hysterical expectations, and show Bush to be simultaneously extraordinarily clever and a moron? Sure, it is possible. Pigs may fly too.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–We know that high-up government types have actively conspired to come up with narratives to release to the public that have “plausible deniability”. It is no stretch to believe that they might concoct stories with “plausible affirmability”.I think that Bush knew, in advance of any public statements, that there was no evidence that Saddam had WMDs. He spoke, or his surrogates spoke, however, as if it were proven that such evidence of WMD existed. I think that he further hoped that WMD would come to light once the invasion was launched and cover the lie. The lie was not “Saddam has WMD”; the lie was “there is *evidence* that Saddam has, for instance mobile chemical weapons labs, battle-ready and poised for action”; and, there is *evidence* that Saddam has purchased aluminum tubing of a kind that *would only be used in nuclear facilities*; there is *evidence* that Atta met with agents from Iraq in Europe, etc. There was no such evidence in some cases, and in others what evidence there allegedly had been was *already know to be spurious before it was used* by the Bush regime to sell the war. Both of those cases are lies, of a kind, but especially the latter, which is a flat-out lie.Thus, the entrapment of Scott Ritter; thus, the outing of Valerie Plame.

  • Rob says:

    It’s true, I confess, I’m going on the assumption that Bush lied, and further saying that my assumption is based on my perception that there is enough evidence of that to warrant an investigation. Isn’t that the way it always works?You are assuming the opposite, and would defend him against my accusations. Again, isn’t that the way it always works?Let’s find out who is right and who is wrong.

  • zippy says:

    <>I think that Bush knew, in advance of any public statements, that there was no evidence that Saddam had WMDs.<>And I think that is plain daffy. I think Bush genuinely thought Saddam in fact had WMD’s, and he thought that people who didn’t think so were either being snookered or disingenuous. And I think that belief permeated his organization and drove what everyone did, how things were interpreted, etc. He would have behaved entirely differently if that were not the case.The real irony in this discussion, to me, is that I think Bush’s take on the “Saddam has WMD’s” idea is remarkably similar to your take on the “Bush lied” idea. In both cases the idea comes first, and whatever evidence exists (flimsy or otherwise) is force-fit to the idea. But when you say “Bush lied” I don’t think you are <>lying<>, I just think that like Bush you are force-fitting reality to your pre-drawn conclusion.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–You are entirely correct that both of our positions are prejudicial. But, didn’t I just say that? Let’s have it out before Congress, and see what shakes down to the postjudicial finale.

  • zippy says:

    <>You are entirely correct that both of our positions are prejudicial.<>Um, I didn’t say that. In fact I think I specifically claimed that I am being objective about it and you are not because, well, I think I am being objective about it and you are not.I have no problem with Congressional investigation in this case, but I am also not under the illusion that Congressional investigations are objective inquiry.

  • Rob says:

    “In both cases the idea comes first and whatever evidence exists (flimsy or otherwise) is force-fit to the idea.”That sounds like a pretty good working definition of “prejudicial thinking” to me.

  • Rob says:

    Finally, I am saying that Bush is the responsible party, but it is conceivable (or, probable, if you’re right) that he is not the liar, but only among the lied-to. Somebody along down the line lied, however. I want to know who that was, because the results have been dire for millions of people. The way to find that out is to apply pressure at both ends of the food chain and see who coughs up whom.I agree that a Congressional hearing is likely (nay, certain) to become political circus. But, it’s what we’ve got to work with.

  • zippy says:

    <>That sounds like a pretty good working definition of “prejudicial thinking” to me.<>Sure. Yours and Bush’s.

  • Lee says:

    One reason I’ve had trouble buying the idea that Bush lied about WMD is that, if he knew (or believed) there were no WMD he would also have to believe that this absence of WMD would be revealed after the war (as, indeed, it seems to have been). That said, I was never convinced that Iraq’s possession of WMD would have constituted a sufficient <>casus belli<> anyway. Surely not according to classic just war theory, as far as I can tell.

  • c matt says:

    My memory may not be exact, but didn’t several other political leaders, both in the US and abroad, both on the left and right, believe Saddam had WMDs? I have seen excerpts of speeches from La Hillary and others who continuously denounced SH and his WMDs. Yet, when Bush does it, it is “lying”. Was La Hillary also lying, as well as all the others?Rob, perhaps if we remove teh Bush blinders it may be more clear to you:If a husband tells his wife he did not have sex with another woman, barring explanations of insanity, he cannot but help to know whethr he did or not because he was a first party participant.If a stock trader tells his client to buy a bunch of shares of Company X because he believes its about to explode based upon infomartion from his sources, it is not immediately clear whether or not he was lying to his client or simply misinformed, or only heard what he wanted to hear. It is based upon his interpretation of a third party source, not his own personal experience. If the stock tanks, he may have still sincerely believed it was going to rise. He would be mistaken, but not a liar. Moreover, assuming he had no vested interest – indeed, assuming he invested in the stock himself based upon the tip – it becomes highly unlikely he intentionally lied about the tip, particularly knowing the tip would eventually play itself out – the stock would rise as predicted or stay flat/fall.Bush’s WMD claim falls into this second category. He essentially staked the legacy of his presidency on the presence of WMDs. Only an insane person would do that if they believed the WMDs were not there.

  • Rob says:

    c matt–If you had followed everything that I wrote on this topic, you would have noticed that I am not nearly so focused on Bush as you are. I have repeatedly said he was either a liar, or was lied to, but somebody lied. Whether a bomb is, or is not, buried in the sand is not analogous to whether or not a stock will “take off.” The success of the stock is contingent on a complicated set of possibilities, all of which are in flux. But the bomb is just either there, or not. So, somebody lied, and Bush and Bush’s surrogates passed that lie on to the world as a strong enough certainty to begin KILLING PEOPLE on the basis of it. To this I object. If I could pin it on Bush, I would cheerfully do so, as I strongly object to the man on other bases as well. Be that as it may, he is the Commander-in-Chief, and ultimately the responsible party in the launching of this war of aggression. If he can’t control his subordinates, or relies too heavily on untrustworthy people, this is only one more of his overly abundant failures of leadership. He has led, but he has led us into murderous error.

  • Rob says:

    c matt–To clarify: Clearly, I *am* focused on Bush. But I am not as focused on proving him to be the primary source of the lie, as you are in defending him against the charge of lying.

  • zippy says:

    <>But I am not as focused on proving him to be the primary source of the lie, as you are in defending him against the charge of lying.<>Forgive me Rob, but you are manifestly pulling the classic “accuse them of what I am doing” gambit. You’ve been tromping all over the blogosphere trumpeting the “Bush lied!” mantra, and now you have backpedaled.Is it likely that someone or someones somewhere of the literally millions of people who work for Bush stretched the truth, lied, etc? It isn’t just likely, it is virtually certain. I’ve had employees distort the truth in order to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear any number of times.Is Bush responsible for the bad choice? You bet. Re-read my blog post. Is Bush a wicked, evil, nefarious, clever liar? No way. It isn’t his MO. If he was, we would have found WMD’s in Iraq even though Saddam didn’t have any. I can remember any number of paleoconservatives saying before the war that Iraq had no WMD’s and predicting that we would find some there anyway. And you are just as fruity about Bush as they were.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–I only “backpedaled” because *you* showed me why I should back off from insisting that Bush himself had to be a conscious liar.What do want me to be–inflexible?Um, we did “find some there anyway”, the “mobile chemical weapons labs” being one case in point; the aluminum tubes which launched Plamegate being another. And there were others–e.g., caches of chemicals used to make this or that dire chemical weapon–all eventually debunked.

  • zippy says:

    Got no problem with the backpedaling and happy to see it, just didn’t agree with the j’accuse directed at one of my other commenters.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Well, I *did* modify the “j’accuse” as noted.The Dubai Port development today– that Bush didn’t even know about the deal until after it was done deal–goes a long way toward my ability to accept your contention that the man is simply not responsible for anything. They just don’t tell him anything. He might get in the way. He might say something so clearly uniformed as to be damaging. Better to just let him ride his mountain bike and wave at the cameras. Just leave the man to gobble a few pretzels after clearing away some brush out on the ranch and stay out of trouble.I have to admit, it has resonance.

  • zippy says:

    Well, in a way it is worse than you think Rob. I think his organization acts like it does <>because<> he is in charge of it, not <>despite the fact<> that he is in charge of it. When you put a smart, honest, not too deep corporate guy in charge of the world’s only superpower, and then have that superpower attacked violently by Moslems, this is what you get.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Yes, I can see that. And his immediate subordinates are also all corporate types–most of the others, having been purged.

  • TS says:

    I guess I shouldn’t have been so quick to accept the < HREF="http://poncer.blogspot.com/2006/02/saddam-had-wmds-conventional-wisdom.html" REL="nofollow"><>premise<><>!

  • Rob says:

    ts–Any person who loves Walker Percy is, at the very least, all right, some of the time.

  • zippy says:

    TS: If the Russians indeed moved WMD’s and materials to Syria it would be new calculus. As Lee said, it doesn’t necessarily make the decision to go to war just; but being correct about the nature of the putatively certain threat is a necessary prerequisite.Rob: TS isn’t just good people some of the time. TS is good people, full stop, as I like to say. If he had comments on his blog you would probably have more fun and learn more as a VMPDS heckler than as a ZC heckler.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–I don’t think of myself as a heckler. What I try to do is see plausible alternatives to a given line of reasoning. I’m not necessarily fully invested in every alternative that I propose. That said, I do not, just for the sake of argument, propose anything in which I know, prior to discussion, that I could never come to believe.

  • Rob says:

    “…VMPDS heckler …ZC heckler”Please define.

  • zippy says:

    Rob: when I called you a heckler I was just heckling you.VMPDS and ZC are just the initials of TS’s blog and mine, respectively.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–I figured that was the source of ZC, but the other made me unsure. If you had included “Big D” in the group, I would’ve had no doubt.I will cop to heckling the cognitively challenged on occasion, for which I’ll surely be punished.

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