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May 17, 2007

The Assault on Reason

Time Magazine publishes a fascinating excerpt from what appears to be an upcoming Al Gore book, "The Assault on Reason." Gore's premise - that American political discourse has moved decidedly away from rational debate - is a very good one, near and dear to my heart. But the excerpt is fascinating because in attempting to identify the roots of the problem, Gore engages in the very behavior he claims to condemn.

Specifically, Gore cites, as evidence of the move away from reason, simple policy disputes; and he cites, as the cause of the move away from reason, the decline in engagement and understanding on the part of the American populace.

Gore writes:

[America made] a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness. For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake. Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious.
But this is no argument. I continue to argue, strongly, that the decision to invade Iraq was not a grievous mistake, in that the actual course of the war effort was not inevitable at the time of the invasion. But if I'm one of "hardly anyone," it's because of an absolute refusal on the part of those who disagreed with that decision - such as Al Gore - to concede that whether to go to war in Iraq was a policy dispute in which either decision could be rationally legitimate.

Gore exhibits this refusal to disagree in his claim that "all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time." The notion that there was a "right" decision implies the existence of an objectively "wrong" decision - not a decision with which he disagrees, mind you, but an affirmatively "wrong" decision.

And Gore's claim about "all of the evidence and arguments" also exhibits what I've identified as one of the key failures of contemporary political discourse - one of the core examples of a refusal to disagree. The "information" was there, Gore says, and if only decisionmakers - and the American people - had taken the time to internalize and understand that information, they would have come to the policy decision that he came to. If only people weren't so stupid, in other words, they'd have agreed with him. Again, Gore refuses to concede the existence of an alternative legitimate conclusion to the policy question at issue. His answer is the only legitimate correct answer; if you disagree, you obviously haven't thought it through enough.

There is a failure of reason in America - in the west in general; with that I certainly agree. But Al Gore, having identified the problem, only exacerbates it with his arguments from authority and appeals to the "obvious." The crux of reason is submission to debate and discussion; a proposition must be tried, and "trial is by what is contrary." Al Gore refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the other side.

Posted by David Mader at 11:13 AM | (7) | Back to Main

May 06, 2007

Canadian Soldier Among Dead in Sinai Crash

Can we now expect the opposition to declare an unacceptable casualty rate and demand the withdrawal of all of our peacekeeping troops?

UPDATE (5/7/07 11:37 CDT): In the comments, France Guy calls me out:

I'm not sure what you're getting at with this, but you appear to me to be aiming to have your status as a card-carrying "non-partisan conservative" revoked.
This is what I enjoy most about this blog - getting challenged by my readers. My point is this, and it really isn't meant to be a partisan one: tragic deaths, whether in Afghanistan or Sinai, play to our emotions, and our gut reaction is always to respond by removing those in danger from harm's way. But when the actual casualty rate is so historically low - as it is both in Afghanistan and in our peacekeeping missions - the focus should properly be on the merits and demerits of the mission. I recognize that the opposition parties have, or at least once had, a strong and reasonable criticism of the Afghan mission: that it was focussed too much on the military component, and not enough on reconstruction. But of late, it seems to me, the focus has been much more on casualties. To the degree that's true, I was merely making a simple comparison: if you're uncomfortable with the historically low casualty rate in Afghanistan, you ought also to be uncomfortable with the historically low casualty rate in our peacekeeping missions. If casualties are a reason to withdraw from the former, they're a reason to withdraw from the latter.

As to the criticism that I'm becoming a bit too partisan, I beg just another week or two until I'm all finished with exams (and law school for that matter), and I'll give you a post that will, I think, put that notion to rest. In the interim I'll just say that I substantially agree with both Coyne and Daifallah.

And keep the criticisms coming.

Posted by David Mader at 04:27 PM | (2) | Back to Main

May 03, 2007

Where's My Banner?

Is everyone having a problem loading the banner at the top of the page, or is it just me? Lemme know in the comments.

Posted by David Mader at 11:54 AM | (4) | Back to Main