Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lies, Quagmires, and Straight Thinking

My suspicions have been confirmed.

The president of the United States, and members of intelligence communities around the world, are human beings. And, they make mistakes.

The story broke in "Yahoo! News and "Politico."

You have to read between the lines, but the evidence is clear: These people are human beings, and can make mistakes!

"A question submitted from the online audience asked Bush whether he felt he had been misled about Iraq as he made the decision to go to war.

" ' "Misled" is a strong word,' he said. 'Not only our intelligence community, but intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment. And so I was disappointed to see how flawed our intelligence was.'

" 'Do I think somebody lied to me? No, I don't. I think it was just, you know, they analyzed the situation and came up with the wrong conclusion,' he added. "

I'm inclined to believe the president. Analyzing intelligence is tricky, but the best analysis in the world will be wrong if the data isn't accurate. It's the old 'GIGO' principle: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Gathering accurate intelligence data is tricky, because many countries - particularly the naughtier ones - don't seem willing to give accurate and complete accounts of what their supplies are, and what they plan to do with them.

One solution would be for the United Nations Security Council to draft a resolution, making it a rule that all countries would send each other complete reports on their military status.

I doubt, and hope, that not many people think a resolution like that, noble as it might be, would have much practical effect.

Unless people like the junta that's sabotaging relief efforts in Burma become peace-loving, generous, open, trusting leaders, gathering intelligence will be a dicey proposition at best.

Americans have a presidential election coming up. It is my fervent hope that American citizens who vote will set aside a little time, take deep breath, get informed, and think about their decision.

This is a time for reason and facts, not emotional reactions. All candidates are human beings, who live in an imperfect world. The past has shown that mistakes happen, and that the best data available isn't always accurate. The trick will be to figure out which candidate is least likely to use poor judgment, based on the information available.

On a brighter note, I haven't encountered the word "quagmire" recently. Perhaps someone has spread the word among those of a particular persuasion, that there are very few rice paddies in the Middle East. ("Quagmire: Now and Forever, it Seems" (November 11, 2007)).


Kelli said...

Informed voting is crucial. in Australia voting is Compulsory. many people are apathetic and voting can be based on a whim. our politicians know this...i suspect is why our current prime minister coloured his hair for his election campaign (blond to grey)!

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for your comment - and on-the-spot observation. Even without Compulsory voting, politicos will do odd things to enhance their odds of being elected: from Abraham Lincoln's beard to your current prime minister's hair job.

Truthfully, forcing the apathetic and uninformed to vote strikes me as a foolish policy.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.