Friday, September 15, 2006

Moron Dubya's 'logic'

More on the point at the top of my previous post where I quoted Dubya's nonsense and said the following:
Commander Codpiece on the five-year anniversary, showing his stellar 'logic':
"Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq [and I sure ain't admittin' to any, yaknow...], the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone."
<*BZZZZT!!!*> Wrong. The worst mistake would be if we don't pull out -- after 2670 dead soldiers and counting, and $300B down the drain -- and the terrorists won't leave us alone. That means we've squandered a sh*tload of money and the blood of our sons and daughters for nothing.
Here's the payoff matrix below (I guess one might quibble about the exact numbers, but the idea is the same no matter what the numbers):

Terrorists decide to attack:
Terrorists decide not to attack:
We stay
in Iraq:
Another 2600 troops dead
Another $300B
Terrorist attack
Another 2600 troops dead
Another $300B
No terrorist attack
We pull out
of Iraq:

No more troops dead
$0B more
Terrorist attack
No more troops dead
$0B more
No terrorist attack

What Dubya's essentially saying is that bottom right outcome is impossible, and that if we're hoping for this one -- and act as we need to in order to achieve it -- we will instead get the bottom left outcome. Dubya of course provides no proof that the bottom right outcome is impossible (albeit we have no assurance that it will occur -- but that doesn't matter; see below).

What I said would be the worst mistake is if we don't pull out (putting us on the top line of the chart) and the terrorists still attack (giving us the upper left outcome).

I think I'm right and Dubya's wrong, and just a simple perusal of this game theory chart shows this.

Even if we assume for purposes of argument that the bottom right outcome is "wishful thinking" and could never happen, it's still pretty obvious what the worst outcome would be in terms of costs to us (listed in the boxes): We could continue losing soldiers, perhaps even another 2600, we could continue to haemorrhage money to the tune of another $300 billion, and the terrorists might still attack us and cause other monetary damage and casualties. That's what I said last post.

Dubya would have us believe that we have only two actual choices out of the four here: That we stay, and the terrorists don't attack, or we leave and the terrorists attack (top right and lower left, respectively). But this assumes that our staying actually will prevent another terrorist attack that would otherwise occur (and thus that the upper left outcome is impossible as well). Hardly supported by the evidence; we were attacked the first time when Saddam Hussein had an iron hand over Iraq. Maybe once we bollixed it up, it may now be more likely that we get attacked by terrorists operating from a lawless Iraq if we leave (but whose fault is that, anyway? Hardly Saddam's. Hint: Starts with "D" and ends in "ubya"). But I'd note that even if continued occupation of Iraq was successful in preventing terrorist attacks, we'd still just be trading lives and money for less terrorist attacks, and that might well be a wash in terms of costs.

But there's not only the question of capability, there's the question of intent. Both sides have the ability to choose what their intended action is, even if they won't necessarily achieve it. This is elementary game theory -- related, I think, to the "Prisoner's Dilemma". Both sides should choose their own course of action in a way that gives them the best expected payoff. For us, just looking at the matrix, it's clear that whatever the terrorists do, we're better off (considering only our own interests) to leave Iraq; if we don't leave, at best we might prevent a terrorist attack (if they decide to attack us anyway), but at a price. But looking at their "payoff", if they want to hurt us as much as possible, they'll attack anyway, putting us in the top left box (the worst for us) unless we leave (where we at least save the money and troops' lives). And if at least the terrorists in Iraq just want us the hell out of Iraq, they may not want to attack us if we just leave them be, so we might end up in the bottom right corner despite Dubya's protestations that this is impossible.

As I said, Dubya is wrong, and I am right. He dismisses, contrary to the evidence, two of the four possibilities, and one of them -- which he may be heading for -- is a real disaster. Doubt he'll listen to me ... or to reason ... though.


At 5:53 PM, Anonymous m! said...

Arne! I've been reading your posts and enjoying them a lot on Glenn's blog . . .

you rock . . . come visit my husband's blog at sometime!

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Arne Langsetmo said...

Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by, M!

I did stop by and was going to say "hi!" at Words On Fire, but I get an Apache "not found" error when I click the "comments" clicky. You might want to take a peek at that.

Do stop back!


At 7:58 PM, Blogger Stephen Premo said...


Granted, you refute George Bush's asinine logic, but I cannot see how you endorse your own. Simply, I feel they are too short-sighted, and fail to consider the effects on the region.

Pulling out of Iraq right now, before a unified government has been formed, would be catastrophic for the Middle East. The religious Sunni/Shi'a divide, as well as Kurdish/Arab/Persian ethnic tensions, would simply explode, and possibly give rise to a government more ruthless than the one we just deposed. The killing squads now rampaging Iraq would increase exponentially in number and audacity. It is already at risk for genocide.

While the terrorists threats may decrease at first, I would argue that a failed/rogue state in the Middle East would have far more ominous ramifications to U.S. and global security.

That is not to say our current policy in Iraq is the right one. Former Ambassador to Jordan Edward Gnehm believes that we will have to make concessions in the final framework of the Iraqi government. It is highly unlikely that an American-style democracy in Iraq could succeed. Rather, it should fit the sociopolitical realities of Iraq, and seek to protect minority rights within its borders. I agree with Ambassador Gnehm.

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Stephen Premo said...

Though it goes without saying, I'll say it anyway: American forces are needed to provide security while this government is being drafted.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Arne Langsetmo said...

Stephen Premo:

If the region will be destabilised by a U.S. pullout, then the U.S. ought to be trying to get together forces to help preserve stability there. Ones that don't have a big "bull's eye" on their hind quarters. We've done a lot to alienate our many erstwhile allies, but maybe if the situation warrants it, they'd come around if we showed some humility and went begging. Of course, that might be asking a lot from this maladministration....

I agree that it may be "rough times" in Iraq for a while regardless. Sad to say, how's that different from the 30-60 bodies shot in the head being dumped daily along side of roads nowadays?


At 12:10 AM, Blogger Stephen Premo said...


Right. I agree that our current administration has the political capital or humility to gather a NATO/U.N. security force, especially after we started a war of aggression. Until an opportunity arises, it seems that we should stay, but not stay the course--if that makes sense.

As for the mass killings, I think they could get a lot worse.

I see you comment frequently at unclaimed territory and balkinization, in an epic battle against Bart. It's always enjoyable. Keep it up.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Jassalasca Jape said...


I agree that sustaining the US military presence in Iraq makes no sense. But the matrix doesn't work for game theory analysis. In the Prisoner's Dilemma, neither of the suspects knows what the other is doing, but the cost of the choice each makes, to that party depends on the choice made by the other. The values in this matrix are costs to one party only, which is a different thing. You would need to add in the benefit to "the terrorists" to get things working in game theoretic terms. The logic on that score is, of course, a complete mess, because "the terrorists" are an amalgam of various boogeymen serving the rhetorical convenience of the President's dwindling innner circle. The argument for war seems to boil down to, "We don't know what's going on out there, so we'd better keep up the pressure and hope for the best".

It certainly takes a world of patience to address the childish reasoning of the administration and its supporters with a straight face. Keep at it!


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