Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Obama Fallacy

There was a book review in the WSJ recently. The book described how the Ottoman empire was able to survive for so much longer than the Roman empire, despite its many disadvantages. The author attibutes it to the Ottoman's strategic vision. But to say that there was such a thing as an "Ottoman strategic vision" begs a number of questions. After all, how did such a thing get preserved over the hundreds of years the empire survived?

I suspect one way is to summarize strategic insights in an easily remembered way. If America is to survive as well (or better?) than the Ottomans did, perhaps we ought to be able to do the same. One simple to remember insight is that there are such things as "enemies" and that we can't just explain away our differences. Some countries are at odds with us, and must be out-manouvered. We cannot simply persuade them that they are wrong.

This fallacy that we can talk our way out of all difficulties is popular, perhaps because it presents us with a world in which we need not make hard choices. Sitting down with our adversaries is so much easier than confronting them! So to avoid falling into such a dangerously enticing trap, we need a good way to remember to avoid it. Perhaps we can find a particularly vivid and charismatic exemplar, and name it after him?


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