An interesting tack that Amartya Sen takes in Development as Freedom is to identify the informational exclusions that different belief systems make. Then, knowing what is excluded, look at both why that belief system makes those informational exclusions and the results of those informational exclusions. In particular, his critique of Libertarianism is whithering, but that’s a tangent to this post which is about all of the informational exclusions that were part of the planning of the War in Iraq and are also (probably) part of the current planning for war against Iran.
Certainly, the exclusion of quality information from the Intelligence services, and the doctoring of the reports that had been prepared, represent a whole class of conscious informational exclusions. Much has been written about these, which can be read here, here, here, and here.
But what is perhaps more important are those reflexive, or unconscious informational exclusions, of which there are several examples.
As a piece of background information, I’d like to start with a point made by William Buckley during his extremely polite 1969 debate on the Vietnam War with Noam Chomsky, (which I’d written about in the post: Is this progress?) right at the beginning of that debate:
Mr Chomsky, we are talking about American terror and I think you made the very accurate observation that we are responsible for what we do, but hardly responsible for what other people do, except insofar as we are in a position to influence them….
This point is remarkable in that it’s one of the very few things that Chomsky and Buckley both agree on and also because that point is central to the key informational exclusion that all of the apologists for the War in Iraq are making today. And this points to the mistakes that will likely be made in any future action in Iran.
Apparently those who decided the invade Iraq excluded the effect this invasion would likely have on one of the largest democracies in the region, namely Iran. Let’s not make the same exclusion and recall that Ahmadinejad, even at the first round, was far from a shoe-in:
The first round of the election was a very close race with minor differences in the number of votes won by each candidate which led to a run-off a week later with Ahmadinejad and ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani participating. There were seven people running for the post out of more than a thousand initial candidates, most of whom were disqualified by the Guardian Council, which holds veto power over all political candidates in Iran. Rafsanjani, who had been regarded as the front-runner and had positioned himself as a centrist, was defeated by Ahmadinejad in the run-off, while reformist candidate Mostafa Moeen fared poorly and finished only fifth in the first round.
This was the first presidential runoff in the history of Iran. Before the run-off took place, it was compared to the 2002 French presidential election, where the splintering of the left-wing vote similarly led to a run-off between the moderate Jacques Chirac and the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen. The comparison was made because of the unexpected votes in favor of Ahmadinejad, the very close race, and the comparability of the political standings of Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad to those of Chirac and Le Pen. But after the results for the run-off were made public, the comparison was considered void due to the loss of the moderate candidate Rafsanjani, and the inability of Ahmadinejad‘s opponents to form a majority alliance against him.
Question then for Mr Bush is, how does he like his candidate for the Iranian presidency?
So, while keeping this informational exclusion in our minds let’s and remember some important thoughts on War from Col Boyd, summarized by John robb over at Global Guerillas:
Grand strategy, according to Boyd, is a quest to isolate your enemy’s (a nation-state or a global terrorist network) thinking processes from connections to the external/reference environment. This process of isolation is essentially the imposition of insanity on a group. To wit: any organism that operates without reference to external stimuli (the real world), falls into a destructive cycle of false internal dialogues. These corrupt internal dialogues eventually cause dissolution and defeat.
The dynamic of Boyd’s grand strategy is to isolate your enemy across three essential vectors (physical, mental, and moral), while at the same time improving your connectivity across those same vectors.
Now, who do you think is more isolated and losing this War?