Andrew Sullivan has a good letter from a reader explaining why it’s so infuriating to watch neocons, as stupid as ever, imagine that the events in Iran somehow vindicate their position, when in fact the opposite is true. Of course, the opposite is always true: everything is always constantly refuting neoconservatism, much as everything is always constantly refuting Aristotelian mechanics, Maoist economics, and various other completely wrong doctrines.
I just wanted to note that for me, the kernel of untruth that replicates into a totality of error in neoconservative thought is the…well, actually, there are two kernels. I was about to write that the kernel was the identification of “America” with “freedom”, such that anyone who loves freedom, which is everyone, must ipso facto love America. Hence everyone loves America, and anyone who doesn’t love America is some kind of abomination inimical to the universe, and must be destroyed.
But in fact there’s a deeper kernel to the neocon mind, and that is an inability to cope with the ambiguity of information; or, to say the same thing, the ambiguity of reality; or, to say the same thing, the multiplicity of human subjectivity. The neocon mind is binary: Saddam either does or does not have WMD. If he has WMD, we must invade. The Iranian people either do or do not support their government. If they do not, then they will welcome American efforts to overthrow it. Neocons find it difficult to handle the discounting one must apply to large quantities of complex information drawn from different sources in order to come to a reasonable conclusion. They don’t work with a good theory of mind that allows for comparing unreliable info (from Curveball, say) to reliable info (from Hans Blix, say). And because they don’t recognize the ambiguity of the underlying info, they have no room for accepting the fact that different people have different perceptions of that info, and that actions have to adjust to the reality of varying perceptions. They can’t accept that some people, say, might believe with justification that the US is not altruistic and freedom-seeking; people like that, they think, are simply wrong, so we don’t need to pay attention to them. They live in a world of Newtonian ballistics, where the state of the world is exact and knowable, where bad guys are bad in the way that an 8-ball is black, and a given bankshot either will or will not sink it in the corner pocket. And so the solutions they apply to the world’s problems tend to be ballistic, as well. So far, they have a success rate of 0.0%. That’s a piece of hard data which even a neocon ought to be able to process; but for some reason they never do.
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