Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On Avoiding Hasty Decisions

I do not always agree with Mark Mardell's British take on what happens here in the United States, but I have to recommend his latest editorial on BBC News with the provocative title, "How strong is US evidence of Syria chemical attack?" The source of the evidence he considers comes basically from yesterday's speech by Secretary of State John Kerry. Mardell's conclusion is that much of what Kerry presented as "evidence" is actually circumstantial, that sinister adjective that haunts everyone hooked on crime shows on television. Unfortunately, questions of casus belli are not settled by an impartial judicial authority, with or without input from objections raised by lawyers. Decisions about war rest with our Executive and Legislative branches, neither of which have a particularly good track record on making effective decisions (or, for that matter, making decisions at all).

Mardell's punch line offers his own take on decision-making and authority:
Mr Kerry is of course right that most people will think as he does, simply from watching the TV pictures.
Some, however, will demand much stronger proof, particularly in the wake of the faulty intelligence that was used as a reason to go to war against Iraq.
Mardell seems to have been the first voice of the media to explicitly talk about Syria in the context of what Yogi Berra famously called "déjà vu all over again." Let us hope that his is not the only voice that dares to take our willful ignorance of history to task.

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