Thursday, June 19, 2014

Should the United Kingdom have stayed out of WWI?

The recent events in IRQ have bought out a lot of “Look, my clock is right!” moments that just makes my eyes roll. There have been even more cases of static time-travel analysis and self-second guessing; that is just pathetic.

Just stop. You’re just losing respect from both allies and opponents of your previous position – and it does absolutely nothing for the very real problem at hand.

Some are stating with the events in Iraq as of late that, “I was wrong, we should never have invaded Iraq.” That kind of decade-late moping is an insult to history, logic, and an unnecessary exercise. As if since success in '08 everything froze in place.

Yes ... success. Event President Obama agrees(d)

It is much worse than Monday morning quarterbacking. It is as intellectually lazy as judging historical figures dead hundreds to thousands of years by the modern moral, political, or scientific standards of the 21st century.

At a given place and time, decision makers have to make hard decisions given the facts that they know, or should know, at a snapshot in time. Information is often incomplete, and of the many variables one has in the decision making process, some will be false, some will be negative vice positive indicators of the truth. You cannot expect or claim perfection.

It is fair to look at the same information they had and come to a different recommendation, but it has to be done ignoring the subsequent events they were not aware of. A very difficult exercise with even the best minds.

It is also fair to make statements such as, “If they had only known X in time, then their might have been a different path taken.” It is not fair to take a decision made in, say, 2003 – freeze it, ignore all the following decisions, events, paths not taken, change, multiple iterations of responses to changes – and then over a decade later, look at where things are and say, “See!”

We should be so lucky as to be able to time travel, but we can’t. Along a timeline, victories can be turned in to defeat, and defeats in to victories – all due to known and unknown variables that change over time. Causal event chains have an infinite number of branches from creation to the crack of doom, so you have to be responsible on how you judge events in their time and place.

What is happening now in Iraq was not inevitable. It could have been avoided by different decisions being made at one time or another – and the next part is key - we know what the present is. What we do not know is what alternative presents there could have been if different decisions were made at various points in time.

It is the height of arrogance to think that the situation we have right now is better or worse than any other "present." If we never invaded Iraq in 2003, the alternative 2014 could have been better … or could have been very worse. We simply do not know. All we know is the now.

In my 20s & 30s, I read a lot of alternative histories like Robert Harris’s Fatherland and so on. They are fun in this respect; they give you an appreciation of the role of chance and chaos in this world, and the need to bend and adjust to changes, to not be rigid in your perceptions and expectations. History always wins, for better or worse.

Using the present standard of belly-button picking logic I have been reading in the last week from some, one can clearly argue that the United Kingdom should not have blindly followed its commitment to Belgian neutrality and coordinated planning with the French in the lead up to WWI. 

With the slaughter of WWI & II, and the warping effects of Fascism and Communism that were the bastard children of the Great War – then those who say we should have never invaded Iraq should, to maintain consistency, state that it would have been better for all involved if the Central Powers were allowed to defeat France and Russia in WWI; that the United Kingdom should have sat on the sidelines. If they had, Italy would have. The USA would have … and most likely today there would still be a German Emperor, an Austro-Hungarian Empire, and any growing Islamic radicalization would be a problem of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire; or maybe not.

Of course, this is all very silly.

In summary, be careful with hindsight – and don’t be a smug, know it all jerk. That is the job of a blogger.

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