Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who cares?

Let's examine Michael O'Hanlon's latest USA Today essay. It's actually quite thin in substance. Here are the negatives he says might occur if the United States pulls out of Iraq:
  1. [It wouldn't be] "supported by most leaders — American or Iraqi — on the ground in Iraq."
  2. "The odds are" "we will lose"
  3. "The odds are" "Iraq will descend into all-out civil war"
  4. "risk regional turmoil"
  5. "some al-Qaeda strongholds being re-established in key Iraqi cities"
That's it. Not much, and not much to care about. Let's address them, item by item:
  1. We shouldn't get out of Iraq because American or Iraqi leaders don't support it? Without saying why "leaders" take that view (which may not even be true) the argument is nothing more than an Appeal to Authority.
  2. O'Hanlon's personal definition of losing is pulling out, a propaganda technique known as Victory by Definition.
  3. Iraqi civil war. But is it in America's interest to stop it, should it happen? It would make Iraq much weaker than when it was a "threat" under Saddam. Maybe a civil war is in the interests of America. Of interest, O'Hanlon mentions the U.S. Civil War and wasn't that a necessary step towards a better world? For the most part though, O'Hanlon's raising the spectre of civil war is an Appeal to Emotion.
  4. "Regional turmoil" threatens who? Not Kuwait. Not Saudi Arabia. Not any of the oil-rich Gulf States. They can be defended very easily. O'Hanlon has to provide plausible scenarios where "regional turmoil" creates problems. Instead he engages in Vagueness,
  5. The al-Qaeda bogeyman. Al-Qaeda is not a serious threat to the United States, and not a threat that justifies military occupation of a state. Also, al-Qaeda never was established in Iraq, so O'Hanlon's concern that it will be "re-established" is nonsense. But al-Qaeda is scary, in many people's minds, so we see another instance of Appeal to Emotion.
If you've ever read a book on logic or propaganda, you will recognize that O'Hanlon uses many well known techniques (Appeal to Authority, Victory by Definition, Appeal to Emotion, Vagueness). He did that in the USA Today piece. O'Hanlon cannot be trusted.

WORD COUNT: Of interest, the essay is 1004 words. Only 64 words (3 sentences) are devoted to the alleged downside of withdrawal.
But neither candidate's approach would be supported by most leaders — American or Iraqi — on the ground in Iraq. [...] The odds are that if we leave soon, we will lose, and Iraq will descend into all-out civil war far worse than what occurred in 2006. This will in turn risk regional turmoil and the likelihood of some al-Qaeda strongholds being re-established in key Iraqi cities.
The rest of the essay is talk about progress, hoped-for progress, and complaints about Democrats. But progress, even if it is real, is not an argument for staying. An argument for staying has to make the case that leaving will lead to (significant) problems. On that score, O'Hanlon provides the most minimal, and propaganda-laden, content.


An argument for staying has to make the case that leaving will lead to (significant) problems

No it doesn't. It has to make the case that staying better serves our national interests than leaving.

Your inventory of the "logical fallacies" is meaningless because the article does not proport to constitute a logical proof that we should stay in Iraq; it is a political argument, and political arguments and logical proofs simply don't follow the same rules.

It's would be a fallacious appeal to authority to say that "Crest is scientifically proven to be better because four out of five dentists recommend it." It would not be a fallacious appeal to authority to say that "we should serve prime rib at the Dental convention because four out of five conventioning dentists recommend it."

The actual effectiveness of Crest is independent of the opinions of dentists, which is why the appeal to authority is invalid, but "American or Iraqi leaders" are the actual players in the political game, and the outcome of the war is very much dependent on the opinions of those politicians. That is why using the opinions of politicians on the political process is not an "appeal to authority."

You make a dozen or more points, some valid and some not, but you cannot and did not prove your point by reliance on logical theorems. The arguments are political, and the answers are not necessarily logical.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/11/2008 8:54 PM  

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