Nothing learned, nothing forgotten

I haven’t posted on the recent terror attacks, or the various responses, because I have nothing new to say, and nothing old to repeat that hasn’t been said, or repeated, better by others. It appears that no one has learned anything in the decade or so since the Iraq war began. This 2003 post from the Onion just needs the dates changed to be applicable (or not, for those who support the side being satirised here) to the current debate.

Having said all this, have I learned anything myself? The Iraq war turned me from being a liberal interventionist (though opposed in the case of Iraq) to a strongly anti-war viewpoint.

By December 2005, I had this to say[^1]

It would be a salutory effort to look over the wars, revolutions and civil strife of the last sixty years and see how many of the participants got an outcome (taking account of war casualties and so on) better than the worst they could conceivably have obtained through negotiation and peaceful agitation. Given the massively negative-sum nature of war, I suspect the answer is “Few, if any”.

The ten years since 2005 have confirmed me in the rightness of my views[^2]. But since the same is true of nearly everyone on all sides, that’s not very helpful.

[^1]: It should go without saying, but this applies at least as much to terrorism as to political violence in general. The deliberate brutality of terrorism induces more brutality in response (as it is designed to do), and makes it even less likely that the outcome will be better than the starting point.

[^2]: I’ve wavered from time to time, but experience has proved that I was wrong to do so. The case for war, however compelling it might seem at the time, has always turned out to be untenable.

81 thoughts on “Nothing learned, nothing forgotten

  1. @BilB

    The basis of my denial is not only ‘That’s what Japan decided at the time’, and I’m more than happy to explain the basis for my denial at greater length if anybody’s interested.

    But even if the only basis for my denial were ‘That’s what Japan decided at the time’, it’s still more basis for my position than your stating that you think it’s true because you think it’s true.

  2. > I did not affirm that I cannot possibly stop responding to you.

    Wasn’t me.

    Not normal behaviour, that, forgetting who you’re talking to and treating them all interchangeably. I mean, I didn’t explicitly point it out that I’m not a person you’ve been engaging with recently, but… well, I don’t exactly have a bland written style [or at least I don’t use one here], and there’s that handle tag under the head profile to the left.

    Like I said, not normal. Plus, y’know, all that stuff I wrote in the first post: each individual element points to the one conclusion, that you don’t realise — appreciate would be a better word — that different people are different: different knowledge, different preferences, different conclusions. Different from each other, and also different from you.

    This is a Problem.

  3. @Collin Street

    Yes, I know it wasn’t you.

    I did not affirm that I could not possibly stop responding to the person who was my interlocutor.

    What I wrote was to the effect that if my interlocutor wanted the exchange between us to stop, the interlocutor should stop responding to my comments.

    What I wrote was applicable generically, to any interlocutor in any exchange, including the specific individual was my interlocutor in the specific exchange under discussion.

    I am well aware that other people are different, with different knowledge, different preferences, and different conclusions; different from each other, and different from me.

    For example, I understand that some people, when they find an exchange (for example, an exchange with me) to be unsatisfactory, prefer to adopt approaches that are different from the approaches I prefer.

    In some cases, people prefer to adopt approaches that don’t work — and by ‘don’t work’, I mean ‘are ineffective or inefficient in achieving the goals of the person adopting them’.

    Maybe it is sometimes the case that the strategy you have a preference for is a strategy that is not going to achieve what you want it to achieve. Maybe when you are in that situation you prefer not to be told that what you are doing is not going to work (even though that’s true). Some people have preferences like that. You may be one of them. I don’t know.

  4. @BilB

    Well, what?

    When you ask ‘Well?’, do you mean ‘Yes, please, I am interested in understanding the basis of your judgement that it was not logistically feasible for Japan to launch a successful invasion of Australia during the Second World War, do please continue’?

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