Monday, September 2, 2013

Syria and the Art of Rationalization

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” - Carl Sagan, “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”

“Rationalization is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.” - Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It?”

Have you ever noticed how human beings can be fascinating (and disturbing) in how we rationalize things?

Take Syria as an example.

100,000 Syrians have been killed and countless Syrians have been wounded since their civil war began.

Amongst the wounded, untold thousands have lost limbs, eyes or other parts of their bodies and are permanently maimed.

Parents have lost children.

Children have become orphaned.

And yet it takes the use of chemical weapons by one side or the other to finally reach what we define as unacceptable behavior.

Which means that up to now, diplomats and politicians consider the wounding, maiming and killing of people (including children) as “acceptable” behavior.

I find that pretty disturbing and disappointing. It also makes me wonder what else diplomats and politicians consider normal behavior if they can rationalize this to be normal.

I’d like to ask our leaders about truths in the world but then I think of ….

1. My former father-in-law (a USAF Colonel) warning me of a pending, inevitable event of terrorists flying hijacked domestic aircraft into buildings (he told me in 1993) and yet we publicly acted surprised and outraged when 9/11 occurred 8 years later.

2. The issue with the nonexistent WMDs in Iraq and what that war produced - no tangible “win”, the region as unstable as ever and with thousands of their civilians and our troops killed or wounded.

3. The he said / she said about domestic surveillance, what is real versus what people claim they are doing.

4. Senator John McCain’s call that military strikes in Syria are necessary to “degrade Assad’s capabilities and upgrade that of the rebel forces” and the potential issues that such action will create, especially since we (including the government) know that the rebels are heavily infiltrated / supported by Al Qaeda.  Don’t forget that we trained Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan without a thought as to what happens when allies become foes.

5. John Kerry’s “knowledge” of the attack in Syria, how he knows who did it, why and with what even before the investigators on the ground know, culminating with his use of this photo as evidence.

ScreenHunter_17 Aug. 31 10.50

But I guess you’ve heard by now that the photo that John Kerry used, when he claimed he saw this carnage in Syria with his own eyes, was actually a recycled photo, having been taken in Iraq in 2003.

So if practically anything, no matter how heinous,  can be rationalized as acceptable and honesty is so elusive and hard to find within our leaders, I wonder what the collision of these two attributes will produce next.

Do you ever wonder?

Do you even care?

Because when we don’t care about the future we are creating, we become ensnared in a modern definition of irony:

Irony: If we have a nuclear (or other type of) war or other serious threats are made against us, the only ones who will be spared are the leaders who started it.

In service and servanthood,



One final though on rationalization.  We condemn nations who use or threaten to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons while we have stockpiles of all three (and have used one or more in our history). 

While the use of any of these weapons is undoubtedly evil, we wouldn’t have stockpiles of them unless we were prepared to use them (otherwise why even have them).

But I guess if that time ever arrives when we feel that we need to use them, we will have rationalized their use by then anyway so it will be all good.

Addendum – September 4, 2013

I guess we can’t ask Senator McCain for any information given that during the Syrian hearings yesterday, he was photographed playing poker on his iPhone and therefore probably not playing close attention.  At least he can cram for the final vote by reading his briefing notes later.

We can’t ask Mr. Kerry either given that US estimates of Syrian casualties are 4 times everyone else’s estimates (including the UK and France) but we are not allowed to know the reason for the discrepancy because the “methodology” that he used cannot be revealed due to national security reasons.

The US administration has also compared Syria’s threat to US national security as being on the same scale as the US not taking action against Nazi Germany during World War II.  The latter had aspirations to take over the world by force.  I don’t recall seeing Syria express any desire to do the same. 

Mr. Kerry also said today that the war against Syria would be ok because Arab countries have offered to pay for an invasion that unseats Assad.  If other governments can hire the US military to solve their own needs without any identifiable benefit to the US, doesn’t this degrade the great US military to being a bunch of hit men for hire?  Hasn’t the President constantly reiterated that his intention is to not unseat Assad? 

I wonder if leaders who zone out when critical matters are at hand, who can’t share information that would enable us to make informed, supportive decisions or who overhype reality are the types of leaders we need in challenging times.

Or has our democracy so devolved that our opinions don’t matter anymore?

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