Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Choosing To Fail, Revisited

I've been thinking a little more about the post I made yesterday about Josh Trevino's rather curious comment about "choosing to lose".

To reiterate, here's the comment in question:

Your solution basically calls for putting the country further in debt, wasting more American lives?

They're only wasted, of course, if we choose to lose. And it will be a choice.

Perhaps its because of my admitted befuddlement over Trevino's comment, but I think yesterday's post wasn't very well thought out. I was trying to wrap my head around this idea of "choosing to lose" and, in arguing against it, I appeared to argue that choice doesn't play a significant role in the question of success or failure.

Let me be clear on this: Choice most definitely does play a role in the question of success or failure.

What we choose to do in any particular situation can have a profound effect on whether we will succeed or not. Success is not simply a matter of chance, as my previous post appeered to suggest. Rather it is born from the confluence of chance with the choices we make to improve those chances.

So, for example, success in Iraq may have been brought closer to reality if we had choosen to send 500,000 troops into Iraq instead of only 150,000.

The cause of my befuddlement over Trevino's comment was not simply over the question of the role choice plays in success or failure. It was in his basic assertion that success can be achieved by "choosing not to lose". In other words, Trevino seems to be arguing that we can win in Iraq through a simple act of will.

There are two monumental problems with this position. First of all, it is magic thinking. No amount of wishing it can make something true if reality simply won't allow it. This is no different from the New Age motto "Visual World Peace".

Sorry, the world doesn't work that way.

The second problem is just as problematic: if success is ultimately a matter of "choosing not to lose", logically doesn't that mean that failure must be a direct result of "choosing to fail"? And doesn't that therefore mean that any position on the Iraq War that will likely lead to some measure of failure on the part of the United States must therefore, logically, be the result of a (conscious or not) desire to fail?

This is what I was trying to get at in my previous post. Trevino's "Success = Choosing not to lose" formulation inevitably leads to accusations that those who want to take a more realistic approach to the situation in Iraq, an approach that might lead to some measure of failure, are therefore "choosing to fail". Indeed, they must want to fail, otherwise why would they choose such a course of action?

Thus we find ourselves in our present prediciment, with any serious discussion of our options in Iraq derailed by accusations that anything less then full support of our present course must necessarily be the result of a desire to see American fail.

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