Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Choosing To Fail

Josh Trevino and Armando have launched a new group blog, Swords Crossed. The goal of the site is to present an honest and reasoned dialog between two intelligent individuals of opposite political bent.

They are currently discussing Iraq, with cogent posts by both Trevino and Armando on the subject. I recommend reading both.

What I would like to talk about here, however, is something Trevino said in the comment section of his post. It's a minor comment mixed within a much larger set of comments, but I think it hilites a fundamental difference in our thinking on this issue.

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.

Does Trevino really think that losing only happens if the loser chooses to lose?

This may very well be the core of the disagreement (on this and many other issues): to what degree do our choices influence our consequent success or failure? Trevino appears to believe that success or failure is primarily, if not solely, dictated by choice and, therefore, if you fail, it must be because you choose to fail.

Myself, I believe that success or failure is influenced by our choices. But primarily only in the leadup to action. Once we are in the heat of it, especially in war, choice becomes a secondary influence, falling well behind chance.

You can choose to create a situation that improves your chance of success. But no amount of choice can ever guarantee success. Failure is not, ipso facto, evidence of a choice to fail. It may just be that your choices force you into a position where success is no longer an option. Then the only choice left to you is, if you are going to fail, how are you going to fail.

Does Trevino honestly believe that those of us who believe that the Iraq war is already lost want it to be a failure? That we chose the course of failure deliberately?

Does he really think we are that insane?

This is the kind of thing that ratches up my teeth grinding factor. How often have you run into the attitude that there is a preference, on our part, towards failure? Quite frequently I would imagine. Our antagonists don't usually come out this clearly and say that that is what they believe. But it colors their analysis of our beliefs.

When I read things like this it pisses me off, but I often can't put my finger on exactly why. The "choose to fail" frame is well hidden in the dialog. Frankly, it is just insulting for Trevino to suggest that people who have come to a different conclusion about Bush's Grand Adventure want that adventure to fail.

His "choose to fail" frame may explain why he and others like him so frequently misunderstand our point of view.


Blogger Pyrrho said...

the power of positive thinking!!!

what an overblown myth that has associated... I mean, and important myth, so we don't sabotage ourselves with defeatism, but still, a big myth not unlike "we use only 10% of our brain"... at a time. All just to urge us to try harder.

A great philosopher once noted such lies survive because they help us survive, and truths are, ironicially, not really chosen because they are truth.

And yeah, I think this is a problem with Trevino's thinking... and in general, you have not failed until you give up.

3:02 PM  

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