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December 08, 2007

Comments

Eliezer and the others:

Did you ever consider questioning the basic assumption that the 9-11 attack was perpetrated by muslims?

There is overwhelming evidence pointing to an inside job. Google if you want to know more.

"I guess we can try to have a debate in the philosophies about appropriate response, but I know if some dude ran a plane into my house, I'd want to kick his ass."

As I keep trying to explain to Bush Plan supporters: that is exactly what we are failing to do, and it is precisely because of the stupidity (or "inappropriateness" if you prefer) of our response to the attack that we are failing to do it.

To put it in terms that the unashamedly "WHUP ASS!!" crowd can understand: the perpetrators have probably become exhausted from rolling around on the floor laughing at us for the past few years, because we did *exactly* what they wanted.

The emotional reaction may be seductively appealing, but it is one through which you can be manipulated. Is that what you want?

NYC 9/11 Survivor. Generally during a gunfight, it is a bad idea to let the enemy know
he has hurt you. The voices of civilians placed at risk and even the voices of
civilian HEROES, including the building maintenance crew were NOT HEARD.

TV and media focus on Guliani, presidential candidate. His choice of 'command center'
was located at Ground Zero and could not be used. Confusion reigned, according to the
Village Voice.

Fury and folly together is dangerous. Many guys when lost, speed up I am angry I am late.
They rarely consider asking others for directions.

When you are in a hole (whether Ground Zero) stop digging.

History Channel on TV cable shows numerous traps set on the battlefield by
'enemy cowards' running away and luring the enemy into an ambush.

Car Theft has decreased in Canada since the 'bait car',www.baitcar.com.
Car theft is skyrocketing near the Mexican border. Thieves cannot
tell whether the 'bait car' means a trip to jail.

The key concept appears to be "fight enemy in the Middle East, BEFORE they
come to the U.S."
http://www.d-n-i.net/
Is this key concept flawed? Perhaps like Amory Lovins said,
decentralization of office space, transportation systems. Perhaps
movement of 'key infrastructure' like nuclear power plants located near
New York City AWAY FROM THE CITY.

PS. The reason why George Washington won against the British is that the British army was
trained to take orders from the very top. Some commands needed a COMMAND from
the English King, which took months by ship messenger. Colonists were very decentralized and so,
used 'guerrilla tactics.'
Colonists had no money, had to import all their gunpower supplies, had NO KING. They had no
military school.
Colonists came from different backgrounds, were tired of fighting the Indians,
lived in a new and strange land.
Some colonists remained loyal to the King and there were 'traitors like Benedict Arnold.'
General George Washington did not have formal military school. He was a wealthy landowner
and had a lot to lose by 'taking sides with the colonists.'
His wife begged him NOT to join the war. (pure speculation meant to be provocative).

What if George Washington had joined the British enemy or remained neutral?

steven: I looked for that same quote. What's happened in comments was so predictable, and Yudkowsky must have known any abstract point about bias would be lost. Even got Truthers scuttling out from under their rock. Maybe he was trying to attract more eyeballs (reddit), fair enough if so, awfully close to trolling.

An personal observation: best for me to learn to address the way of thinking, not the thought.

With that in mind, I thought I'd address a thought or two...

First, the discussion about "bravery" vs "cowardice" is dumb.
One can be brave and cowardly at the same time. You can bravely
perform a cowardly act. Easy.

Secondly, it occurs to me that a "real" war would require a draft.
If this is the Monumental Challenge of the Centuries (as we are told
it is), then why, OH WHY, don't we have conscription? Absolutely no
need for shortages of soldiers...!...draft everyone! Easy.
Of course if that happened, this phoney-baloney war would be over
in 10 minutes.

In essence, this entire worldwide situation is a new construct for the future -
being controlled by the most powerful, bloodthirsty elements of the international
business/intelligence community. The stage has been set to slowly extract and bewilder
our basic desire for representative democracy. Yahoo has practiced repressive censorship
in COMMUNIST CHINA, and will soon be plying the same trade in the US. But gradually,
so most people will neither notice...nor CARE.

Of course, I may be wrong. Fuck it, let's get a pizza. I'll buy.

Burger flipper, as nearly as I can recall, those were literally my first three conscious reactions with no intervening thoughts. Could be retrospective distortion, but I think I summarized those three thoughts shortly after 9/11 (same day?) so it's not quite a first attempt to recall after years. As you say, though, retrospective distortion is subtle. I'd rate the probability higher than 0.02 though. (Doesn't alter the logic of the post either way, except to point up that the overreaction was foreseeable in advance, not just in hindsight.)

Steven and Cerebus, the point here was a very short distance from ones I'd already made in "Uncritical Supercriticality" and "Affective Death Spirals". At some point you have to apply the ideas... still, I confess I wasn't visualizing this result. Wasn't visualizing the #1 on Reddit either, but it raises interesting questions about whether rationality should be occasionally relevant in order to survive as a conversation.

Don't know if I can blame bad form on making 78 McSkillet Burritos.

That morning I was a fine display of generalizing from fictional evidence.
Most salient among my initial thoughts seeing the buildings on TV: that looks like the end of Fight Club.
Then on the drive in I was listening to NPR. A reporter was live on air and on site as the plane struck the Pentagon. From that I extrapolated (momentarily) the existence of a far larger plot.

Had this blog only existed back then.

However, the most impressive reaction I'm aware of came from an high school chum of my mother, a woman who (Mom not chum) has, with the onset of her dotage, taken up appeals to authority as a reaction to stressful scenarios. She emailed him within 2 or 3 days of the event with a simple, "what do you think will happen?"

He replied: "I think we'll invade Iraq."

"Thank goodness it wasn't nuclear."

Don't thank goodness just yet. It will be. Probably not in Palo Alto, but Washington DC is a good bet.

After that you'll see an "over reaction" to remember.

Rely upon it.

Well I find an underreaction from the people who if they investigated some facts about 9/11 would see it had to be an inside job. No hijackers they weren't on the flight lists. They say they ID'd everybody in the planes including the hijackers. Where did they get the DNA to check that? Go back one day 09/10/01 and goodle Donald Rumsfailed at the Pentagon and see him announce that the Pentagon has misplaced 2.3 TRILLION Dollars. And what luck 9/11 the next day so no more questions about the missing money. We never should have bombed anybody for 9/11 except the White House. Bush said he saw the first plane hit at the school. NOBODY saw that video till either later in the day or the next day. Why would the school have cable TV and who would be filming the WTC before the planes hit? Bush told reporters before he entered the school that he knew about NY and would take questions later. Well we know he was trying to read in the classroom when the 2nd plane hit so how did he see the first plane again? Impossible is what I say but no one dare ask him again how he recalls that day. This was 3 months after 9/11 at a townhall meeting. Google it if you don't believe me. 9/11 has more lies than lives lost.

For the record, as far as my knowledge goes, the reasons George Washington won against the English are:

1) He avoided fighting battles that could lead to a decisive English victory; all he had to do was "not lose" and make the English keep spending resources to try to finish his forces off. Until...
2) Benjamin Franklin was able to persuade France to lend military support. France had a military as strong as England; it was basically the French army that won the American colonies their independence.

Wow, have I gotten off-topic...

A few points.

I also, on 9/11, thought, and in fact could see, that we'd overreact. I was in a bar where the average opinion was expressed as "just bomb'em, just bomb'em to pieces." I was there saying "bomb who?" I would have said "bomb whom" but it wasn't that kind of bar.

But the point of my post is that no one can calculate the ramifications of actions, or inactions. Did Hiroshima/Nagasaki cost lives, or save them? That's one of the clearest examples of "saving by killing" I can imagine, and I mean saving Japanese lives as well as American lives. Yet many auto-condemn the bombings. And they might be right. None of us can ever know.

The Iraq war isn't nearly so clearly correct, and my guess is that it costs more lives than it saves. But I recognize that I'm guessing. This blog is about bias. How many people are willing to say that they can only guess whether the war saves or costs lives, and further admit that their guess might be seriously biased? Even the "facts" are biased. The million civilian deaths, for example. No one short of God knows how many people have died in Iraq since the invasion. No one has the facts, we only have biased guesses labelled, for propaganda purposes, "facts." The same people who would never blindly accept a Bush Admin figure will blindly accept an anti-Bush figure. And, both sides will then forget, or guess on air, how many people whould have died, and it would have to be something of a time value calc, if Iraq had NOT been invaded. And all of this so far is without also weighing the relative value of lives, US vs Iraqi, peaceful vs. warmongering, educated vs ignorant, and so on. IOW, these are impossible calculations.

So, did we overreact to 9/11, or properly react? My point was and is that it isn't possible to know, it's only possible to--with bias--guess, claim, propagandize, lawyer, etc.

As to the separate "cowardice" debate in this thread--relevant to bias because the label is being rejected because of political bias--let me ask this.

A man loses his job, can't find another, can't support his family, and so kills himself. Bravery?
A woman gets divorced, fears being alone, kills herself. Bravery?

Now, that's "personal" suicide, you'll be saying. Not "political" suicide. As if mass murder of civilians changes it from cowardice to bravery. As if killing yourself in the attack, so that you don't face the consequences of your mass murder, changes it from cowardice to bravery. As if being deluded into thinking you'll be banging virgins later changes it from cowardice to bravery. As if causing the "million civilian deaths" your some people claim came later, changes it from cowardice to bravery. The terrorists, with arms, attacked the unarmed. With intent to war, attacked those with no such intent. With planning, attacked those without notice. If you don't know how incredibly cowardly all that is, be grateful for your prozac prescription.

If 20 Al Quaeda members gave notice they were going to attack, say, a US embassy or marine base, and thereupon did and died trying, as they surely would if they'd given notice, they would've have gotten respect, and their political message would have been heard. People would have to say "Wow, that was a suicidal attack, but, man, it took a lot of heart, so they must really believe in what they were saying...what were they saying?"

The Iraq war isn't nearly so clearly correct, and my guess is that it costs more lives than it saves.

You're joking, right?

their political message would have been heard

I don't think you understand the nature of their message. They weren't trying to get themselves killed as a form of political protest, they were trying to get themselves killed in order to demonstrate that the US could be hurt, and badly, by people willing to risk their lives to do so.

As such, their strategy was quite brilliant.

Empires always sneer at the efforts of guerillas and people who won't fight by 'civilized' rules as cowards - see the British response to the Americans' refusal to adopt mass marching tactics during the Revolutionary War.

The Americans DID adopt mass marching tactics during the Revolutionary War. We even won battles that way!

Here is Wikipedia on the mistaken idea that the American Revolution was won by guerrilla tactics.

Wow, the cowardice thing again. To review:

1) Eliezer_Yudkowsky *just made* a post arguing that it's not very virtuous to do things at great person risk when you believe you're immortal, and when you believe you are doing it to get great things in the afterlife.
2) The 9/11 hijackers believed they would be greatly rewarded in the after life.
3) It does not take much courage to argue on the internet, or in public forums.
4) The 9/11 hijackers did not argue their point of view with their intellectual opponents.
5) But, the 9/11 hijackers were courageous.

I agree: let's not look for whatever flimsy pretense we can, for throwing a negative label at people we don't like. But "9/11 terrorist were cowards" is a bad example of that. Here are some better examples of wrong labels:

The 9/11 hijackers were...

-disloyal
-hypocritical
-short-sighted

Caledonian, joking in which way?

If you can't make the argument that the invasion is saving lives, and if you can't make the argument that it's costing lives, you don't belong in the argument.

"The same people who would never blindly accept a Bush Admin figure will blindly accept an anti-Bush figure."

Notice how you assume, without bothering to Google it, that the million-casualties figure was "anti-Bush". If it came from Clinton for President, or MoveOn, or the Democratic Party, you would have a case. In reality, the survey was conducted by Opinion Research Business, an independent polling agency which is not even US-based (their HQ is in London). The same group has published pro-Bush results in the past (eg, see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article1530526.ece).

"The terrorists, with arms, attacked the unarmed. With intent to war, attacked those with no such intent. With planning, attacked those without notice."

Uh, we do this all the time, and nobody here has called us cowardly. Air Force bombers, from thirty thousand feet, routinely drop bombs without prior warning on people who cannot possibly retaliate. Even assuming no civilians are killed (which is almost never the case), insurgents with AK-47s cannot realistically hurt B-52s.

rukidding, it's obvious that it's saved some lives (of people who would have been killed by Saddam Hussein and his minions) and cost some lives (of people killed by US forces, or by the people opposing them, or as a result of the general state of lawlessness and civil war in Iraq, or because the chaos there has produced poverty, poor healthcare, etc.), and certainly someone who is unable to consider both doesn't belong in the argument.

But if you're saying that no one "belongs in the argument" who can't make both a serious argument that *on balance* lives have been saved by the invasion and a serious argument that *on balance* lives have been lost by the invasion ... well, that's only true if *in fact* the evidence is rather evenly balanced, and I see no reason to think it is.

The Americans DID adopt mass marching tactics during the Revolutionary War. We even won battles that way!

Okay, fine, let me rephrase: to the Americans' willingness to resort to nonstandard tactics.

It would seem to me we have all missed the point here. If we were not arrogant enough to presume we have a right to invoke military presence in their countries in the first place, they would not have felt the need to attack us. Simply put, if we had left them alone, they would leave us alone. PERIOD.

R U Kidding, it seems to me that you are not serious and I mostly don't want to reply to you. However, you have said some things that look like they could lead to interesting conversation among actual commenters.

_But the point of my post is that no one can calculate the ramifications of actions, or inactions. Did Hiroshima/Nagasaki cost lives, or save them? That's one of the clearest examples of "saving by killing" I can imagine, and I mean saving Japanese lives as well as American lives. Yet many auto-condemn the bombings. And they might be right. None of us can ever know._

The biggest reason this is confusing is that when we look at consequences of our actions, we want to choose some alternative to compare against.

So to argue that we "saved lives" by nuking japan, the argument is basicly "If we hadn't nuked japan we would have done something even more stupid and even more murderous. Compared to the only alternative, nuking japan was better."

I say this is a stupid argument. If you choose the "only alternative" carefully you can argue that anything which has survivors has saved lives. For example, imagine we nuked the USSR in 1987 or so, destroying most of the russian nukes along with 85% of the population of the USSR. But they hit us back with 20 remaining missiles, killing 15% of the US population. The argument could be made, "The USSR was inevitably going to attack us and kill most of our population, and our second-strike capability would hit them just as hard; maybe everybody in the world would die from the radiation. So by killing hundreds of millions of people and getting 45 million americans killed, we saved lives." We know now that the USSR didn't attack us and nobody seems to be particularly worried that russia will do so in the foreseeable future. But if we'd made that first strike we wouldn't know that. You could argue that the only alternative was a bigger nuclear war, and there would be no proof you were wrong.

Is there any value in such comparisons? Sometimes we're choosing what to do. Then we need to accept our limitations, and choose the best plan we can actually choose. If there's a better way available but we aren't good enough people to try it, then that plan is no good. Choose the best plan you can actually carry out.

But sometimes we're arguing about how good we did in the past. And in that context we should compare against the best plan available to us, whether we were psychologically ready to try it or not.

When we're arguing about how good we are, it's stupid to count up the number of people we killed against the number of people the bad guys would have killed. The bad guys kill innocent people -- they're bad guys, that's what they do. If we go into competition with them to kill innocent people and we don't kill as many, that means we're bad guys too, just not as bad as they are. If we think we're killing a lot of people to *stop* them from killing even more, and the result is that we kill more people than they do, now who's the bad guys? We are. We only assumed they'd kill more.

These are all "the ends justify the means" arguments. "If we didn't kill those innocent people the enemy would have killed even more." Even worse, "If we didn't do it, somebody else would." Imagine the crimes you can justify with that argument!

Here's my moral argument. When you do something bad, and you argue that you had to do it to keep somebody else from doing something worse, or you argue that nobody knows what the hell would have happened otherwise so there's no way to tell how bad it was etc -- when you find yourself looking for such sophistries to justify your actions -- you're doing something bad.

The terrorists don't have to be cowardly or courageous, you know.

rukidding, being biased doesn't mean we can't know anything.

Look at the amazing results of this poll: 68% out of more than 120 voters agree with this post
click here to see the poll

the overreaction was foreseeable in advance, not just in hindsight

To paraphrase what my brain is hearing from you, Eliezer:

In 2001, you would have predicted, "In 2007, I will believe that the U.S. overreacted between 2001 and 2007."

In 2007, your prediction is true: you personally believe the U.S. overreacted.

Not very impressive. (I know lots of people who can successfully predict that they will have the same political beliefs six years from now, no matter what intervening evidence occurs between now and then! It's not something that you should take pride in. :-)

I would suggest you join a prediction market if you believe you have an uncanny, cross-domain knack for consistently predicting the future, except that I don't want to distract you from your AI work.

Rolf, I think I have a non-uncanny knack which is not more powerful than a prediction market, i.e., I don't think I can beat the most informed bettors out there. If you'd shown me a betting market predicting otherwise, I would have adjusted my own guess.

If you'd asked me to define "overreaction" in verifiable terms, I probably would have defined it as "Killing at least ten times as many people and costing at least ten times the property damage."

This strikes me as an instance of a larger category: topics on which making group-acceptable statements is considered more important than making accurate ones.

Here's anther example, pulled off recent Reddit. Kiddy shagging. Do the children ever initiate and deliberately intend the proceedings? A sane analysis of human variability would say "some times, of course". Are children universally mentally incompetent to understand what sex means? Again, a sane analysis would say "in some cases, they're perfectly competent". But you can't say that. You don't just have to deny it, you have to immediately hate and attack the person who says it. Hesitation isn't permitted, nuance equals sympathy for the enemy. Unacceptable argument gets bullet.

Eliezer, the US killed at least a million Japanese in World War 2, while the attack at Pearl Harbor killed less than 2500. Maybe it is true that the US response to 9/11 is "greater than the appropriate level, whatever the appropriate level may be" but I don't think you have showed that to actually be the case.

Julian Morrison, William Saletan has suggested lowering the age of consent but states that people wouldn't think rationally about it. I discussed that here, and noted here a study showing that sex and pot don't screw kids up like people thought.

TGGP: Yes. That is my real name. First Anglicized in nearly it's present form in 1715 at Three Forts in NY state (Bonnesteel). I understand that a small museum stands there, now. The etymology is from north of the Caucus Mountains prior to the 1400's; later "Germanicized" to Bohnenstielen and then Anglicized five years after the Paletine Immigration. ...learning the true meaning of the name requires learning about ancient Teutonic and Indo-European linguistics, archecology, the Human Genome Project ...and certain specialties in ancient history. ...which leads to philosohical, social, political, cultural and economic studies of the times in question. ...happy death spirals, indeed... ;) (It would appear that my ancient ancestors were a part of an ancient queen's personal guard. Roughly translated: "The 'Green' Lady's Dagger/Castle." ...which fits, as seventeen generations of Bonesteels have worn the uniforms of colonial and American forces since 1715, and have been busily, if somewhat quietly, engaged in building this nation since our arrival.)

They screwed me up real good. ;)

(sex and drugs, that is... not the Bonesteels. The Bonesteels is cool with me.)

A word about the terrorists being called cowards: when you take into consideration their complete certainty that they were going directly to paradise, the statement that they were cowards seems more reasonable. As a thought experiment, imagine that some person was faced with a choice between preventing the violent deaths of some 3000 people, or going directly to a paradise of eternal bliss. If this hypothetical person were to choose the former, I would consider that to be a brave decision. If they were to choose the latter, I would have to go with cowardly (and reprehensible, obviously). Put it this way: in their eyes at least, they were taking the easy way out, at least if my understanding of their radical doctrine is correct.

"Eliezer, the US killed at least a million Japanese in World War 2, while the attack at Pearl Harbor killed less than 2500. Maybe it is true that the US response to 9/11 is "greater than the appropriate level, whatever the appropriate level may be" but I don't think you have showed that to actually be the case."

DL, let me put it this way. If the Rotary Club in canada declared war on somebody and did an atrocity, and that somebody in response killed ten million americans most of whom were not Rotarians, and mostly after they won the war against us and disbanded our surrendered army, would you perhaps consider that greater than the appropriate level?

Eliezer:

'the point here was a very short distance from ones I'd already made in "Uncritical Supercriticality" and "Affective Death Spirals"'

Perhaps the main point was, but statements like this:

"If the USA had completely ignored the 9/11 attack - just shrugged and rebuilt the building - it would have been better than the real course of history."

seem to me to require another month of steps of inference even if they're true. Tracking and comparing consequences in world politics is really really complicated.

Maybe I missed it in the many, and often rambling, posts, but has anyone addressed why we haven't been attacked again since 9/11? If we're talking about predictions, I would guess there were VERY few of us who would have predicted that on 9/12.

Second, it's remarkable how much confidence people have defining alternative courses of history. (Of course, it's made Harry Turtledove a fortune.) I haven't seen the ability to predict events in advance that would lead to such confidence.

gator80, I haven't noticed anybody saying why they thought the continental USA hasn't been attacked since 9/11.

Here are three possibilities:

1. In the days after 9/11 we rolled up the AQ network, that we had been watching before but not doing much about since after all they weren't doing much and the ones we let run sometimes led us to new agents and such. Once we eliminated the ones in the USA and our allies eliminated the ones in their own countries, new ones haven't really gotten a foothold.

2. AQ is following Napoleon's maxim which goes "Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.". They did 9/11 and we did what they wanted us to. If they attack us again we might stop doing what they want and do something else instead. It makes sense for them not to hit us again unless our will to be stupid starts to lapse.

3. It was an inside job and our own administration or their supporters or Mossad or whoever did it to get us to attack iraq and to get support for the Bush administration. They achieved their objectives. But after all the spending and chickenguano we've endured for the administration to stop terrorism, if we got an effective attack now the US public would decide that the current administration is a bunch of stumblebums who can't protect us from AQ no matter how much money they spend or civil rights they revoke. The first time we banded together behind Bush. The second time we wouldn't. So it would be stupid to pull the same trick again.

Our government might have information that would tend to disprove one or more of these alternative possibilities. But if they do, they're keeping it secret. I have no reason beyond sheer prejudice to discredit any of them.

(I link to this post and print my reply over at my own site. I actually have some pleasant things to say about you - which you might not readily guess from this comment.)

The longer I consider this post the more it troubles me. Your argument is "The American public was destined to overreact to the events of 9-11. Therefore, what they did do must be an overreaction." When I state it that way, you would of course rise in protest – “No, no. What the American response was to 9-11 can be demonstrated to be an overreaction in its own right. That goes without saying.”

Well, it did go without saying, because you didn’t say it. You provide no evidence for either half of the argument and are going in a circle. I could as well write “I woke up on the morning of 9-11 and just knew that even though we are under attack, those buffleheads at Overcoming Bias would underreact.” Then I could define whatever you did as underreacting and prove myself correct, at least in my own mind. Who would choose between us, then, whose actions were over…and whose under?

You may well have offered elsewhere why you believe our responses have been an overreaction, but it is not here or in the linked article that preceeds it. The entire focus of this essay was the groupthink of the public, and how difficult it is to counteract that, combined with (I am sorry to have to say it) your weary superiority. That simply isn’t enough. Worse, the mere fact that it was the focus suggests that this part of the equation predominates over the real question.

That one notices a bandwagon effect and deplores it does not in itself persuade me that it’s a bad bandwagon to be on.

I will note additionally that this is precisely the accusation that conservatives often make against progressives: that they are elitists who “just know” that GW Bush and the neocons are wrong because “everyone knows it,” but when pressed are unable to provide sustained arguments for the premise. You should thus be especially careful not to step in that whole if you hope to persuade. Many commenters on the thread demonstrate the same sloppiness. I don’t hold the host responsible for that, of course, but it may be significant that the same error occurs so frequently in the group.

Thus also with the discussion of courage, which you call the “best example” and wave off counterarguments dismissively. I grant that it takes a modicum of physical courage to face certain death, but let’s not overrate it. The hijackers faced no prospect of pain or even discomfort – they didn’t even deny themselves lap dancers the night before. In a state of excitement for what one believes to be a noble cause, even cowards can nerve themselves up for a few moments, especially under group pressure. That the network itself is cowardly is also easy to demonstrate: they sent a very few to kill many innocents who were unprepared. I take your point that there is a phenomenon by which we will hear no ill of our own and no good of our enemies, but if this is your best example then perhaps you overstate how important this is in group psychology.

Note two: Studies from evolutionary psychology, PTSD, depression, and personality disorders suggests that day-to-day civilization and cooperation is dependent on our wearing blinders. Life is far more painful and dangerous than we could endure if we did not delude ourselves slightly in an overoptimistic way. As events like 9-11 recede in time, we come to regard them as one-off events which should not rule our lives. Perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps those events are closer to human reality, and the receding of the fear is reentering the too-rosy narrative we call normalcy. Those who are not directly in harm’s way, then, would be especially likely to underestimate threats.

I doubtless noticed this because I do not believe America’s actions to have been an overreaction. Iraq is not much more than a police action, made outrageously expensive by our insistence on creating as few fatalities as possible, whether our own troops or semi-innocent bystanders. I approve of that insistence despite the expense because it is consonant with our values. But I have every recognition that this is a new way of waging war, made necessary by the impact of media and quick communication on our foreign policy.

JT,

Pretty good summary. Scenario 3 is clearly ludicrous (unless you like totally inconsistent logic and a complete absence of evidence). Beyond that I tend to favor the Occam's Razor solution, which is number 1. I could be wrong, of course, but a plan to have the world's mightiest armed forces hunting you down, killing your followers and forcing you to live in caves hardly seems like one that would have survived the Al Qaeda brainstorming session.

I also have a hypothesis why scenario 1 is never mentioned - and which is consistent with the responses on this board. It would require giving credit to the administration, the most appalling scenario of all!

Assistant Village Idiot, I sympathise with your desire to go over the old talking points again. I like to do that sort of thing myself sometimes. Like, I'll find people to argue with about Kerry and the swiftboating. I didn't like Kerry that much, he just turned into the only alternative to the Bush ongoing disaster, but he didn't deserve what he got from the Swiftboat liars who certainly didn't deserve nearly the media attention they got after their first lie was exposed. But the truth is, it's a dead issue. The swiftboat liars won and Kerry lost, and arguing it out now is mostly a waste of time.

We have no obligation to go over your talking points about how invading iraq and spending a trillion or so dollars to kill a million or so iraqis for no particular result was not actually a mistake. If we were to argue it with you we would be giving the impression that it was debatable, that there are two sides that could be valid, that you might perhaps have a point. But the fact is, your side lost that debate. You tried to argue with the facts and you lost. Get over it.

Eliezer was using a generally-known situation to illustrate his point. If you think that in this generally-known situation the public is wrong and we ought to listen to you and realise that you're right and the consensus is wrong, OK, good luck. I was facing exactly that situation after 9/11 and I lost hands down.

So when I don't tell you that you're a dirty neocon traitor, and if you want to talk that way you don't deserve to live in america and you ought to go somewhere the people are like you and want to destroy america the way you do, it's because I'm a nice guy and I don't play it hardball the way your guys did after 9/11. But that isn't something you are owed. If people treat you better than you treated them when the tables were turned, it's because they happen to be better people than you.

I think that on the whole it would be wiser to close comments on this thread at this point. What's sayable has probably been said.

hi. i'm not going to use any capital letters because i come from a very small country. australia has no weapons of mass destruction. we promise. we promise promise promise. please don't invade australia like you did iraq - even though we do have an abundance of natural resources, mostly steel and uranium. we're on your side. really really.

Why are you all talking about the US's over-reaction to the 9/11 attacks? You all realise that the invasion of Iraq had _nothing_ to do with terrorism or nukes or polie-actions. You know this. It was about oil. From the very beginning America invaded Iraq in order to obtain a foothold in the upcoming struggle for the remaining dregs of Middle Eastern oil. Everyone knows this. Why are you wasting your time arguing about this as if the Iraq war were motivated by 9/11?

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