Staying the Course Consequences Be Damned

Remember a few years ago when so many of us had fun at the Bush administration’s insistence that we “stay the course.” It was ridiculous, of course, and we said so. The idea of continuing with the course of action despite evidence it is wrong is not just silly, it is outright dangerous and eleven years, and ten thousand plus American lives later, we see that. That administrations detractors have rightfully condemned the behavior. The problem being there is more than a little hypocrisy in this.

It seems to me that stubborn dogmatism is not the exclusive domain of political conservatives. Liberals, populists, libertarians, socialists, anarcho-capitalists, and people of every other ideology you can imagine pick a side on almost every issue and never deviate, even an inch. Their truth is absolute and no argument, not one iota of empirical evidence, or any other appeal will sway them. Within economic justice movements you will see one group claim that white privilege always trumps poverty while another claims that white privilege does not exist for the poor. Both sides are preposterous, both have a nugget of truth, and neither will budge and inch.

A really great example unfolding today is the mess in the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine. On one side you have supporters of Ukraine’s new government accepting the whole that vote in that region had to be tampered with, on the other you have leftist groups refusing to be even a little skeptical of a 93% pro-Russian vote. At this time there is no actual evidence of tampering by Russia, as much as the EU and US would like there to be. On the other hand, that number is ridiculously high. What is really amazing is how emotionally invested non-Ukranians are in this issue. Besides the odd person who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, how can anyone want the truth to be one way or the other so bad they are unwilling to reflect on all the information available?

This occurs across issues and belief sets. You believe there is nothing bad about capitalism. You believe there is nothing good about capitalism. You believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. What you don’t do is honestly reflect on why you choose one of those beliefs. It is even the case that many of those choosing a middle ground do so out of some adherence to the idea that truth has to be something in between, and not out of examination of evidence.

Well, we live in an evidence based world. What happens in Ukraine will affect at least everyone in that region and possibly everyone in the world, and it will do so in a way that is quantifiable and, if you pay attention to the data, predictable. It will not do so based on what you want the outcome to be. Nor will human driven climate change happen or not based on your opinion. The economy will improve or not based on quantifiable factors and decisions based on them. Raising the minimum wage is preferable or not based on real factors. One thing we do know: digging in our heels, and staying the course evidence be damned will keep us from real solutions, and for that we have 10,000 plus years of evidence.


2 thoughts on “Staying the Course Consequences Be Damned

  1. “Besides the odd person who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, how can anyone want the truth to be one way or the other so bad they are unwilling to reflect on all the information available?”

    (1) there are much more than a few of us, who are happy to be gone from there and living in the US. There is a reason so many people left former communist lands to come to the US- it is not just a nice place to live, the idea of the US really does mean something. We do not want to see the US suffer from the same mistakes (overly aggressive policy, lying to people, pissing on the principles we teach to children as the “law”, all to gain a temporary benefit in a power struggle which is often dishonest and corrupt and destructive to the people involved, down to the very root). These things could be overlooked during the cold war but now it is time to hold the US, still the dominant power, to the standards of right and wrong. So far the US is failing, and I see no reason to cut it any slack. Otherwise we will end up ruining everything this country has won.

    (2) people who follow their own principles are few and far between. Sadly, they are not allowed to have a place in large governments, or circles of diplomacy, or as prosecutors or as defense attorneys, or on TV. It is assumed that people in such professions will use every trick available to them to deceive their audience (be it a jury, a population of voters, investors, or whoever). Caveat Emptor is the first and most important principle in international affairs. It is up to us as citizens to stop waiting fo the day our government and other governments will stop lying to us – because this day will not come – and operate our democratic system in the rain of dishonest rhetoric. It can be done, you do it all the time when you buy anything (surely you don’t believe everything in TV commercials!). We can use the same kind of judgment in politics and foreign affairs.

    (3) As for Crimea… 96% may be a bit of a stretch to believe but It is safe to say a good 75% of the population genuinely wants to be away from the Ukranian Revolutionaries, who, in the best possible case, would win them a ticket to a last-place status within the EU. Meaning, a generation of poverty and an experience similar to the Greeks. A small % of them could have the chance to move to Germany or France- but that option is not availible to the entire population. There are worse possibilities too- in the extreme worst case, the Ukranian revolutionaries bring with them civil war and destruction. On the other hand, Many Crimeans are already Russian citizens, as Russia has had a policy of letting Crimeans have dual citizenship, 95% of Crimeans speak Russian fluently, probably 80% of them as their primary language. Under the Russian system, for them, standard of living would be higher, and their land is protected by the Russians from possible Ukranian civil war. The US/EU, rather than offering such protection, has actively fueled the most aggressive elements in the Ukranian nationalist group who appear to be preparing for such a civil war. Moreover, our track record shows that our most common tactic in places we “help” is to allow a civil war to take place. Oh and a small but very vocal part of these guys are openly neo-Nazi. Oh and these guys happen to control all the ministries having to do with security. Oh and the Maidan government on in its first week banned use of the Russian language for official purposes (later took it back because it alienated so much of the Ukranian population). So really the result of this vote is the ultimate no-brainer.

    (4) what happens next is interesting… no idea there.

    (5) agree 100% that the “stay the course” and other cheap arguments form the Bush Era have been hugely destructive to the US. Incidentally, Obama has largely followed Bush’s script with only minimal changes. I consider him the same as Bush, when it comes to foreign policy.


    • Thank you for the input. It is also worth noting that I have seen people on both sides of this issue that lived behind the Iron Curtain. More evidence that this, and other issues, are far more complex that those in the media, and the oh so helpful “activists” here (again on both sides,) want to admit.

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