The other day I made some comments about some college students parroting what is reported in the media instead of thinking critically and making decision for themselves. This of course triggered some spirited comments, and one in particular that I need to address and expand my position on. In particular, I used the example of students asking "isn’t it true that there were no WMDs in Iraq and that Bush lied just to get us in the war?" The point I want to make about this particular statement and how it applies to critical thinking is that the absence of WMDs is only part of the story.
To get to the crux of the argument is that Bush lied about WMDs to get us into the war in Iraq. Forget about the reasons why he supposedly wanted to get into the war, I want to focus on the argument that he lied about WMDs to get us there.
To understand this, you need to know a little bit about the intelligence available at the time, and how it’s interpreted. We had lots of intel, in fact, we ALWAYS have lots of intel. So much in fact that on average, the amount of intel gathered on a daily basis, is so large that it would one person 18 years to go through it, analyze it, interpret it and make a recommendation. Eighteen years; that’s 37,440 man-hours (40 hrs a week x 52 weeks x 18 years). Granted, we don’t have a single person doing this, but you can figure that even if you had a team of 100 people, it would take 47 days to process ONE days worth of intel, and intel gathering continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a wonder we’re able to do as well as we do.
Add to the equation that intel analysis is not an exact science. Recommendations are basically guesses on the part of the analyst. Guesses made by experts in their fields, based on past experience, political climate, and a myriad of other factors, but it boils down to and educated guess. In the military community, we jokingly refer to it as a SWAG or Scientific Wild A$$ Guess.
So, there is a good chance the intel was flawed. However, there’s a reasonable chance it was correct and the WMDs did exist and were either hidden or moved. I tend to think that these explanations are more plausible than they didn’t exist at all. I can hear you now; "but we haven’t found any, so how could they have been over looked for so long, they couldn’t have existed. Well, the best way to explain this is with an example.
Not long ago, there was a horrible murder out where I live where a pregnant woman was killed by her husband while she slept. He disposed of the bodies in a dumpster. He confessed to the crime within days and the police conducted a full out search of the landfill that dumpster load was taken to. It took over two and a half months to find her body. My point is this; the police KNEW where she was and it took over two months to find her in an area less than 10 square miles. Iraq is about 7,000 square miles larger than California with the majority of it being vast expanses of open, desolate desert. We have found complete military aircraft buried in the desert, to hide them from inspectors. Whole, complete military aircraft. Keep in mind that Iraq gathered intel as well and probably had a good idea of when we were getting ready to go in. They had plenty of time to hide or move their WMDs before OIF kicked off.
There are those who also say that since there were no WMDs (found), then we need to get out of Iraq. Again, I’ll use an example of why we shouldn’t cut and run since the WMDs were not found. Imagine the police get a tip that a house is being used to manufacture and sell drugs. They get a warrant based on probable cause and raid the home. Turns out, there are no drugs, no paraphernalia, no evidence at all of drug activity. Their intel was flawed. But what if they find evidence of a homicide, or find a kidnap victim tied up in the basement? Should they pack up and leave? What if they find evidence of a serial killer or child molester? What should they do?
So, back to my original point; why is parroting the stance of no WMDs being ill-informed? Technically yes, there were no WMDs found so far. They may not have even existed, but that doesn’t mean the President lied. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be in Iraq. Was the intel flawed? Possibly or probably depending on how you look at it. Were mistakes made? Absolutely. Do we cut and run because of them? In my opinion, no; I think it’s better to learn from them and make corrections, and continue to do what is necessary.
My original comments were based on a conversation about how some of the college students I’ve talked to in class don’t take the time to hear the other side, or sometimes a third or forth side of a story. They don’t make the effort to get the details, weigh them, and form their own opinion. This applies to those on both sides of an issue. What I try to instill is these young people is to look at things from all angles, get as much information from different sources (not just the ones that support their particular view) and base a position on complete information. If they do that, they’re opinions have weight. To blindly follow a party line or support a candidate because of dislike for another, is not only irresponsible, it’s dangerous. To base your position on well informed thought is how our system is designed to work.
I know there are plenty out there that will still disagree with me, and that’s fine. I enjoy disagreement. I like to hear well thought out arguments contrary to my views. It makes me better informed. I have even changed my views on some issues because of it. Like I said in my profile, I can’t stand blind allegiance to either side; but I respect the hell out of firm allegiance based on personal thought. I might not agree, but if your argument is based on complete information, I’ll lay down my life defending your right to your beliefs.