Public Opinion & Foreign Policy

It seems that everyone I know has a strong opinion on foreign policy, and this is yet again more evidence that I don’t quite belong on this planet.

It seems self-evidently true to me that foreign affairs are a bit removed from public scrutiny, as well as likely being somewhat complex.

And yet everyone I know seems to have a very strong opinion about “what Obama should do.”

I have no problem with opining w/r/t to ideologies or hypothetical situations or dilemmas, but I don’t pretend that these things ever really correlate with real life events, at least not in a rigorous, accurate way.

When it comes to life and death foreign affairs issues and eschatology, etc., I think rigor and accuracy and subtlety are rather important.

I guess what I’m saying is, here’s an analogy.

Bobby Fischer is playing Kasparov. On the 25th move Kasparov takes Fischer’s queen. The following hubbub ensues:

News: “Fischer lost his queen…story developing”
Fischer: “I may take Kasparov’s queen on my next move…”
News: “Fischer says he may take Kasparov’s queen.”
Plumber: “Holy shit! Take that pinko’s queen! Queens are like the most important piece on the board! Fair is fair, Fischer needs to stand strong and take the queen!”
Fischer: “I have decided not to take the queen just yet.”
News: “In surprising turn of events, Fischer is not taking the queen.”
Plumber: “Holy shit! What a pussy. He fucked up, bad move. He needs to take that queen. Queens are like important and stuff. Fuckin’ pussy, what’s happening to our country!”

My point is that Fischer, and only his close associates, also grandmasters, are in a real position to comment on whether taking the queen makes sense. A guy listening to the radio who doesn’t know the board position, and is not as good at chess as Fischer, really needs to shut that fuck up, and that includes 99% of us.

And yet, “99%” more accurately describes the amount of us who DO have a strong opinion, about what Obama should have done w/r/t Syria.

They site history loosely, make wild comparisons and spout ideology, they do everything but know the exact back room deals and goings-on that really matter. They are golfing with blindfolds, loudly.

Then there’s maybe 1% of us who withhold judgement. It’s not ideal, but it’s reality, there’s no way the public can really be involved in high-level maneuverings in war and peace. That’s just something sold to us on the evening news, but we should know that it’s sort of bullshit. What am I missing?

 Sorry, I had included mu reply and sandwitched it between your comments. Forgive the oversight.

Or Fischer realizes that taking the queen means he faces checkmate in 12 moves, and so he comes up with a diff strategy to pin two rooks in 26 moves. Good luck explaining that, Hannity.

I wouldn’t put it past a grandmaster to make decisions that defy our comprehension, and I fail to see why international relations are thought to be any less complex than chess. It’s made easier though if you see the pieces, see the game, know the opponent, and are yourself a grandmaster, and even then, it’s scary difficult.

So then why the FUCK is everyone running around so indignant about ANYTHING they read online about global politics?

The rub of course is that if we divorce ourselves from any role of volition in modern society, we risk being pawns who stand idly by during genocides.

Bottom line is put up or shut up. If you really care about foreign policy, study it, live it, join it. Be a president or a congressmen or CIA or a journalist. Put your boots on the ground. So that u can at least know something (scant as it may be) beyond toxic brainless punditry. Otherwise you may as well piss up a rope with your damn opinions.

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Welll we all cannnot admittedly be be grand masters, and generally fail, to notice traps as they are set. Generally the queen looks like a prize, and one side wins against the other, for the simple reason of not being able to see ahead of the opponent. What may seem a strategic move for one may look suspiciously a trap to the other. Chess and politics can be said to be equivically difficult strategically, but it does come down to be a game of bluff at times, most of which derives from total lack of perceiving all the right moves.

 .As far as it goes, I am an agnostic and a non denominational, neutralist, not out of convenience, but for reasons beyond the scope of this communication.

Guys, hope of least ruffling of feathers,and I really hope to beg your pardon for any miscommunication.

Well, it’s mainly because of the largely unstudied, inexpert foreign-policy opinions of Iranian voters that their nation’s president is making these diplomatic overtures. Public opinion does in fact matter in any remotely democratic system. Granted, to say public opinion matters is not to say that any particular individual’s opinion is important, but i don’t see what’s terrible about having an opinion on what Obama should or shouldn’t do at this point regarding, say, Iran. Simply having an opinion is not the same thing as presuming to be a grandmaster of foreign policy relations.

  1. there is a big difference between Bobby Fischer playing chess and Obama (or Bush) doing foreign policy. These guys simply are not geniuses. Now something that makes it a potential, but I Think still not a good analogy, is that they potentially are well informed by geniuses. Why I Think this falls short is that there is so much politics in the choices of which experts reach the president and also in who rises to the top of, say, The Pentagon, or The CIA, that they simply cannot be assumed to be parallel to Fischer. Fischer played an extremely limited - highly rule bound and structured - game over a long time against the best players in the World and consistant performed well. There is no comparison in presidents. They would have had to have gone to war thousands of times, and not gone to war thousands of times, and then these wars would have to be mathematically comparable to other wars and the behavior of the other leaders mathematically analyzable and so on. And that’s just wars. Obama is a radical amateur compared to Fischer. Not his fault, just the way it is. The ‘game’ he is playing is also vastly more complex.
  2. Another difference is that if Fischer just sits there and does nothing, he will lose the game. (this may have worked as a psych method - not that he actually sat there - against Spassky, but generally speaking it is Always a bad approach) In foreign policy, not doing anything is a much more viable alternative. Even not saying anything is a viable alternative - speaking being an important subset of actions in the World for a president. 3) There are values involved in the decisions. Fischer should not have moved his Knight to E5 is a very different statement from Obama should not bomb Syria. The latter includes value judgments around morality and sense of US role in the World and what it should be. A grandmaster might be able to demonstrate that moving the Knight to E5 is wrong period. Not that it is wrong if you have the values of being a provocative, open game player or not. Just wrong. You lose the Knight after Three moves and then you are down to much against a grandmaster. A lot of what people are saying when they say Obama should is coming from their sense of values. 4) Suddenly I feel Von River near me saying I am separating out is and ought unnecessarily. Perhaps. But in practical terms values at the very least give a kind of heuristic in situations where consequences are very hard to track. 5) I Think there are a good many people who have the skills to second guess the president on foreign policy decisions, even separating out the value aspect. Why? Because they can smell the various forms of politics around the decisions being made. Some may find it easier to see this around Bush - liberals and others on the left. Here they can see that despite Bush having access to a lot of experts, many people can see the actual motivations for the decisions he made. Since they see these are NOT motivations for war, for example, they can disagree with a degree of confidence. Since they know the real motivations, they can also correctly guess, that this will affect the carrying out of the foreign policy in question. And this carrying out will be problematic. Those of the left may have more trouble imagining why people can second guess Obama. He’s clearly smarter. He seems more noble in intent (to them). He seems like someone who would consider the advice of smart people. I Think this is all poor intuition. He’s Another person pressed forward on Waves of pressures that are not necessarily at all about what is best for americans or the World.

I Think you Point has merit, despite what I said above. I do Think people radically overestimate the specifics of outcome predictions they can make. And obviously, half at least are generally wrong on any of the larger divisive decisions, despite all their certainty beforehand. But I would be the average person is doing as well as presidents. both are being buffeted along by a lot of rhetoric and private interests. They are riding the same wave.

I Think it can make good sense for many non-experts to say he should not do that with quite a bit of justified confidence. To go further and say, ‘if he does, the followed detailed list of things will happen’, is hubris, at least often.

EDIT: Did a Little further mulling: foreign policy, apart from the value aspect, has both unbelievably complicated and rather simple factors. I Think this is what I was trying to get at in the last part about details and general reactions. If one can determine what the motivations are, and sometimes this is fairly obvious and a simple call, then the very complicated situation of Iraq, for example, post-Gulf War, Post 9/11, doesn’t not need to be analyzed in thorough and expert detail. The Neo-Cons had wanted to go in there for a while and had a ready momentum post-9/11. (Hence the changing PR intent of the war as it Went along. Just new stories to keep Life in something that was really about something else). If someone had say BUSH should not go to war, it will lead to…and described what actually happened over the next 10 years…that likely would have been hubris. Saying this was possible would not have been. But saying Bush should not invade is nothing like telling Bobby Fischer what to do on his next move.

That’s a lot to digest. What’s floating to the surface for me is:

  1. Taking the metaphor too literally. I’m not comparing foreign policy to chess. I’m comparing the motivated and elite executive branch and intelligence battery with this dude named Toby who works at the trampoline emporium in Peoria. Toby (I’m sure you know Toby) believes, after watching Fox News and talking to his stepdad, Bunko “Mudd Tuff” McBillyGoat, a.k.a Skeeter, that Obama and his minions are behaving stupidly/cowardly/greedily when they do x, y or z. Feel free to sub in Bush and friends, putin, Clinton, Netanyahu, etc. And sub in the name Reginald Teasipper Carlisle the third, and sub in yachts for trampolines. Doesn’t matter. The douche factor dictates that regular joes have strong vocal opinions and visible palpable indignation for goings on of which they can’t possibly have a subtle
    Understanding.

Now you can argue ideology and values, oughts in a moral hypothetical, such as whether we should tolerate chemical warfare and whAt out role should be. But when you start making it specific, like about what we should do in a real world situation, I’m sorry, but skeeter and I and you just don’t know. We have to assume that maybe our elected elites and their minions maybe have a little more to go on.

Is this ideal? No. And it leads us by the noses in some bad sichies. Like Iraq. But at the time, we really didn’t know what bush knew, we were in the dark. Hindsight is 20/20…or is it? Do we even know for sure Iraq was a bad idea? Or do we just all think we know because everyone takes it as a given like one big unthinking mob. Yes we know that many people died, but do we really in the end know the full story? Doubtful.

Look, I don’t like being powerless and blind and wishful any more than you do. It’s not like I’m looking to be a passive bitch. It’s just I can’t see how I can possibly know enough to care and sputter and turn red like self righteous skeeter, or everyone else I know, so convinced they know better, or that the coach should’ve blitzed, etc. People are so arrogant.

Though I Think the actual motivations to, say, go to war or not go to war are very similar in your douche and your political leader. A lot of ‘reasons’ get thrown around, but they are often and perhaps necessarily window dressing. If Toby is going to start weighing in on specific trade policies with Malaysia, I am really going to wonder if he took some very specific night class or, damn right, he is talking out of his ass. If he is talkign about the Gulf war, I Think the odds are as good he will decide the right policty - to go or not - as either Bush did. Not to specifically knock the Bushes, I would give him an even chance with Obama also. Because at root very simple heuristics are determining this. Would Toby do as well carrying out the war, not likely, though even this is possible. I mean, look at Vietnam. I mean, unless Toby was in the nuke-em Group. But then some of the experts were also.

I just don’t Think so. I see hysterical naivte on the parts of experts regarding ALL the effects of their policies. I also see, as I said, actual motivations that are very similar to the ones Skeeter uses to make decisions in his Life about things he knows pretty well.

There’s that potentially made up story about Nixon asking whatever Chinese leader or ambassador it was if he thought the French REvolution was a good thing. The Chinese guy said ‘It’s too early to tell.’

Well, if we still can’t tell, and I am sure Bush still can’t tell, then this, I Think, tends to support the idea that we cannot say Toby is more likely to have been wrong.

I am right with on sports. I Think that type of hindsight biased, cock sure crit from lay people is mere hubris. They should try to get that job. But again, I don’t Think it works as an analogy. Those coaches really have trained over and over for very regimented types of games. I mean, how often has Obama gotten to analyze a potential use of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, the consequences of intervening or not, with whatever would be the kinds of rebel vs. government Groups involved. Not a single time. How many times have his experts gotten to do this? Once or twice? Maybe. And probably not with a country so closely tied to Russia AFTER a few messy interventions.

A pro or top League college coach has faced these situations dozens of times, often many moer than that. They have massive mathematical analyses of what the other coaches have done and what all the players are like, etc. They know statistics on what other coachs have done on 4rth and 1 with less than ten minutes left and four Points behind.

I know, you mean it ias a metaphor, but the metaphors, I Think are misleading.

Also we know what that coach wants - barring anomalous situations. He wants his team to win or do at least as well as expected. he is not deciding to Blitz the quaterback because he wants to fuck that guys wife and he hopes his linebacker snaps his spine.

In politices, the coach Always wants to fuck somebody’s wife and that’s why he is bombing something or putting up a tarriff or whatever. And the idiots on the street know this, despite he game face everyone puts on.

Sure, Toby after watching Fox news would likely do things I Think he should not, were he president.

But Gamer, that’s how Bush made his decisions. He has his own Little cabal of fox news guys.

Toby would do as well as Bush.
And Briana will do as well as Obama.
On the big decisions. On the ones where people turn red in the face and Yell at the TV. Cause those decisions are based heavily on values and because they are actually motivated by very base emotions and desires, whatever the rhetoric.

Okay so I think we have a vastly diff understanding of how things work.

I’ve worked in executive positions, and I’ve run my own thriving business. I’m not necessarily smarter than you, but I’m smarter than most. And here’s what goes on when there’s a crisis.

You have a data set. It’s a large complicated data set. You pour over this data and try to figure out how to deal with it. It can take weeks. The data set includes finite things like numbers, but also things like relationships, competing goals, moral dilemmas, public relations, long term versus short term goals, risk assessment. I’m not claiming its particle physics, but it’s not romper room either. It takes reasonably smart, motivated people with reliable access to the most subtle data points, coupled with good intentions, patience, strategic support, historical perspective and the power to implement. Sure, it’s about VALUES. But it’s never about values only, because reducing it to just values is actually immoral, b/c you will not solve complex problems and avoid disaster if the only data point you consider is YOUR OWN VALUES.

Obama is not God or Einstein or Alexander the Great and he doesn’t need to be. He needs to be an earnest student of data, he needs to have access to intelligence and have a direct personal line to other heads of government, he needs to be present in the situation room, he needs to analyze, think, discuss, debate and plan, at least 10 hours per day, surrounded by other very bright people. He only needs to be as smart as, say, a Harvard-educated professor of government, or a Senator, in order to trump Skeeter, who makes his simeon-minded proclamations about Obama’s stupidity in between sips of Mt Dew. The data Skeeter (and we) have access to is all viciously culled in a way as to yield the highest possible ratings and therefore the most profit on the media space for the Hyundai and McDonalds commercials between pundit diatribes.

Can Obama be wrong? Of course. Were we wrong to go into Viet Nam? Of course. Did we as a populace know it at the time? No. Not in any kind of rigorous epistemology, and certainly not initially. That’s why it was allowed to happen. We trusted our leaders because they had the most data and the most motivation, and those decisions are what they do for a living after all. It’s what we PAY them to do. Were we right to protest the war? Yes. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Sort of how we trust doctors to recommend the right cancer therapy. The mere fact that they are OCCASIONALLY wrong doesn’t make it any less wise to play the “let the doctor decide” gambit when it comes to your child’s health.

If you want to surf the web and get second opinions, fine, maybe you dodge a bullet and find a natural way to treat timmy’s ADHD, but if you go that route you better do your homework. Most of what happens is people just THINK they did their homework, when what actually happens is they got LUCKY.

We can’t know what doctors know by surfing the web, we can’t know what presidents know by reading the news. We only THINK we do, and then get lucky when our opinions come true. At least that’s what’s up most of the time. And that whole process is horribly demeaning. Being educated, truly educated, is about admitting how stupid and out of the loop you actually are.

So much effort is expended with self-congratulatory bullshit about what people think they know about shit happening on the other side of the globe. I just can’t be part of it.

Gamer,

Here’s my short form version of what you said in your last post: “Leaders are highly educated, and have way more info that you can’t get. Therefore, shut up and let them act”.

Here’s a few things that might be worth thinking about…

  1. Politicians in our system of government are representatives of the people. Generally, that means that when they make crucial decisions, they have to lay bare their reasons for why they want to make the decision they do, so that they can be held accountable for it. They go around in news interviews, give speeches, etc. They have to make their case to the people. The point: Ideally you are privy to the reasoning behind why your leaders are doing what they’re doing. It may not work like that in practice because leadership can be dishonest. Nevertheless, I’m not sure why we should think we’re necessarily in the dark about the relevant info that matters to decisions.

IOW, when some Joe criticizes Obama, he might just be criticizing Obama’s reasoning, or the decision Obama makes based on the reasons Obama gave. Or he might be bringing up facts that Obama didn’t, etc.

  1. In epistemology, not all facts matter in the same way. Some have more weight—for decisions. You don’t need to know everything to know what matters enough to base your decision on. This is where values come in. Values aren’t just another kind of fact to be weighed against other ones… values are actually what do the weighing of facts, to select for the facts that actually matter. IOW, it’s NOT necessarily a problem that you haven’t studied 10 hours a day for months all the secret data from every possible source and field operative and phone conversation and shopping list, etc. There may be one huge fact that trumps 1000 other ones.

  2. Politicians are usually exactly the kind of person you do not want making decisions. Politicians are often not experts in anything except raising money and gaining popularity. Your doctor analogy just doesn’t apply. Politicians are vote-getters, not experts. To have them making decisions on their own is a tremendous liability—in our system—and so the risk, ideally, gets spread out among them, in congress, where it’s possible for the vote makers to be closer to the ears of their people.

I agree with parts of what you’ve said, but I’m worried about what sounds like a general prescription of apathy in what you wrote.

Do you really think that people were right to protest just by a kind of guesswork? That’s what you’ve implied by the broken clock. It seems to me that people had the relevant and epistemically important facts to make their decision, even if there were thousands of facts they didn’t know.

Yeah that’s exactly what I’m saying. But the key is they have the info. They don’t just have info to solve things, they know the actual problem to begin with. How can you solve a problem and do the right thing if the thing you’ve been told is the problem is actually a red herring?

Why would anyone assume govt world affairs of war and commerce and revolutions is a simple, non-sophisticated problem set that can all be handled with some good ole’ fashioned American MAN VALUES.

"It’s pandemonium down there in sand nigger land. Can’t tell who’s blowin up what or why. what do you reckon they should do in washumton?

“Reckon they should open up a can of VALUES on they asses.”

“It’s like Game of Thrones. Hard to tell who’s gonna win at this point. Lord Tyrion has his ideas on what to do with kings landing, he’s been searching his soul and burning the candle at both ends, dealing with deals, and moving the chess pieces. but the biscuit baker on shitslop street also has some ideas. He blabs his ideas all day whilst butterin biscuits. Fuck the king! He should do x instead of y!”

Look, they have way more info, and if I was in the war room and had someone earnestly walk me through the dilemma, i’d probably see it the way they see it assuming my head didn’t explode from the conundrumine stress.

Yes it’s definitely that. If you are not willing to get the info you need, then reserve judgement. If we go to war, don’t assume you know what’s happening. just take it one day at a time, do what YOU need to do. Don’t harbor resentment for forces you don’t understand. They may be good, or evil, or both, and in the end all that matters is your hairy ass and maybe a few kids, a wife. Stop whining. It’s sooooooo much whining. Angry at Bush. Angry at Obama. Blah blah, blah. Why the fuck should anything be different. If you want to change it run for office. Or go do a journalism piece in a war zone. So that we can see what we already know that shit is blowing up and that it’s sad.

You can’t telegraph your true feelings or what you know or don’t know, or what you think or what you’ll do. Art of war. It’s all very far removed from us. Apathy seems like the rational solution.

Show me one source of info that isn’t spun and I’ll look.

obamacare?

easy. robin hood is fine to save lives, but make for fucks sake make sure you spend those stolen taxes on things that actually make a diff. that’s my values. my ideology. if it doesn’t WORK than the robin hooding is in fact an evil. if it does work, then it’s fine with me.

i like the ideology behind obamacare but i have no idea if it will work. repubs say it won’t work, but that’s really because it doesn’t fit their ideology. if it did work, what would they say then, that stealings ok?

it’s all fucked up

In a war, Truth is irrelevant… except to the strategists.
And Socialism can’t exist without war.

Gamer,

You pretty much just quoted my first line and my last line----me saying ‘hi’ and then ‘bye’----and then used it to rehearse what you’d already said. Maybe it was cathartic for you. If you want to know why I think what you’re saying is off-base, it’s in points #1-3. I agree that if people want to get politically active, they should know what they’re talking about. But the rest of what you’ve said goes well beyond that.

Shut up. Socialism—safety nets, healthcare, publicly owned industries—has nothing the fuck to do with war. And truth is always relevant.

Fuck. Sorry. Ambien post. Jeez wow. Anyway…

Because if you’re trying to fight a war you might not publicize your real motives on TV where the enemy can see it. Or because it’s too complex for soundbites. Or because there’s not enough time to cover the finer points. Or because the truth is too scary. Or whatever the reason, just because an elected leader is ideally an instrument of the peoples’ will doesn’t mean it works out that way. My whole premise is that it doesn’t, can’t, almost always.

That’s a good point, I have no problem with that. Sounds fun, establishing a hypothetical premise and looking at the logical conclusions or contradictions. But this should be a dispassionate exercise, since we’re debating decisions based on “the decision he gave” My problem is with the passionate discussions. The angry ones. The arrogant foolish ones.

Maybe, but we won’t know, you won’t know what you are even imposing your value ON if you don’t know the subtle state of affairs or context. My whole point is that in high office, politics or business, it does get a bit subtle.

I don’t feel close to congress either.

Oh for fucksakes. If you are deciding whether to go to war, and for what purpose, you absolutely do publicize your real motives on TV. You do that so that people can decide whether or not they want to fight a war. That’s democracy. The sure way to make your population stupid is by treating them as if they are stupid, and repeating that enough times. It’s like not telling a kid about the world, (because it’s subtle and shit). He’ll be fucked by that, eventually. And then you’ll have more to complain about, and to advocate stupefying people even more.

A leader can lie about his motives, but the leader should be held accountable for that. It’s different once you are in a war. Once you’re in a war, it’s left to the military people to achieve the objectives set out in going to war—which are public. The doctor gives me options, recommendations, he doesn’t put me to sleep so that he can do whatever he wants. Once I’ve decided, I leave it to the doctor’s expertise to carry out my decision.

If we go to war with Syria, for the purpose of blowing up some chemical factory, then the Syrians will know we are trying to blow up the chemical factory—if we say so on TV. Yes, and so what? Are you saying we should have kept it all silent, and just bombed the chemical factory like ninjas, covertly, and told our own people about it after the fact? —Because that’s what it seems like you’re saying, and it would be absolutely atrocious if Obama or someone took a country to war without even telling them, or went to war based on misinformation/lies/hidden truths, etc…

If you own your business, then it’s yours. You don’t need to tell anyone else jack shit, (unless its the law or something). But if I own half your business, from my investment, you better tell me what the fuck is going on, unless our prior arrangement is that you don’t need to. It’s just not the case in politics that Obama’s relationship with people is that they don’t need to be told jack shit.

Every time you hear some idiot talking about politics, you might want politics to be kept away from the idiot. I agree with that. Unfortunately, politicians tend to be the idiots. That’s inevitable just because of the job description of politicians, and how they get promoted. One solution might be to increase transparency.

I am a river to my people.

There are very rarely foreign policy decisions that need to be made fast to prevent disaster for your own country. A crisis in a corporation is ‘domestic’. It is the equivalent of Katrina, and requires and immediate response. This response will include ongoing issues affecting americans directly and affecting, most likely, local and state governments, law enforcment, emergency services and so on. In a company if, say, a factory must be shut down for some reason. All sorts of immediate concrete issues must be dealt with and a CEO has experts who are already working with all the parts of that factory and all the parts of the company that will be effected by various possible reactions to the crisis.

The crisis in Syria is nothing like this. Values play a suddenly vastly more important role because the choice is how to engage with the interactions between the citizens of another country. Inaction, in most foreign policy situations, is a vastly more valid option. In fact a crisis in the company generally means one cannot not act.

Again the details of any specific foreign policy are going to be understood by experts much better than Joe Blow. What contitutes the right policy, that is something else entirely.

Further, I think it would help if you addressed my individual points, some of them anyway. Instead of basically repeating your position. I did put some work into those posts.

Not a good parallel at all, unless the cancer has allies, or attacking the cancer may lead to more terrorism, or it may lead to less positive relations between nations, or it is hypocritical, or it can be shown that the doctor put the cancer there in the first place, or if the last two - only - cancer treatments in the century, led to very questionable results, perhaps much worse than the supposed cancer. I think your analogies are very poor.

With cancer treatments the oncologists can look up the exact statistics for various treatments for that kind of tumor, futher the affects of age and gender, etc. on prognosis. And so on. Oncologists have pretty much three main options to choose from. They have hard data…

that they will only ever choose a patentable anti-cancer medicine is a whole other can of beans.

That’s a bit of an odd claim. You could just mean that countries shouldn’t try to run other countries for them. That’s pretty unobjectionable. You could also mean that most situations don’t affect other countries, so there’s no need to get involved. That’s also unobjectionable. But what really makes something a “situation” in foreign policy, is when the actions taken can greatly affect you, or others. And if that’s the case, then it seems to me that inaction is almost always a bad option. Isn’t thinking otherwise tantamount to leaving your future to the caprice of others?

The place where I’m inclined to agree with Gamer, is when the best policy only works if it is done covertly. Sometimes, I think, that’s a possibility. Take the Munich Massacre for example. (11 Israeli athletes rounded up at the 1972 olympics and murdered by terrorists working off info from neo-Nazis). The Israeli response was to secretly find the people responsible and assassinate them. That’s a response that probably just isn’t possible if there is a public debate in Israel about whether they should find and assassinate those responsible. But I think it’s better than doing nothing, and even better than most other responses I can think of.

Gamer thinks all situations are like that—and obviously I think he’s wrong about that.