The Reasonable v The Democrats

Beyond a reasonable doubt is required proof in a criminal case. “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” said English jurist William Blackstone. Reasonable doubt is why OJ Simpson and Robert Blake remain free. Outside a courtroom we rarely seek that level of certainty. Trying to achieve it is usually impossible, sometimes dangerous, and always naive. We could not live a typical day with that standard. Life is full of doubts; decisions by definition include risks. The smart rule is not beyond a reasonable doubt, but reasonable expectation of success.

Critics of the Iraq policy want to hold the President to a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. Of course they can raise reasonable doubts, but that is unreasonable for this sort of decision.

All decisions are made in the context of risk. The really hard ones feature a level of uncertainty that cannot be reliably estimated. The timid don't like to make decisions and they don’t really approve of the people who make them. The cleverer among them work to destroy the very ability to come to a decision under the guise of requiring endless analysis or impossible levels of certainty. They delight in finding fault after the fact and that is easy to do. When the fog of uncertainty lifts and the landscapes of the decision are clear identifying the right path is easy. And it is almost impossible for people to put themselves back into the mindset or situation before they knew the outcome. That is why even the dumbest couch potato thinks he is Vince Lombardy the morning after the big game.

The Monday morning quarterbacks are in full frenzy and high rant about Iraq. Even Democrats who came to similar conclusions based on similar evidence (see What Did Congress Know and When) have convinced themselves ex-post-facto of their prescience and awarded themselves the added luxury of ignoring the consequences of alternative decisions.

Monday morning quarterbacks wisely wait until the game is over before they brag about what they would have done. Making too much of a fuss in the first quarter sometimes turns out to be embarrassing. In this case the Dems might be back on the right side sooner than they would like. Next year they may well deny what they are now saying.

2005 will be a remarkable year, a year when Iraq held three successful, reasonably free and fair elections, a year when the tide of despotism in the region turned. The U.S. will certainly leave Iraq a better place than we found it. If you look at the Iraq Index, you see the mixed record. The bad guys are still willing to murder Iraqi civilians of all ages and genders. (Many of these same sorts were murdering civilians under Saddam too. They just did it behind closed doors.) But as the Iraqi Index indicates, the Iraqis are making progress.

There is always an interval between the time when the tide turns, when things happen, and when people start to understand it. By next year, a lot of the critics are going to feel a little ashamed of what they are saying now. They are in for another turn of the screw. Have fun on the roller coaster. Were I a Dem, I would start figuring out excuses now. Beat the rush. Or alternatively construct a narrative about how Karl Rove made a monkey out of us all. Your friends will believe that one.

Posted by Jack at November 20, 2005 1:54 AM