Thursday, March 20, 2008

Problems with analogies

Analytical analogies can be very useful things as they convey a great deal of information in an understandable and memorable manner. The 'pushing on a string' analogy of ineffective central bank monetary policy when the problem is not a liquidity problem but a solvency problem, is one of those very useful analogies. Behind it lies a mass of very important technical work and analytical assumptions as to how the economy behaves. However these assumptions correlate fairly well to a reality picture described by pushing on string.

However analogies and comparisons need to be grounded in reality to be useful. And to be valuable, they need to be grounded in multiple facets of reality. Michael Goldfarb at the neo-con house organ of the Weekly Standard (intentionally) makes this mistake to argue for the McCain plan to stay in Iraq for 100 years on the basis of the boogey man charge that AQI is all powerful and will take over in ten seconds after the US pulls out X number of combat brigades.

The Israeli experience of the last few years offers a real lesson here. They pulled out of Lebanon--unilaterally and not out of military necessity--and Hezbollah claimed victory. More than that, Hezbollah became the vanguard of global jihad. Likewise in Gaza. The Israelis withdrew--unilaterally and not out of military necessity--and Hamas claimed victory. More than that, they overthrew Fatah and radicalized the Palestinian population (really, they are more radical).

If we pull out of Iraq, al Qaeda will claim victory

For an analogy to work, it has to mesh on relevant points. It does not.

He is analogizing the experiences of two nationalistic groups who are in the terms of Al-Qaeda grand strategy focuesed on fighting the 'near' enemy of Isreal above all else while also investing in significant social services by building parrellel or tapping into existing social support networks to a group that everyone who has been paying attention for years contends is composed of 'useful idiots, with emphasis on idiots' from the POV of their primary support base, is comparatively small (5% to 10% of the 2003 to 2007 active shooters) and are primarily motivated by the war itself. AQI is a 'near enemy' unit in the terminology and stragetic perspective of Bin Laden et al.

Conflating nationalist/tribalist groups whose area of operations and scope of activities are measured in miles and not continents with a group whose strategy dictates 'deep strikes' and intercontintal reach is one hell of a stretch, and if he was an honest analyst, he would know it. But we are looking at propaganda to support a policy regime that has failed in its goals.

No comments: