26 March 2008

Two Inconvenient Reports

This past week, a United Press International article (linked here through the Washington Post) reported on a Harvard research project which concluded “that publicly voiced doubts about the U.S. occupation of Iraq have a measurable ‘emboldenment effect’ on insurgents there.” This effect “is more pronounced in areas of Iraq that have better access to international news media.” While the study is far from comprehensive – there are other types of “statements” put out through international media which could be studied – the study does lend credibility to the conviction that statements made by US policy makers have real, tangible effects.

This is not to say that, given the limited nature of this study, that all dissenting views of the war in Iraq should be silenced. I don’t believe that’s the case. However, those in positions of power who continually claim, regardless of reality, that all is lost in Iraq ought to take more care when they speak into a microphone. Words do have consequences, as the researchers at Harvard have shown, and some statements can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Not so much with former VP Al Gore’s belief, repeated in innumerable press statements, that the science concerning global warming had reached a consensus and that the debate was over. Man, Mr. Gore and his cronies would have us all believe, is the cause of global warming and CO2 is the invisible culprit. However, now comes reports that, given new information, the earth’s temperature has actually been either constant or cooling since 1998. This appears to be in complete disregard for the continuing rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.

The article (which is actually a transcript of a radio interview in Australia), makes note that this cooling – or at the very least, lack of warming – will have great implications for policy makers who have staked their careers on the assumption (or for Mr. Gore, the undeniable fact) that the earth was growing ever warmer.

From a more personal point of view, it seems to me that there is little need for global warming hysteria other than the need (by some) to make money on a dubious claim. The hyperbole surrounding the global warming movement, including equating skeptics with Holocaust deniers, appears even more juvenile in the light of new evidence. Similarly, those who have been, since the invasion of Iraq, swinging on the pendulum of public opinion to further political careers should feel more than a little ashamed, given the Harvard study.

Juxtaposing these two issues provides an interesting insight. On one hand global warming demands orthodoxy with regard to the cause (human creation of CO2) and effect (a warmer earth) of core doctrine. Dissent is tantamount to blasphemy to those who have fully imbibed the Kool-Aid. On the other hand, Iraq war “critics” (to use a kind term) demand that their cries of “we cannot win” are simply part of what makes America a great nation, namely Constitutionally protected dissent. Consequences of how that dissent is voice be damned, regardless of how it effects troops (which, incidentally, are always “supported”).

I’ll take this opportunity to dissent from both views. Dissent usually has its right place, but taken to extremes, it can be just as destructive as blind orthodoxy. We can’t, or we shouldn’t, “question everything,” but we should pick our verbal fights with full realization of our own bias and, moreover, the consequences of taking a stand.

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