10 September 2007

Schumer's nuanced post hoc

The violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from Al-Qaeda said to these tribes, "We have to fight Al-Qaeda ourselves." It wasn't that the surge brought peace here. It was that the warlords took peace here, created a temporary peace here. – U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer’s reasoning skills leave much to be desired. I seem to recall he was one of those who told us that it is the invasion of Iraq which created the insurgency there. That argument is simple enough. It goes like this: There were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded. After we invaded the number of terrorists began increasing. In other words, the increase in terrorists came after the invasion; therefore the invasion is the cause of the increase. This is actually fallacious reasoning, specifically post hoc ergo propter hoc.

One would think that Schumer would appraise the peace in Anbar in the same way. That is: Peace in Anbar came after the surge; therefore the surge is the cause of the peace in Anbar. But no, the surge –somehow – is wholly unrelated to the peace in Anbar.

When the fact that A came before B is useful against your opponent, then you can blame him for B on the grounds that he did A. But when the fact that C comes before D is not useful against your opponent you can deny credit to your opponent for D by asserting that D occurred despite C. Nice.

It is of course possible that the peace in Anbar is despite the surge. One simply has to explain how the peace came about. Schumer does that: The tribal leaders decided that American troops weren’t doing the job so they’d have to do it themselves.

That’s what Schumer said. But one can’t help but wonder how he knows that. How does he know what went on in the minds of these tribal leaders? Did they write him letters informing him of this? Or is it, for him, an inference from the fact that the tribal leaders have stepped up. (And they have; there’s no disputing it. And it’s a good thing.) That argument is also simple: The peace in Anbar came after the tribal leaders stepped up; therefore, the tribal leaders’ stepping up is the cause of the peace in Anbar. But if that is his case then it, like the argument that the invasion of Iraq caused the increase in terrorist activity in Iraq, is an instance of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Of course, this argument, even if true doesn’t really rule out the surge. It is possible that the surge combined with the tribal leaders’ stepping up resulted in the peace. It’s also possible that the surge motivated the tribal leaders to step up. But let’s not trouble Schumer with those possibilities.

I don’t care that Schumer thinks the surge is incidental to the peace in Anbar. It is surely possible. I just wish he’s have told us exactly how he know it is. I wish he’d have mentioned how he knows what goes on in the mind of a tribal leader.

NOTE: Yes, I have observed that others commit errors in logic. However, since Democrats and Left-Liberals insist that they are smarter, better educated and better read than the rest of us, I see no reason to spend too much time on others’ errors.


About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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