Punishing the Realist

Oliver Goodenough on how throwing good money after bad distorts judgment (especially in connection to the Iraq war):

We can cut our losses now and take our lumps, or we can keep throwing good money after bad until maybe we wear the other side out, but in the process raising our own ultimate losses substantially. And in Iraq, the losses are already desperately high, on both sides, in blood, in money, and in the erosion of institutions like law and national cohesion.

In the bigger game of democratic politics, the dollar auction scenario has a particularly dangerous power. Politicians fear that voters will unfairly punish the realist who cuts off the escalation early, in the process also clearly “losing” the ever-diminishing prize. And maybe, just maybe, the appearance of a “win,” even at an astounding price, will give some fig-leaf of coverage to the monumental stupidity of getting the United States of America mired in a this kind of situation to begin with.

The administration’s goal is keeping the electorate pacified and the game in motion. Emphasize the cost already paid and the further cost of throwing in the towel. Promise that the other side is showing signs of exhaustion — remember Dick Cheney and the few “dead-enders?” Like the man riding the tiger, Bush and company believe they are OK so long as they don’t fall off. If the regular dollar auction is irrationality in action, U.S. politics make our Iraq policy irrationality on steroids.







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