Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sunk costs

The Cunning Realist, as a self-confessed conservative, has special gravitas on this absurd Bush argument: that we dishonor past sacrifices unless we sacrifice some more.
Yesterday, President Bush said the following: "And the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission and lay the foundation of peace by spreading freedom."

And this today from Andrew Sullivan, who's been a great read recently on other issues: "For the sake of the 2,000 who have already died; and the countless, innocent civilian Iraqis who have borne an even greater burden, let's do all we can to make this work."

This is a lazy and deceptively appealing line of reasoning that must be rejected. It is not only specious, it's dangerous---because anything less than the establishment of a utopian paradise on earth will necessarily fall short for those espousing it. This is the main reason Vietnam became such a quagmire; year after year, a succession of political and military leaders kicked the withdrawal can down the road by citing the "sacrifice that has already been made." Breaking news: in Iraq, there will always be another election. There will always be another "crucial milestone." And there will always be another "terrorist."

It sounds cold and heartless in this context, but it is the theory of sunk costs. It is being ignored only because the people making the decisions are not the ones being sunk.

Oh, and it does my heart good to see another conservative smacking down the stupid half of Sully's brain. (Conservatives usually attack the part of Sully I agree with.)


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