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November 30, 2007

Is Reality Negotiable?

Quote of the Day:

“I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know a lot about Cuba’s health care system. Is it a government-run system?”
– Sen. John Edwards, would-be president

Subject: Is reality negotiable?

We do a lot of reading here at Downsize DC. Behind every 800-word Dispatch we send you there are usually many thousands of words of research we’ve read before daring to open our mouths. Were that not so you would see many more campaigns from us, and many more mistakes too.

Often, we are not fully satisfied until we’ve found arguments that challenge our views, and sometimes we are surprised, learning that things are not what we assumed them to be.

This commitment to challenging pre-conceived notions is largely missing from the public debate, and desperately needed. Our state-run schools teach too much dogma without stopping to consider conflicting evidence and alternative theories that might better explain that evidence.

No, we’re not talking about the evolution debate. We’re talking about history and law and economics. The deeper we look the more we find that most of what passes for conventional wisdom in these areas is pure rot, and the rot extends from our schools to the media and straight-up to the latest roster of would-be presidents.

For instance . . .

We are constantly amazed by how often reporters get their facts wrong. Consider the issue of health care; journalists pump-out massive factual errors on what seems to be a daily basis. They misreport the number of uninsured Americans by a HUGE margin, and used rigged health-care rankings that distort the health care debate beyond any connection to reality.

But reporters are pikers compared to our politicians.

The above quote from John Edwards is just one example. How could anyone aspiring to be president be so ignorant? Is that name calling? We don’t think so. Mr. Edwards is seeking great powers, covering a vast array of policy issues. Anyone who doesn’t know that nearly everything in Cuba is state run, especially health care, isn’t qualified to pontificate on either health care or foreign policy.

But Senator Edwards is hardly alone among politicians in the ignorance and error departments. Senator McCain put on a fine display of both in the most recent Republican presidential debate. His accusations, that Ron Paul is an isolationist and that isolationism caused World War II, are simply wrong, both by definitional and historical criteria.

Someone who favors both a non-interventionist foreign policy and a restrictive trade policy might reasonably be called an isolationist, but that has nothing to do with Congressman Paul, who favors free trade. Non-interventionism wedded to free trade might be better called “foreign policy originalism,” because it was the policy the Founders favored. So . . .

Senator McCain was either taking a cheap shot, in which case he was dishonest, or else he doesn’t know what isolationism really is. But if he has problems with the meanings of words his deficiencies in history are even worse.

McCain’s claim that isolationism caused World War II is simply wrong. The Nazi and Japanese lust for conquest caused World War II, and anyone who thinks either country would have been deterred by the threat of American intervention is simply ignorant. Indeed, it was the threat of American intervention that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

As for the European side of the war, perhaps McCain believes that Hitler could have been defeated earlier had America involved itself sooner, but even this widely held belief is highly dubious for the following reasons . . .

One could easily see Hitler responding to the threat of an early American intervention by delaying his invasion of the Soviet Union and focusing on Britain first. A few more divisions sent to Rommel in North Africa might have done the trick. Capturing the Suez Canal and cutting off Britain from India might have been enough to win Hitler a peace settlement with Britain, then . . .

With Britain out of the war there would have been no port of entry for America into Europe, and Hitler could have turned his full might on the Soviets, fighting on only one front. Admiral Raeder proposed just such a strategy to Hitler, and Hitler almost followed it, going so far as to invade Crete as a first step.

It’s actually possible that the threat of an early intervention by America might’ve led to victory for Hitler.

Real students of history know these things, and McCain should know them too if he wants to establish current policy on historical examples. But it seems as if McCain, like most politicians, really doesn’t understand much about history, even though he likes to invoke it.

McCain’s comments about Vietnam seal the verdict. To contend that America only lost in Vietnam because of public opinion is to misunderstand the nature of guerrilla warfare and to automatically disqualify oneself for the job of president.

McCain is right that the U.S. never lost a major battle in Vietnam, but guerrillas don’t need battlefield victories in order to win wars. They only need staying power. The Vietminh had already demonstrated 20 years of staying power, with no end in sight. The Vietminh were never going to lose, and we were never going to win.

Facts matter. Reality isn’t negotiable. Given all the rot uttered by the media and our politicians it’s incumbent upon someone to restore a factual understanding of reality to the public debate. We are trying to make our contribution toward that end — and getting the facts right takes a real investment of effort, which, thankfully, our supporters make possible.

Today is the last day of November. We intend to make new contributions to the cause of reality in December, but we could use a few more financial contributions to close out the month on a positive note. We ONLY need $1,096 more to finish paying our bills. That’s not much – 22 donations of $50 would cover it. If you can help, the donation window is open here.

We’ll be back next week to make new contributions of our own.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

Jim Babka, President
Perry Willis, Communications Director, Inc.

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