Hindsight: predictions’ worst enemy

Here’s the tragedy: a book titled Why Leaders Lie takes for granted that they actually do. Not only that: it proves it.

John J. Mearsheimer wasn’t even considering writing this book until a summer 2003 conversation with Serge Schmemann, a New York Times journalist, who was writing something for the Gray Lady on the topic. He wished to know the good Professor’s views for quotation.

Mearsheimer, a R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago then (and today), described by some as the most influential realist of his generation, was intrigued. He’s best known for his theory of offensive realism, and what’s more offensive in all kinds of relationships than lying?

A scientist’s scientist, Mearsheimer started digging into the topic, writing, deleting, re-writing, cutting, copying, pasting, and re-writing again, until he presented his manuscript to Oxford University Press. The dons at Oxford were suitably impressed. The book was published in 2011, and it went off booksellers’ shelves like the proverbial hot cakes.

A success story?

Yes and no.

Not all is gold that glitters

First of all, there are a few problems with claims made by others that this or that politician’s statement collided with facts. These statements revised what had been known as accepted history, which would have been fine in and of itself. Except, the good Professor Mearsheimer, accepting revisions, bought pretty damaged goods. Unfortunately, these revisions were (and still are) in direct conflict with reality.

Yes, the George W. Bush Administration was economical with the truth in the lead-up to America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. But the claim about weapons of mass destruction held and used by Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, were correct.

Professor Mearsheimer trusted the so-called Charles A. Duelfer report that claimed that no such weapons were found.

A neat play with words here: these weapons weren’t found. Did it mean they never existed?

Duelferwas the Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction at the time. He led the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) that conducted the investigation of the scope of Iraq’s WMD.

A few issues: and what were the chemicals and bioweapons Hussein’s armies kept dropping on Kurdish peasants in areas where Iraq’s strategic interests collided with those of Turkey and the poor Kurds would become victims in this deadly chess game? Weapons of mass destruction need not create mushroom clouds upon explosion above ground as most nuclear bombs do.

The second issue: none of the investigators were allowed free, independent and immediate access to suspect facilities without prolonged fights with Iraqi authorities for permission.

And the third issue: reports of transports carrying mysterious materials across the border to neighbouring Syria never made any major headlines. Only insane criminals would even think of bombing them: what if they indeed carried some of the deadly chemical or biological concoctions? The result would be worse than the cause.

Still, Professor Mearsheimer should have been aware of them. He could have dismissed them as unverified information. It was hardly verifiable, after all. It would have put paid to his claim that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was based on lies, however.

Subsequent research seems to indicate there could have been some other, more mysterious and sinister, reasons for that invasion, but the word “seems” overwhelms.

The other howler

Israeli nation-building myth is a lie, Professor Mearsheimer writes. The Jews, in fact, quite ruthlessly pushed the existing Palestinian population out. Thus, he posits, no wonder the Palestinians hate the Jews with a passion. Adding insult to injury, Professor Mearsheimer writes that it’s the Jews who wouldn’t conclude any meaningful peace treaties with the Palestinians.

First and foremost, there aren’t and haven’t been any Palestinians until about midway the 20th century. There used to be and are Palestinian Arabs. The name Palestinians comes from the offices of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at Staraia Ploschadj (Old Square) in Moscow. Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat made sure by repeating it incessantly that it would become part of international vocabulary.

Secondly, Jews and Palestinian Arabs shared most of those territories for centuries, living together in peace most of the time. It was when the Jews of the Diaspora, many of whom had lost everything during the Holocaust, started moving in, looking for a new home in their old country, that the surrounding Arab countries started having issues with the phenomenon.

Sure, they viewed Zionism askance, and many had hoped that Adolf Hitler would complete his announced task of annihilating all Jews once and for all, but when reality of surviving Jews returning to Israel hit home, they started doing all they could to prevent it.

Speaking of which: the number of international peace treaties between the two sides that one side, the PLO, would renege on within the shortest period of time, shocks.

Here’s an explanation (no, not true, but funny): The United Nations (UN), engaged in yet another attempt to solve yet another territorial dispute between Israel and the PLO, have a meeting.

An Israeli delegate has the floor: “Ladies and gentlemen, Moses was once crossing (he names the area under current dispute), and he takes his clothes off and dips into a nearby lake for a quick swim.

“A Palestinian shepherd walks by, sees the clothes and steals it …”

A PLO delegate jumps up: “Objection! There weren’t any Palestinians around at that time!”

The Israeli delegate smiles: “Thanks. Now that we have solved this issue, why don’t we adjourn for lunch?”

Major mistake

The main criticism exposes how difficult it is to make predictions of any kind.

Professor Mearsheimer writes that the U.S. role in the foreseeable future would make the country even more important to the rest of the world.

America’s role as the world’s cop (constable on patrol) would be even more relevant, and all that because she would have no real opposition, he predicts. China (meaning the People’s Republic) is a weakling staggering from one economic disaster to another. And he dismisses Russia as so much hot air and nothing supporting it after the fall of the Soviet Union (and the rest of her submissive communist parties).

This unipolar view was published a mere 11 years ago.

Now we know that even then China held the U.S. in her back pocket. It would have sufficed for the Forbidden City gang to call in America’s numerous debts, and the mighty ship would have sunk right then and there.

There used to be some economists who had been issuing these warnings even then. They would be falling on deaf ears, and if anyone in the Obama Administration heard them at all, woe would have been on those who dared tell the truth.

America’s (and NATO’s) military these days are really no match for Russia.

Russian agents rollicked all over the U.S. during the last few decades like gangbusters, either as spies or as influencers. Want proof? How about Hillary Clinton and her sale of control over American uranium to a Russian corporation?

Meanwhile, Western military chose to go woke instead of realistic. One side has hypersonic missiles that can go around the globe multiple times, dropping their deadly loads wherever they choose, and it isn’t America. She’s got co-ed washrooms, instead.

Could Professor Mearsheimer know all of this when he had been writing Why Leaders Lie?

He could have. Better still: he should have. But he didn’t.

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