The Corner

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What Do We Know? How Do We Know It?


That’s really what Jeff Jacoby — who gets insufficient attention from most pundits — is asking in this thoughtful piece.  It’s about the unreliability of hindsight and foresight, in this case about the Iraq War.  As he says, the answer to the provocative rhetorical question “if we had known then what we know now, what would we have done?” all depends on the “now.”  In the case of Iraq it’s quite different if the “now” is 2005-6, from the case today.  This is why we should be modest about our ability to fully understand causes and consequences when we’re too close to events, why we should remind ourselves that everything changes (and in this world things often change very rapidly), and why we should try harder to figure out the basic issues, and the basic forces that compose the world of the policy makers.