Reasoning by analogy is powerful, but dangerous for of thinking. Einstein, for example, showed how reasoning by analogy can unleash stunning insights , but only when properly tempered by critical observation, testing, and systematic analysis, can analogical insights lead to brilliant syntheses that literally change our view of reality.
But that benefit comes with a heavy price, because this kind of reasoning is also a very dangerous way to think. Analogies can capture the imagination and thereby bias the Orientation of less disciplined thinkers and decision makers to distort and twist their Observations into a vision of reality the Observer/Decision Maker wants to see. In so doing, the distorted Orientation takes decision maker off the cliff by disconnecting his Actions from the real world. And … for every Einstein with a highly disciplined Observation – Orientation – Decision Action loop, there are thousands of crackpots, nutcases, and charlatans trying to sell their visions of “what is” to sell their pre-concieved views of appropriate decisions and actions of action.
In the below essay, Richard Falk offers a good example of reasoning by analogy done properly. He carefully crafts and explains a limited set of parallels between the January 1968 Tet Offensive in Viet Nam to Obama’s dilemma in Afghanistan. CS
The United States should learn from mistakes it made during the Vietnam War and withdraw from Afghanistan.
But what made these US casualties so important was not the loss of life. What made these death so deeply disturbing was their unsettling impact on both backers and opponents of the war in Washington, the backers because their belief that victory was at hand was shattered and the critics because the lies emanating from Washington had been finally exposed.
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The Tet Offensive was interpreted by all sectors of opinion on the war as opening a “credibility gap” between the government and the citizenry. This gap consisted of the space separating the excessively optimistic assessments relied upon by the White House to quiet opposition to a growingly unpopular war from the reassurances being given to the increasingly restive backers of the war.
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This distorted reading of history partly explains why US policymakers have failed (and refused) to learn the defining lesson of the Vietnam War: the virtual impossibility in the early 21st century of turning military superiority on the battlefield enjoyed by an intervening party into a favourable political outcome against an adversary that effectively occupies the commanding heights of national self-determination. That is, in this century, the symbols of legitimacy count in the end for more than drone technology and the weaponry of destruction.
This US and NATO learning disability has led directly to subsequent failed interventions, especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.
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It is common knowledge by now that the Afghanistan war is being fought against the nationalist Taliban and on behalf of a corrupted and incompetent Kabul regime for political control of the country.
Phi Beta Iota: When intelligence loses its integrity and will not speak truth to power (assuming it can find the truth, not at all a given for the US secret intelligence community today), and when politics loses its integrity in favor of ideology and special interest corruption, the intrusive government loses all legitimacy and the larger battle. America has been disgraced, the public and the troops dishonored, by a corrupt bi-partisan tyranny of corruption of the head, heart, and soul of the Republic. These are the domestic enemies that must be rooted out if America the Beautiful if to be restored one day.