post hoc, propter hoc
Lyttle, AM'51, wrote to say that "...the belief that military
force can be such a rationally controlled instrument of change
is unscientific," and that "[t]he destruction of the
World Trade Center towers occurred because all of the physical
and psychological conditions for their destruction existed."
is facile and wrong to claim inevitability for an event that has
already occurred by pointing out that the prerequisite conditions
for such an event "existed." The preconditions always
exist for any event that occurs! That's the easy part. The hard
part is knowing which one of the infinite possibilities
consistent with those preconditions will in fact occur-beforehand.
like Lyttle merely commit a seemingly sophisticated version of
the oldest (and most generic) of all logic errors, Post hoc,
propter hoc-i.e., if A is observed after B, then B caused
A. Using the words scientific, probability, mathematical analysis,
stochastic analysis in no way reduces this error, though they
try to obscure it.
is it that the specific catastrophes that the purported stochastic
analysis of nuclear deterrence (no reference cited) is claimed
to show have failed to materialize for 57 years as nuclear power
and bombs proliferated? No catastrophic accidents with nuclear
weapons; no terrorist nuclear attacks; no nuclear war.
it be that there are conditions and powers that stochastic analysis
cannot measure or include? Things like human intention, human
will, human communication, and human cooperation? Not to mention
is both the weakest of truths and among the most powerful of debilitators.
It has been used by numerous religions, including communism, to
undercut the goals, principles, and activities of their opponents
while justifying their own. That Lyttle's goals and principles
may be laudable cannot excuse the logical and semantic errors
he adduces to convince us to adopt them. Indeed, those errors
add to my doubt of his claim that there exists an "...understanding
of how nonviolent, nonmilitary means of achieving security, social
and economic justice, and humanitarian social change can be made
doubt intensifies as I view the fact that even a small minority
of the world's population, far less than 1 percent, can easily
wreak havoc on the rest of us if military means of defense are
denigrated, reduced, or foresworn.
suggest Matthew Jacobson, AB'96, wrote you the more realistic
view (paraphrased): there will always be crime between nations
just as there will always be crime within nations, and I would
add, for many identical reasons.
existence of an effective military is essential; and so is effective
civilian control of that military. That control has worked, in
America, far more often than it has failed. Should we be vigilant?
we seek nonviolent, noncoercive means toward social and economic
"justice" and humanitarian "social change"?
Absolutely. Is social or military catastrophe inevitable? Absolutely