Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The epistemology of Iraq

The London Review of Books has a great article by Rory Stewart on how impossible it is for foreigners to really know what is going on in Iraq. The situation is just too chaotic, too dangerous, too complex and too fluid for any outsider to comprehend, much less control. Along the way, without ever arguing the point explicitly, Stewart renders absurd the notion that Iraq would serve as a blueprint for democratization elsewhere, or that anyone outside Iraq can claim positive credit for what is going on there.

If Bob Dylan was certainly right to admonish the rebels of the 1960s, "Don't criticize what you don't understand," then the parallel lesson for the pro-war sorts is that you shouldn't take credit for what you can't comprehend.

Hat tip: WAB.


Zak Braverman said...

That we cannot really know what is going on within Iraq to a sufficient degree to make facile conclusions is a good point.

Just make sure you don't fall into the trap of assuming those who don't agree with you can't know, while those who do agree with you can...

Anonymous said...

Well, if the reasons why Iraq is incomprehensible are that it is dangerous, chaotic, and out-of-control, then at least we can reach a conclusion that this is not a positive state of affairs, no?