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July 17, 2006


This doesn't strike me as a doctrine so much as a lowering the evidentiary bar in a particular instance, where Cheney really, really wanted to go to war. A result oriented inquiry you might say.

You could make the case that there's a one percent chance of attack on U.S. interests, or nuclear proliferation spread by, any number of countries Cheney is friendly with. Israel or Egypt, for instance.

That no attempt is even made to assess -- let alone act on -- such "threats" makes me think that Cheney is dressing up plain old intellectual dishonesty in the guise of a "doctrine."

1% Doctrine has nothing to do with evidence or lowering the bar or danger to the U.S. or anything at all other than looking for fancy words to call the invasion of Iraq, which they had a hard on for forever. It's a simple as that.

The book is fascinating, not for its title and what that might imply if you took it seriously, but rather for the details of how Iraq actually unfolded. We already knew everything that's in the book, we just didn't know all the jots & tittles. Those are well worth knowing so as to recognize them when they come up again.

Not to leave a comment without substance. . .

People have considered what the reasonable way to handle low probability-high consequence events might be. I am familiar with a recent book by Richard Posner, called Catastrophe. I've scanned it, not read it (it's dense and I'm caught up with Dean, Suskind, etc). It seems to suggest a kind of cost-benefit assessment. While the probability is low, the costs can be enormous, as 9/11 illustrated. Thus the product of the two suggest taking reasonable measures to avert the catastrophe.

On another site's comment section, someone pointed out to me not to give Posner too much credit as apparently the history of this approach is long and venerable.

So, as usual, Shooter did not have to invent a "new doctrine," as there is plenty of good analysis to go on. But True Believers disdain reason, so it would never be.

Well, the collapse of the dikes in New Orleans had a hell of a lot more than a 1% probability of happening, and the Cheney administration didn't give a rat's ass about it.

The fact that they ignored high probability-high intensity events like New Orleans substantiates what I and others have said--the "doctrine" looks at external threats and at the goal of maximizing executive power. Natural disasters may be an occasion for executive power, but they aren't about external threats, so they somehow don't count.

Suskind does describe Cheney et al. in a panic at various points after 9/11, including the moment when Cheney comes up with the 1% idea. It seems to me more like a control freak latching on to a piece of floating debris so that he can refocus on what it is that he wants to do--invade Iraq to stabilize the ME and make oil safe for America. But he has a staggeringly bad track record of poor judgments, as described in the Josh Marshall article I linked to, and confirmed by virtually everything that has happened in the 3 1/2 years since he wrote it. Cheney's disdain of analysis and facts is no doubt the primnary reason, because he is constantly acting from bad facts--he really doesn't see the world clearly, not at all. He sees it darkly, through the prism of his own pessimism.

Here is another passage from the book, apropos of the debate about the "newsworthiness" of Bush's unscripted comments at the G-8 lunch:

George W. Bush, with his demonstrative firmness, his willed, unflinching certainty, shows vulnerability and confusion only to those in a very small, secretive circle, just a handful of people. He is very good at some things that presidents are prized for, and startlingly deficient in others. No one in his innermost circle trusts that those imbalances would be well received by a knowledgeable public, especially at a time of crisis. So they are protective of him--astonishingly so--and forgiving. That goes for Cheney, Rove, Rice, Card, Rumsfeld, and Tenet, the trusted half dozen. In fact it may be the only impulse they all share. This desire to support a President in need, at a time of peril, is what kept Tenet from attacking Rice--hurting her would hurt the President--while impelling him to overlook what, in many cases, was obvious to others.
Thisis by way of explaning why Tenet let Rice pin the blame on him for the 16 words in the State of the Union, after he had briefed her fully in a middle-of-the-night call she placed to him from Africa.

What is the logic behind the 1% doctrine?

The logic is that ANY ACTION WHATSOEVER can be taken and then justified by the "one percent chance" that the actions could have been necessary, when they later turn out to be in error.

Invading Iraq is an ideal case in point.

It is the ultimate extension of the concept of it being easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for (and receive) permission beforehand.

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