Climbing Mount Improbable

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Andrew Sullivan takes on the incompetence question: “the more we find out about the spectacular recklessness of this administration’s conduct of the war the less persuasive it is that this operation was always doomed to failure. In my view, although the war was always going to be extremely difficult, it wasn’t necessarily doomed from the start. It was the administration’s relentless, politicized incompetence that doomed it.” Let me just note that this is an extremely weak claim being made on behalf of the underlying policy concept. It “wasn’t necessarily doomed” though it was bound to be “extremely difficult.”

I’d be interested in seeing someone who thinks along these lines venture some vague probabalistic estimates. It wasn’t “necessarily doomed” but was it likely to succeed? Or are we merely claiming that there was some chance of success? Ten percent? One percent? And how does that feed into policy analysis? Obviously, you wouldn’t want to try and introduce a bogus false precision to these kind of calculations. Still, it seems to be that before launching a war of choice, you’re going to want some better odds of success than “not necessarily doomed.”