Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fair Comparisons

The only fair way to evaluate the results of any action is to compare the results of the action to the results of other actions in similar circumstances. It is easy to compare the results of two runners running against each other in a 100 meter dash at the same time on the same day on the same track. One runner will finish in front of the other. We can know with certainty who was the winner.

We can also compare the accomplishments of other athletes who do not compete on the same track at the same time on the same day, but the certainty of our comparison will be a little less accurate. No two golfers have the exact same conditions or get the exact same breaks on each hole in a 72 hole tournament. However, the conditions are close enough for us to declare a winner once all of the golfers have completed four rounds because the scores of each golfer can be compared based on playing the same holes and the same amount of holes, on the same course.

Tiger Woods never played against Jack Nicklaus in his prime. Hank Aaron never played against Babe Ruth at all. However, the accomplishments of Tiger Woods can be compared to Jack Nicklaus and the Home Runs of Hank Aaron can be compared to Babe Ruth because all of these men competed against the best competitors in their sport in their time and each sport is mostly unchanged.

Presidential administrations throughout history can be compared to each other but with much less certainty than is possible in sports because no two administrations have faced the same challenges; some haven’t even faced similar challenges. It is possible to evaluate the results of an administration based on the stated goals of the administration, but it is not possible to do so with any accuracy or precision because different administrations also faced different levels of opposition.

When comparing the competency of the Bush administration to the competency of the Clinton administration, there isn’t a big difference. Objectively, if we consider one of the two to be competent, then we must also consider the other to be competent and if we consider one of the two to be incompetent, then we must consider the other to be incompetent. I happen to like the objectives of the Bush administration more than I liked the objectives of the Clinton administration and I happen to like the person George Bush more than I like the person Bill Clinton, but I don’t think either man was particularly good at running a government. However, I find it hard to completely blame either man for the faults of government because some of the attributes of government seem to be unmanageable no matter who is in charge.

When evaluating the results of a war, it is almost impossible to be fair, accurate, and precise in coming to any meaningful conclusions. The war in Iraq was the fastest and most complete victory in the history of the world. In several weeks the army of a country of 30 million was completely defeated by the army of a country of 270 million on the soil of the country with 30 million people. It really was unprecedented, but it was also expected because of the superior technology of the country of 270 million. Were the expectations realistic? Probably, but there is really no way to know for sure because there is no point of reference for comparison.

When evaluating the after-war in Iraq, it IS impossible to come to any meaningful conclusions at this point in time because the situation in Iraq has never existed before in the history of the world. In hindsight, most reasonable people will conclude that some of the decisions regarding Iraq were poor decisions and some actions were counterproductive. I can’t make it through a day without making a bad decision, and I don’t know of any leader in government, business, church, or any other organization who doesn’t make mistakes and then make adjustments based on the lessons learned. Bad decisions alone are not a measure of failure or success. Uncorrected bad decisions or corrected bad decisions will be the determinate in the final analysis.

Pundits who claim the Bush administration is incompetent in managing the rebuilding of Iraq, or who claim the invasion of Iraq was a big mistake, or who only see the deaths and not the hope and freedom, are basing their judgments on vapid analysis because there is no point of reference for a fair comparison. These pundits are only critics who are willing to exercise freedom in their own speech, but unwilling to pay the price for freedom and unwilling to let others determine their own destiny.

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