The HyperTexts

Logic 101

by Michael R. Burch

According to most Americans, The United States is the greatest nation on earth, and therefore the one every other nation should emulate. But according to most Americans, virtually everything about our utopian nation's government is an absolute mess. If this is true, shouldn't we consider emulating other nations, whose governments are doing better jobs for their citizens? But no, the Tea Party movement currently sweeping across America seems to be a violent knee-jerk reaction against any reform of American government. Reform is derided as "hopey-changey," "totalitarian socialism," etc. The reformers are automatically labeled foreign-born agents, the Anti-Christ, etc.

How is it possible for the greatest nation on earth to have the worst government, and yet for that government to be beyond reform? What can one conclude, but that Americans need to take a remedial course in logic? Hence, the title of my essay: "Logic 101" or "Logic for Beginners."

I will start with a simple a priori axiom: people should not try to "teach" or "help" other people in areas in which they themselves are demonstrably incompetent. I know quite a bit about my area of expertise: designing and writing computer software (which makes me an expert on logic, because computer programs are pure logic). In my area of expertise, I may well be able to help other people. But I know nothing about brain surgery, so it would be highly inadvisable for me to crack someone's skull open and attempt to "fix" his brain, if he complained of having a headache. If I tried to "fix" someone else's brain, I would be a quack, and a criminal.

I believe Americans are demonstrably very good at certain things, but demonstrably terrible at others. We are very good at producing blockbuster movies like "Avatar" and "Star Wars" that people in other countries enjoy watching. We are very good at producing blockbuster songs like "White Christmas" and "We Are The World" that people in other countries enjoy hearing. We are very good at producing agricultural products that people all over the world enjoy eating. We are very good at producing computer programs that make people all over the world more productive. If people in other countries ask for our help in such areas, we may well be able to help them. But there is one thing that we are demonstrably terrible at, and that is government. For Americans to "help" other countries "fix" their governments is like me cracking open my neighbor's head with a rock and "fixing" his brain, if he has a headache.

When our government attempts brain surgery on the governments of other nations, I have to call it what it obviously is: a criminal quack and a crackpot. 

Considering the all-too-obvious problems the U.S. faces within its own borders, we have no business exporting our self-acclaimed “superior” system of government to other countries. Our nation is on the verge of bankruptcy and the American public has obviously lost confidence in its politicians. A nation that elected George W. Bush and is now considering "Winkin' and Wailin'" Sarah Palin, who seems to espouse bombing Iran, or "supporting Israel" and letting them do the dirty deed, is clearly a nation scraping the bottom of the political barrel. And yet we are spending trillions of dollars to “convert” other nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, probably Iran, who next?) to the “American way” of doing things. This means letting our incompetent politicians tell countries they know little or nothing about how to manage their affairs.

Does this make any sense, whatsoever?

If I don't think our politicians can run the U.S., does it make sense for me to trust them to "help" Iraq or Iran?

If Cubans who subscribe to the philosophy and methods of Fidel Castro were to invade the U.S., what would Americans do? We would take one look at Cuba, then say “We don’t want that!” and starting defending our loved ones from the nefarious invaders. But isn’t this exactly what’s happening in Afghanistan and Iraq? Millions of people have looked at what they see going wrong in the U.S., and have clearly, defiantly said “We don’t want that!” Since we're not happy ourselves, can we blame them?

Our troops have not been fighting “terrorists” in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the most part. This is just one of many prevailing fictions the American public has boughthook, line and sinker. For the most part, our troops have been fighting native Iraqis and Afghanis (and now, increasingly, Pakistanis) who don’t want foreign invaders dictating how they should live and be governed. Yes, there are some people who may be termed “terrorists” stirred into the mix, but it's virtually impossible to isolate them. And they would call the CIA and the Mossad "terrorists" and have a very good argument. If CIA agents manage to kill members of Al-Qaeda with robotic drones from time to time, they also manage to "accidentally" kill innocent women and children, because the drones are far from infallible. And how many innocent Palestinian women and children has Israel killed, over the last sixty years? If we’re honest, even the worst "terrorists" have legitimate grievances against the governments of Israel and the U.S. If we were to employ logic rather than blowing up the various parts of the world that don’t believe we should have free rein to enforce our “ideals” on other people, we might discover there was never a rational reason for 9-11 or the wars we find ourselves fighting today. One very real problem is that Americans have forgotten one of the most important principles of peace: if you don’t want to fight other men, don’t harm their women and children. Since1948, the governments of Israel and the U.S. have colluded to do great harm to multitudes of innocent Palestinian women and children. This is wrong, and sixty years of both nations completely failing to admit and redress the problem has made matters worse and worse. This great wrong, and other wrongs perpetrated by our government in its relentless quest to “secure” its “interests” in Middle Eastern oil fields (which should be solely the interests of the people who live in the region) led directly to 9-11 and the subsequent wars.

In addition to being terrible at government, Americans are also very bad at logic.

The author of an important book, The Science of Fear, noted that because flying is much safer than driving, more than 1,500 people died unnecessarily after 9-11, because so many Americans chose to drive rather than fly. Irrational fear can, and does, kill. If a plane were to be destroyed by a terrorist, millions of Americans would stop flying. But we don't stop driving our cars every time we see a highway accident, and far more people die in car accidents than in plane wrecks.

Today it seems likely that thousands of American children will die in the future because their parents have become afraid of vaccinations, even though scientific studies have proven such fears are wildly overstated, if not groundless. Obviously, the danger lethal diseases pose to children cannot be ignored just because there is a small (or infinitesimal) chance that something bad might happen, due to a vaccination. The world is full of risks. When I see lightning I know there is a very slight possibility that I might be struck, so I take sensible precautions (such as staying inside), but it would be irrational for me to choose a wildly dangerous course of action in order to “escape” any possibility of being struck by lightning. For instance, if I were to slit my wrists and drain all the blood from my body because the water and iron in my blood might “attract” lightning, I would be mad. But it seems Americans have resorted to such madness rather than logic. Flying is safer than driving. Vaccinating children is much safer than not vaccinating them. Far more children will die from bad diets and lack of exercise, than from all the other risks they face, combined. But American parents will continue to have panic attacks over very minor dangers, while exposing their children to monumental dangers without batting an eye.

Americans have become Chicken Littles, waiting for some demagogue or “pundit” to announce “The sky is falling!” so they can all panic together. But most of the dangers the pundits scream about are minor dangers. We need to understand that pundits become rich and famous by inspiring fear, then pretending to know what to do about the "danger," and that much of the fear inspired is irrational fear.

For instance, the world is not in any danger of being “conquered” by Islamic Jihadists. The UN navy is larger than the next 13 largest navies of the world, combined. Muslim nations do not have the navies or air forces required to attempt amphibious invasions of Western superpowers, much less the U.S. When Americans talk about the danger of global jihad, it’s like elephants being afraid of mice. So the the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were unnecessary. This is not to say there should not have been some response after the 9-11 attack. But the attack was made by Al-Qaeda, which has, from what I've read, no more than a few hundred active members. Obviously, a few hundred men can stir up a lot of trouble, but they can’t take over the world.

And obviously the hue and cry over Iraq and WMDs was pure political spin. The elephant had nothing to fear from the mouse. But just consider the damage we've done to Iraq and ourselves, in the ensuing stampede.

And it’s important to understand that we were attacked on 9-11 for reasons that actually make sense. Most Americans don’t want to be bothered with logic. When we think of the attack, we “know” our government is a source of sweetness and light, and couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong. But of course we don’t “know” that, do we? What we really know, or should know, is that our government is capable of incredible folly. If Americans were to consider the grievances of the men who attacked us, as they explained those grievances themselves, we would realize that we have been wrong on two monumental counts. First, the danger we face has been vastly overstated. Second, 9-11 and both wars could have been avoided, if our government had done two things differently: (1) our government should not favor Israelis over Palestinians, because this has led to the suffering and premature deaths (i.e., murders) of multitudes of Palestinian women and children; and (2) our government should stop meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern nations, because our meddling has only driven the price of oil sky-high, while we have poured more than a trillion dollars into fruitless, unwinnable, avoidable wars.

Let me say this again: we could have avoided 9-11 and the subsequent wars if only we hadn't harmed innocent women and children while doing things that only caused the price of oil to skyrocket higher.

It’s also interesting to note that there are far more deaths in Israel because of deteriorating highways than terrorist attacks. Israel has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to create the fourth most powerful military on the planet (well, actually huge sums of money were donated by the gullible American taxpayer), and billions more to create the infrastructure to steal land from Palestinians in the West Bank. This infrastructure consists of Jewish-only roads, Jewish-only communities, Jewish-only waterworks, etc., and hundreds of miles of walls twice as high as the Berlin Wall, which snake through Occupied Palestine. These walls are clearly not “defensive” in nature, or they would be built on the border between Israel and the West Bank. If I build a wall on my own land, I may claim the wall is for defensive purposes. If I build a wall inside your property, then send people with guns to camp out on “my side” of your property, while keeping your children from setting foot on your land which I suddenly "own" . . . well, that is obviously a highly offensive move.

But today land Israel took from the Palestinians in 1948 lies fallow inside the borders of Israel, because most Israeli Jews prefer to live in urban areas. So Israel already has more farmland than it needs. It would save multitudes of lives and cost far less money if Israelis were to cultivate land and fix roads inside Israel, than to steal land from Palestinians.

So despite having produced some of the greatest minds in human history, it seems the Jews are also capable of massive illogic.

If we were to take a course called Logic 101, we might conclude that together Israelis and Americans helped bring about 9-11, by causing ten million Palestinians to become destitute, when for the last 60 years Israel has had more farmland than it needs, within its own borders. Why has the U.S. contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to “help” Israel, when Israel is using that money to steal land it doesn’t need from an increasingly destitute people, who have nowhere else to go?

Perhaps Israeli and American politicians need to take remedial courses in Logic and Compassion.

The HyperTexts