Let’s get to it.
In any claim, something is assumed to be true from which the conclusion can be drawn. I remember as a kid being told that “every time you assume you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” That certainly can be the case.
That’s why simply making a claim does not, in any way, imply truth. A valid claim is one where the assumptions are as lean as possible and the logic is sound. Any person can make a claim. The proof-of-the-pudding is whether that person is making a well-grounded one.
And that, as Prince Hamlet said, is the rub.
The Atlantic recently ran an article by Derek Thompson, “All the Coronavirus Statistics Are Flawed,” (26 March 2020). The writer makes the claim that the current viral event is a war and that Von Clausewitz’ concept of the “fog of war” is a legitimate argument for governments making society changing decisions even though there are “limitations of the data we have before us.”
So, then, we have this:
1. This viral event is like a war.
2. In war information is imprecise and often unclear.
3. Therefore, speed and agility through command and control and military-style doctrines are justified.
Premise One: The assumption that this is a war is more hyperbole than true. We know, for instance, that chronic lower respiratory diseases in 2017 killed 160,201 and that pneumonia and influenza killed another 55,672. Yet I can find no quarantining of entire states ever mentioned that year, nor any social distancing mandates. If it is a war, it certainly seems to be a selected one.
Premise Two: Information gathering is essential in making any decision and taking any action. Do good decisions require perfect information? No, of course not. There is no way to get perfect information. That is why we ask questions and analyze the data we receive – is it reliable? Where did it come from? How was it obtained? What, exactly, is it measuring? Then we evaluate it – can we collate and compare it to current or historical information? Is it valuable to the current situation? How? Making decisions with such far reaching consequences as have been made in this event appears extreme to say the very least when these questions are asked and answered.
Conclusion: Was speed and agility and military-style application needed in this event? As is always the case, since the first two assumptions have serious validity holes, the conclusion cannot hold. What was needed was what was once called a “level head” and wisdom. What we got was knee-jerk reaction and fear-mongering… in a military-style.
Lack of critical thinking sometimes has serious consequences and in this case our world will never be the same. Mr. Thompson assumes too much and has justified decisions made by governments that have caused great harm to people that will be far worse than anything this virus will produce.