Null sequitur

Mitt Romney at the third Republican debate:

>MR. FAHEY: Thanks, Wolf.

>Governor Romney, I wanted to start by asking you a question on which every American has formed an opinion. We’ve lost 3,400 troops; civilian casualties are even higher, and the Iraqi government does not appear ready to provide for the security of its own country. Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

>MR. ROMNEY: Well, the question is kind of a non sequitur, if you will, and what I mean by that — or a null set. And that is that if you’re saying let’s turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn’t be in the conflict we’re in. But he didn’t do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in. I supported the president’s decision based on what we knew at that time. I think we were underprepared and underplanned for what came after we knocked down Saddam Hussein.

>By the way, Harry Reid was wrong. We did not lose the war in Iraq. And that’s not the sort of thing you say when you have men and women in harm’s way.

>We did, however, not do a great job after we knocked down Saddam Hussein and won the war to take him down, and his military. And at this stage, the right thing for us to do is to see if we can possibly stabilize the central government in Iraq so that they can have stability and so we can bring our troops home as soon as possible.

>Not to do that adds an enormous potential risk that the whole region could be embroiled in a regional conflict.

Jon Stewart (I’ll update when I can get an official transcript):

>Jon: Uh, that’s not a non sequitur. A non sequitur would be “We have lost 3400 troops so far in Iraq. Do you believe unicycles to be furniture?”

4 thoughts on “Null sequitur”

  1. I saw that last night too! Hilarious… What’s so sad is that, to me, it seems like he’s got it together more than any of those other guys.

  2. depending on the viewpoint of the speaker, it could be a labeled a mistake or not. This question depends on a value assessment to answer. Considering reasoning is defeasible and can be shown to be wrong with the introduction of new information, it appears, that we weren’t prepared for the outcome so in this respect, it could be labeled a mistake. If there were in reality weapons of mass destruction, then It might not have been. If we say that now we know our intelligence was bad, then the importance placed on preparedness increases to the point that it would tip the assesment into the ‘mistake’ category. If we say that at all costs we should get rid of the regime that has demonstrated hostility to its neighbor and is ignoring UN sanctions, then preparedness for a long term successful outcome in terms of social stability are not so important.

    we shouldn’t forget that reasoning is a process that must be used by individuals and governments based on their best information and when a decision needs to be made, there is always the risk of error upon the introduction of new information. To use this to beat up the other side, is, in my opinion, hypocritical.

  3. Thanks Lee for the comment. One problem–which almost no one pointed out in the major news media–with what Romney said was this: it was false. Inspections were ongoing and had failed to turn up weapons of mass destruction. Aside from that, the question is not a non-sequitur. Many at the time argued that even if Saddam had the weapons he was supposed to have had, an invasion was neither morally justified or wise. Those were legitimate arguments then, that is to say, worthy of consideration, and so it’s legitimate to say now that given the disaster we have brought upon ourselves whether we would consider doing it again.

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