Friday, October 08, 2004

On Errors in Judgment

Suppose I have a weighty decision to make. Perhaps I have a serious disease and must decide whether or not to undergo a risky treatment, one that may kill me if it doesn’t make me stronger. I exercise due diligence. I consult with doctors and do some independent research. I make use of all the information available to me at the time. I do not rush. In short, I do everything I can within the temporal and other limits of my situation. I determine that the chances of success outweigh the chances of failure, and I proceed with the treatment.

But it turns out that the treatment was a mistake and that I am worse off than before. Indeed, it turns out that some of the information I was basing my decision on was misinformation: a doctor misdiagnosed my ailment and prescribed the wrong treatment.

Now the question is this: Did I at the time of my decision commit an error in judgment? No! I made exactly the right judgment given my base of information and given the limited resources of time and energy at my disposal. It is just that some of the information was defective – a fact I cannot reasonably be held responsible for.

You know where I am going with this. This is one of my famous analogies. I am working up to the point that George W. Bush, when he gave the order to attack Saddam’s regime, did not commit an error in judgment. He made the right decision at the time given the facts available to him. That it later turned out that there were no WMDS has no tendency to show that Dubya committed an error in judgment.

Indeed, had he not made that decision then, he could have been accused of acting irresponsibly – and certainly would have been so accused by his opponents if terrorist attacks with Saddam’s weaponry had materialized.