Common sense and conventional wisdom are phrases that often arise in the political arena of bad ideas. Politicians and their propagandists often proclaim that their bad ideas are just plain common sense in an effort to appeal to the common or ordinary person (as opposed to the inferior person - also described as common). When these common sense ideas are repeated over and over, they often become conventional wisdom.
The dictionary defines common sense as sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge. Usually common sense ideas are presented in soundbites no longer than a couple of sentences no matter how complex the subject. Often they evolve into simple slogans. Once the bad idea reaches this stage, it has become widely disseminated and qualifies as being conventional wisdom if it has gained widespread acceptance.
It is often said that conventional wisdom is almost always wrong. This truism is generally correct because the ideas that become conventional wisdom are based on common sense - that is to say that complex situations are analyzed and judged in the absence of the specialized knowledge required to know and understand the information being analyzed. Add in the deception factor that exists whenever a political agenda is present and the combination of ignorance, misinformation and disinformation is certain to produce conventional wisdom that is wrong.
One example of a "common sense" idea based on faulty logic that has evolved into a slogan and has become conventional wisdom within certain circles is a notion advanced by President Bush. This is the idea that if Americans weren't fighting terrorists on the streets of Iraq, then Americans would be fighting terrorists on the streets of America.
A typical response to those who object to the war in Iraq is: if we weren't fighting them over there, we'd be fighting them here - despite the fact that there is simply no evidence to back up that claim. When this absurd statement is challenged, a typical response is a rhetorical question: What is it you don't get about 9/11?
Despite many attempts to link Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, there is no evidence of complicity and President Bush has acknowledged this. To my knowledge, nobody has even tried to make the case that Iraqis were planning to invade America unless they were attacked first.
Intelligence estimates made by our own government report that the invasion of Iraq has served to motivate Muslims in Iraq and other nations to become insurgents. To claim that militant Muslims motivated by the Iraq war would be fighting in the streets of America if there had been no Iraq war is complete nonsense.
Conventional wisdom was everywhere before America officially invaded Iraq. Common sense told us that aluminum tubes and Niger uranium would certainly lead to mushroom clouds over America, despite disagreement from those with specialized knowledge in the area of nuclear weapons. It became conventional wisdom that Iraq possessed huge quantities of WMD and some people like Donald Rumsfeld actually knew the locations of the WMD - despite warnings from people with specialized knowledge in intelligence gathering that the sources from which this information was obtained were unreliable.
It became conventional wisdom that the Iraq war would be cheap and quick - despite warnings from those in the military community with specialized knowledge that occupation could be difficult and the cost would be several times what the Bush administration was estimating. Experts on Mideast relations expressed doubt about the conventional wisdom that U.S. troops would be welcomed as liberators. All of these experts with specialized knowledge in various areas were ignored by those with a political agenda who instead relied on manufactured conventional wisdom.
A majority of Americans now believe the President misled the nation on matters that led to the Iraq war. This is one example of conventional wisdom that is not wrong. Even in the midst of what some describe as a civil war in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to put a happy face on the war. Many people continue to believe whatever spin the administration advances regarding the reconstruction of Iraq, abuse of Iraqi detainees, ending the insurgency, and the casualties suffered by Iraqi civilians.
The conventional wisdom that the press never reports the good news about Iraq has gained much traction among the chattering class of Bush apologists. We are reminded that some soldiers painted a school or gave candy to children as if these acts made up for the death and destruction unleashed by the war.
Given the fact that every utterance made by Donald Rumsfeld is widely reported, he should enlighten us about the wonderful things happening in Iraq rather than complain about the press. The public relations people at the Pentagon have had ample opportunity to inform Americans about all the good things going on at their press conferences televised on C-SPAN.
Polls indicate much of the conventional wisdom embraced by the public before the war is now disregarded by a majority of Americans - including the conventional wisdom that President Bush is honest. However, there is one idea that has entered the realm of conventional wisdom that polls show a majority of people believe. This is the idea that America cannot leave Iraq because the Iraqi people are not yet capable of providing for their own security. It is presumed that if U.S. troops were to leave Iraq, chaos would erupt because not enough Iraqis have been trained by Americans.
This idea supposes that Americans are superior to the common (as in inferior) Iraqi who must be trained like a circus monkey. What is it Americans are so knowledgeable about that must be imparted to the Iraqis? It couldn't be how to stop the insurgents or prevent a civil war - things America has been unable to do. Perhaps Iraqis need to be trained how to polish their tasseled loafers and invent conventional wisdom from the safety of command and control centers.
The primary targets of the insurgents have been Americans and those who work for Americans. If the Americans are not there, many of the attacks will stop. A civil war is another matter entirely and will require a political solution rather than intervention by a foreign country. Perhaps the Sunni minority should have been worried about this when they ruled over the Shiite majority. Short of killing everybody, there is little America can do if a civil war erupts between Shiites and Sunnis - especially if Kurds and Islamic militants are added into the mix.
Many Iraqis, including Iraq's new leader, want America to leave and they are as capable of providing security now as they will ever be. America has been unable to stop the insurgent attacks and there is little security outside the "Green Zone" in Baghdad. Iraqis know their country and culture better than the Americans. They know the geography, they know the language, they know the politics, and they know how to shoot an AK-47. Remember, 90% of the insurgents are Iraqis and they have shown remarkable skill at shooting and blowing things up.
There is only one obstacle preventing America from leaving Iraq. It is not the permanent bases being built. It is not the neoconservatives who were hell-bent on going into Iraq. It is not the White House propagandists that invented the conventional wisdom that paved the way for the war. It is the conventional wisdom that America needs to train more Iraqis before leaving.
Americans should reject this bit of conventional wisdom. It is not based on common sense. It is based on the desire of some to occupy Iraq for the purpose of building permanent bases there which can be used as staging areas for more battles in the war on terror.
The same people who invented the erroneous conventional wisdom that led us to war are the same people who are advancing the conventional wisdom that we can't leave. This should be enough to discredit their "common sense" as well as the idea that the American military should be used to "reshape" the Mideast. It is time to leave Iraq as quickly as possible.
This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.