Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 1/3/2020: “Those Who Don’t Understand The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Are Doomed To Behave Like Idiots And Not Know Why”

Who said that?

I did.

1. “This is Rose. Won’t you give to help her and people life her who suffer from crippling hatred of the President of the United States? Just a few dollars a month...”

A more vivid example of where anti-Trump hysteria can lead than these two tweets can hardly be found. The author is #MeToo activist Rose McGowan, Harvey Weinstein victim, conventional Hollywood progressive. These were her reactions to the unequivocally welcome news that General Qassim Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds force and the architect of terrorism all over the Middle East, was killed by a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport:

When a social media critic correctly pointed out the lunacy of that one, the former “Charmed” actress responded,

Would it be unfair to say that “Please do not kill us” was the message conveyed by President Obama’s craven and dangerous  nuclear deal with Iran, giving the rogue state billions of dollars in exchange for a (worthless) promise not to pursue nuclear arms capability until later, at which time there would be nothing the U.S. could do about it?

I heard these kinds of sniveling, “Better Red than Dead” protests many times in my youth. They come often from people so young,  inexperienced and ignorant that their confusion can be forgiven—a little–but also from older Americans—more frequently women, unfortunately, and make of that what you will—who have somehow reached maturity without learning that everyone, but especially this unique country, has to be ready to defend their values, and just as important, has to be able to communicate clearly that we will defend those values, with terrible force if necessary.

Over the last couple of decades, a large and influential segment of the progressive community has forgotten that. Fortunately, the majority of Americans have not.

2. How it works: The fact that President Trump is at the dead bottom of the cognitive dissonance scale for most Democrats means that anything he does and any result that would normally and objectively be regarded as positive if another President, especially a Democrat and particularly Barack Obama, were responsible drags that event or decision down below the midpoint into negative territory, unless someone recognizes that their opinion is being warped by psychological forces and biases beyond their control, and adjusts appropriately. Apparently none of the Democrats who have shot off their mouths since Soleimani‘s demise have such wisdom and self-control. Thus they are beginning critical comments with statements like this tweet by Rep. Andy Levin, which was typical:

“There is no question that Qasem Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. I feel no sadness at the news of his death. But I have serious concerns about this President’s execution of a potential act of war without authorization of Congress.”

 “He was a terrible, murderous enemy of our nation and we’re fortunate he’s dead BUT” is just not a smart message.

The President gave the order that resulted in the death of the Quds Force leader after multiple attacks against Americans and American facilities in Iraq that could be traced back to Soleimani.  The Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah began the exchange  with a rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base on December 27. A U.S. contractor was killed andmany Americans and Iraqis were wounded. The Pentagon concluded that  Soleimani ordered the attack. In response, the U.S. launched airstrikes against the militia, killing 25 militiamen. Members of the militiamen stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, an invasion of  American soil. Again, the Pentagon concluded that Soleimani “approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.” After U.S. troops forced the attackers to retreat, the President made it clear that there would be harsh consequences for the episode. There was.

Iran’s leader had tweeted that there was “nothing” the U.S. could do. What kind of American does not take satisfaction in what occurred next? My view: only those in the powerful grip of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale.

Here’s Joe Biden:

Translation: “Please don’t kill us.”

Americans prefer strong Presidents (unless they are Barack Obama), and they are wise and correct to do so. The argument that we should avoid antagonizing those who have made it clear that they want to destroy us because maybe if we’re nice to them they’ll leave us alone is demonstrably false as well as dangerous and irresponsible.

The caterwauling from Democrats that the Presidents should have informed Pelosi et al. before acting is rebutted by the fact that the Democratic Congress is not trustworthy. Members leak for political gain and to sabotage the President. It was in the interest of the nation and American lives not to inform the Democrats, but by all means, let them impeach him over this, too.

3. As President Trump unapologetically described the successful attack as exactly what it was, here’s an Ethics Alarms Obama flashback from 2011:

[W]e shouldn’t be surprised, only nauseated, when[the Obama White House] tells Congress, as it did this week, that U.S. participation in the Libyan uprising doesn’t fall under the War Powers Resolution.

The Resolution requires presidents to get approval from Congress for armed interventions within 60 days of their initiation and to begin ending hostilities within thirty days from the deadline without such approval.  Obama needed to obtain congressional approval by May 19 to keep U.S. forces in the Libyan campaign, but didn’t; now the thirty days is up.

Confronted by Congress, the Administration argued  this week that it didn’t require approval under the War Powers Act because the operations in Libya “are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplatedU.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.”

But as the Washington Post correctly pointed out in an editorial, the Act doesn’t define “hostilities,” so such Clintonian word-parsing is particularly disingenuous. Our planes and weapons are bombing the headquarters and abodes of the leader of Libya; the U.S. Air Force is killing Libyans. That sure sounds hostile to me. I bet the Libyans think that it is hostile:

1. Unfriendly; antagonistic.
    2. Of or belonging to a military enemy.

The Post is fair and direct:

“We believe that an honest appraisal of the activities that the United States continues to engage in would put the administration squarely within the purview of the War Powers Resolution. By the administration’s own account, these include airstrikes aimed at “suppress[ing] enemy air defense,” “occasional strikes by unmanned Predator” drones, and intelligence and logistical support that aid other NATO members in carrying out their strikes.”

Yup. Hostilities.

Obama doesn’t even have the dodge available to him that Bush did in the torture debate, claiming then and now that he approved waterboarding based on the opinion of the Justice Department. The New York Time’s Charlie Savage has confirmed that the President overruled the opinion of both the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel and the  Defense Department general counsel regarding what constitutes “hostilities” under the War Powers Resolution, preferring instead the contrary (that is to say, dishonest) conclusion reached by the White House Counsel’s office and the State Department.

As Savage reports, presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and to act against its advice, but it happens rarely, perhaps because when it happens, we end up with positions like this one, arguing that the United States military bombing another sovereign nation doesn’t qualify as hostilities.

Philosophically, I think the War Powers Resolution is an unwise Congressional infringement on the President’s powers as Commander-in-Chief, but the law is the law. I am also in favor of the U.S. action with NATO in Libya, if not Obama’s halting, half-hearted, equivocal prosecution of it. (Why Libya and not Syria? Alas, an ethics site cannot discuss such mysteries….) Nevertheless, the Administration’s argument that the Resolution doesn’t apply isn’t even legalistic nonsense—it’s just dishonest nonsense of the kind that the President of the United Sates should not indulge in, to Congress, to the media, to the public, to anyone.

Nothing came of this direct violation of the Act, of course, because Obama Good: he was high on the cognitive dissonance scale, and yanked an illegal and deadly act UP into positive territory.

4. And one more Obama note: The Obama administration kept a list of approximately 500 American soldiers who were killed by by Iranian IEDs. The Quds Force, headed by Soleimani, was believed to be responsible for those deaths. Nonetheless, a report released in 2018  says that when Israel was ‘on the verge’ of assassinating Soleimani in 2015 near Damascus, the United States warned the Iranian leadership of the plan.  The incident, the report says, “sparked a sharp disagreement between the Israeli and American security and intelligence apparatuses regarding the issue.”  The Trump administration, however, reversed the Obama policy, and  gave Israel leave  to target Soleimani. The report quoted a source in Jerusalem as saying that “there is an American-Israeli agreement” that Soleimani is a “threat to the two countries’ interests in the region.”

5. Conclusion: if Democrats were not so hypnotized by the Cognitive Dissonance Scale, they would know that attacking the President for a  great success, just as the Obama administration led killing of Bin Laden was a success, looks petty, foolish, hypocritical, craven, and hyper-partisan to the majority of citizens not in the Trump Derangement red zone.

But they just can’t see it.

41 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 1/3/2020: “Those Who Don’t Understand The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Are Doomed To Behave Like Idiots And Not Know Why”

  1. Exactly! I’ve been arguing all day online that critics of President Trump would be cheering and waving their (hastily-procured) American flags had this action been carried out under Barack Obama.

  2. Glenn Reynolds just wrote on his blog:

    SO LET’S STIPULATE THAT THE DEMOCRATS’ ROSE-MCGOWAN-LIKE REACTION IS STUPID AND ANTI-AMERICAN. That doesn’t mean that there are no possible valid critiques of bombing Soleimani. But honestly, I can’t think of any. Here are the main candidates:

    1. It will provoke Iran. Well, maybe. But Iran has been at war with us for 40 years; we’ve mostly chosen to pretend otherwise. Iran’s top priority is wrecking our presence in the mideast, and then eventually destroying America. This doesn’t change that. At most it might make them spring an operation earlier than they had planned, which is as likely to do them harm as it is to do anything.

    2. It increases the risk of war. We’re already at war, see above. If anything, it makes Iran look weak, which hurts them in the region and gives domestic rebels heart and momentum. (See: ‘Overthrow is within reach’: Leader of Iranian resistance group hails death of Qassem Soleimani.)

    3. It was illegal because there was no congressional authorization. Pretty hard to take that argument seriously in 2019, but at any rate Soleimani orchestrated an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which is for these purposes an attack on American soil. (Even the governor of a state is allowed by the Constitution to wage war without Congressional authorization when actually attacked.) Besides which, we have a Congressional authorization for use of military force in Iraq, and this is covered by its exceedingly broad terms. Also, it’s reported that he had a large anti-American operation in the works.

    4. We can’t know the ramifications. That’s true. But that’s also true of not acting. Unintended consequences rule in the sphere of government action, but you can’t base your policy choices on not having any.

    5. Orange Man Bad. To be honest, this seems to be the real objection. It’s a stupid one.

    • A CNN talking head said, approximately, “Now, every American is an Iranian target.” In sixth grade, the appropriate response would be something along the lines of “No shit, Sherlock. So what else is new?”

    • Not to mention it puts the Mullahs on notice that we know where their leadership is at all times. Hence, don’t eff with us anymore or you guys may all be embracing throngs virgins sooner than expected.

      Side note: send the Mullahs some Ex-Lax, they will now likely need it.

      • It’s not just the Mullahs.

        This will cause our 4 main antagonist nations – Russia, China, North Korea, and obvious Iran, to take a pause and reevaluate any plans they have in territories we may not want them to be in. They will either make hasty actions or put those actions on the shelf long term.


        Iran will react somehow. It has too just to save face with its own internal power brokers and external backers. But it’s reaction will likely be minimal. Then it will quietly back off of for a while on several of it’s operations. It may try some shenanigans in the Strait of Hormuz, but like I’ve mentioned a few months ago, that only gives us an opportunity to put a decent chunk of its navy on the bottom. And in the Straits of Hormuz, Iran has already been antagonizing several other nations that wouldn’t mind seeing some comeuppance dealt to Iran’s naval forces.


        Iran’s primary strength here is OUR own internal fractiousness. Their closest unwitting ally in America is the DNC and the MSM all because Orange Man Bad. All Iran needs to do is kidnap one American. And the boot licks in the media and Democrat Party will scream about how Trump’s actions have endangered the lives of Americans – “SEE! SEE! We told you Iran would react violently!” And the American Left will construct a mountain out an Iranian molehill on accidental behalf of Iranian propaganda.

        But the Iranians will need the additional resources anyway because, internally, Iran has not seen this level of unrest in ages. If Iran faced an internal collapse, we can’t guess that regime change will suddenly be an awesome Western-style Democracy or if it would come back even MORE hard line Islamist. This is either good or bad. BUT, it does force Iran to increasingly expend resources internally.


        • To conclude, I will reiterate how many times in the past the MSM/DNC complex has melted down over Trump’s foreign policy decisions, assuring us that a world conflagration will ensue, only to watch the bad actors back down and the situation deescalate.

          Look, here we are, the MSM/DNC complex is melting down and assuring us that a world conflagration will ensue.

          I have no doubt that this one may slightly escalate, but I think Iran ends up backing down or losing.

          • I can’t wait to have these discussions again as Biden is continuing Obama’s policy of presiding over the collapse of American influence in the world after Trump did what he could to reestablish it.

  3. Let me get this straight; Obama ordered drone strikes killing hostiles and their families in Afghanistan and Iraq and nearly no one says a thing.

    Trump orders a strike on someone who has planned hundreds or more American deaths (including a failed attempt to kill my Navy SF son and his unit in Nasiriyah) and that somehow is ill considered?

    Can we really consider those vociferously siding against the strike as rational Americans? It is certainly their right to hate Trump and protest. It is my right to say they are less than patriotic and deserving of derision.

    • Go you one better. Obama ordered a drone strike on an ex-patriate AMERICAN CITIZEN with no body being informed but Holder. Holder thought that he and Obama “discussing it” was due process.

    • ”Can we really consider those vociferously siding against the strike as rational Americans?”

      Welp, virulently secular Lefties have found…um…acceptance of Evangelicals after Christianity Today’s editor claimed Orange Man Bad, so all bets are off.

  4. 2–If President Trump had alerted Congress prior to this action, Soleimani and the rest of the civilized Universe would have been alerted by CNN before the wheels were up.

  5. And then there’s the media agitprop:

    “Most revered military leader” now joins “austere religious scholar” and “mourners” trying to storm our embassy as word choices that make normal people wonder whose side the American mainstream media is on

    • Here, they are quoting Iranian media sources. Providing insight to what the enemy is saying domestically is arguably a legitimate news purpose. Of course, if the Post is not providing accurate coverage elsewhere, then it is a shell game.

      • Well if they’re quoting, then they should QUOTE

        Airstrike at Baghdad airport kills “Iran’s most revered military leader, Qasem Soleimani,” Iraqi state television reports

        Now how hard was that?


  6. 1. I can only sneer at Rose’s idiocy and say it’s par for the course and to be expected from someone with her screwed-up background (cult member, child model, anorexic, incapable of holding a relationship together, all of which point to at best questionable psychological stability). I don’t even extend her the grace I would extend to a principled peaceful person who believes that violence is always wrong and that other ways need to be found to solve problems. Her first statement sounds more like self-induced Stockholm Syndrome. OK, I’ll go shove something up my anus and rectum because you yelled at me like a mentally ill teen having a meltdown…said no one ever and did no one ever. This woman’s 46. There’s no excuse for anyone sane and out of their 20s to talk like that.

    2. It’s all about denying the other side a victory. Of course they can’t come out against the action directly, that would go down like a millstone. Even Ilhan Omar didn’t go that far. However, to say this has created greater danger or represented overreaction, or something like that, is very easy. “Yeah, yeah, he was a bad guy who killed a lot of our people, but this might get a lot more killed.” It’s only slightly less bad than an Arab lawyer I know seeing me ashen-faced after just dodging 9/11 by a chance phone call and saying “Look, I’m sorry about the victims, but after everything the U.S. and allies have done in Palestine…”

    3. To coin a phrase, duh. The War Powers Act only gets trotted out when the other party’s guy is in the White House, and only when the action is something politically safe to oppose.

    4. No surprise. Obama had his nose so far up the mullahs’ backsides it was a different shade than the rest of him, just trying to keep things in the region quiet for the duration of his time in the office.

    5. Like I said, it’s all about denying the other side a victory. The Democrats would love nothing better than an economic collapse this year, so Trump would get the blame and they could push him out. However, that does not look likely, so instead they minimize his successes, amplify his faults, and trump up nonsensical impeachment charges in the hopes he will fall. Unfortunately “ARRGH! ORANGE MAN BAD!” just isn’t enough.

    • 1) She’s a screen actress. In general, with a few exceptions, they aren’t very intelligent. Actors time immemorial have never been trusted with opining on national and foreign policy for very good reasons. We wouldn’t trust stage actors with these sorts of ideas and screen actors don’t even have to memorize entire pieces of work before performing.

  7. We are being held by a terrorist regime. We do not know how to escape.

    I don’t get why people who feel that way don’t migrate to Europe? Perhaps I’m biased by my employment in a multi-national where it is strikingly easy to get an expense paid relocation, but even without that it’s not particularly hard. I live here because I chose to live here.

  8. Have I missed something here?
    Soleimani was an Iranian.
    Iran and Iraq are enemies; sort of a very warm war at the moment, rather than the hot war of a while back.
    Soleimani orchestrated attacks in Iraq killed US citizens, and Iraqi’s.
    Therefore, Soleimani, is a Spymaster, terrorist, terrorist organiser, illegal alien (perhaps he’s a Dreamer?), Spy, and murderer operating covertly in Iraq to overthrow the government in favour of the Iranian Mullahs.

    And people are claiming that Iran has grounds to complain that he got wacked?

    Hmmm, seems wacko to me!

  9. 5. Conclusion: “if Democrats were not so hypnotized by the Cognitive Dissonance Scale, they would know that attacking the President for a great success, just as the Obama administration led killing of Bin Laden was a success, looks petty, foolish, hypocritical, craven, and hyper-partisan to the majority of citizens not in the Trump Derangement red zone.
    But they just can’t see it.”

    All the better for 2020. May they remain blind for another 10 months.

  10. So the choir is all agreed? How depressing. Well leave me out. I think killing Soleimani was crazily irresponsible. Trump may well win votes but he’ll lose American lives, treasure and influence. And more to the point for me (being an alien whose opinion you can ignore) he’ll extend further the sheer misery of the moderate westernised population who seek a decent civilised life but won’t tolerate being lectured by Americans bearing high explosives. And he’ll probably lose lives and treasure from my two homelands, the UK and Australia as well.

    The key question I imagine previous Presidents discussed with their foreign policy guys was ‘So what does success look like?’ So what is Trump’s answer now?

    American professionals, be they engineers or accountants, are currently legging it from Baghdad following their Embassy advice: very inconvenient for them and their employers. So is the idea that drone inflicted ‘spankings’ of the ‘bad guys’ will change that? US foreign policy seems close to achieving the miracle of uniting Iranian and Iraqi anti Americanism. Can Baghdad ever again be a reasonable expat posting for American (or British or Australian) families not prepared to live behind barbed wire and armed guards?

    Or perhaps we’re to see a rerun of ‘shock and awe’ with the locals so impressed that they will at last do as they are told?

    Perhaps we’ll at last see the Chaney / Wolfowitz prophecy of the locals garlanding American troops in love and gratitude? And the American budget deficit repaired by revenue from oil sales?

    No, the Middle East holds the ruins of many failed
    US and ‘Western Plans’ going back beyond 3 humiliating defeats of British attempts to control the Taliban in Afghanistan and the CIA and MI6 overthrow in 1953 of the Iranian prime minister Mossadegh (democratically elected but replaced by the appallingly corrupt Shah.) Add in the disappointments more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan (and much else that hasn’t gone to plan) and you wonder : is anything ever learned?

    Yes plotting the US path in the Middle East is more than tricky. Despise them all you like (‘deep State’ etc.) but this is an issue for the best experts. This needs a Kissinger level of intellect and experience. How terrifying in these times to have it run seemingly without much consultation by a President convinced of his own brilliance and seemingly orientated primarily on winning the election.

    • There are so many bad analogies here, and I don’t have time to count them all. Killing this guy was an easy call. He’s a terror master, and he was planning on attacking US diplomats. He was at the height of his power; and had American blood on his hands, with the intent to have a lot more, and the wherewithal to do it. You can croon “Where have All The Flowers Gone?” if you want, but the lesson to be learned, which the pacifists and the moralizing non-participants never learn is that nations like Iran never stop provoking, threatening and killing until they are confronted with resolve.

      Citing Kissinger, by the way, is generally regarded as ironic here, where many regard him as a war criminal. But your perspective is appreciated.

      • Wow… AW actually opined about hypothetical deaths in the UK and Australia, both lands soon to ban sharp knives because they cannot trust their citizens to defend themselves.

        I might shed a tear… nope, Forrest Gump was right: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

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