Sunday, December 18, 2005

80% Solution

I've been kind of demoralized recently for a number of reasons, so haven't been posting very much. Not the least of those reasons is the mind-numbingly aggressive schadenfreude of the so-called "democratic" party as it tries to drum up any excuse it can to shove it to the Commander in Chief. For instance, Fred Barnes has a piece in the Weekly Standard suggesting that the Iraqi poll item that has become the favorite talking point of the cut-and-runners is probably not very informative, for three reasons (h/t: Protein Wisdom):

1. We don't know the "internals," so we don't know whether the poll was representative.
2. The poll results don't reflect other polls that ask an analogous question about support for US presence in Iraq (most of which suggest that the proportion who oppose US presence is much smaller, and their views are also more conditional).
3. The specific wording of this question is ambiguous: “Do you support the presence of coalition forces in Iraq?”

The general rule in designing a survey instrument is that if a question elicits a response frequency in the neighborhood of 80-90 percent then the question is probably too crude to be useful. At the very least you have to ask follow-up questions so that you can cross-tabulate. For instance such follow-ups might try to determine what the respondent defines as "support," and under what conditions that support might change. It also might be interesting to find out what the response to such an ambiguous question might be in S. Korea, Japan or Germany. If similar (and it probably would be similar in S. Korea) would the Democrats now be demanding that we pull out of those countries?

The essence of the issue here, if I might be so bold, is the distinction between democracy (power of the people) and demosophia (wisdom of the people). For, to have a robust democracy able to defend itself and make wise decisions about what course to chart through an uncertain and dangerous future "the people" have to be well-informed. It is therefore ironic that the core case the Democrats make is that the Bush administration misled the American people about the threat posed by Iraq. That's ironic because the present situation seems to remove all doubt that deception within the context of a war that threatens the very security of civilization is central to the Democrats' agenda. They know what's best, so whether "the people" are able to make wise and informed decisions is of little importance provided they can be herded in the "correct" direction.

And it's likely to get worse, because the stakes could not be higher. As Wretchard observed a few weeks ago:

The problem with using words to trump reality is that it wagers everything on a monumental bluff. The mesmerist must carry all before him or be humiliated. A King must be obeyed or lose the throne. There is no middle ground.

And each time the bet is raised the potential loss becomes more catastrophic. Already the public has begun to suspect that things aren't going as badly in Iraq as they've been led to believe, and it's possible for most people to see that the stakes for the US outweigh any wager laid down by the Democrats or MSM. They're a long way from throwing in the towel, though.