Monday, November 21, 2005

Framing Questions

Think Progress caught Dick Cheney framing a question in an interesting way:

Vice President Cheney made a striking claim a few minutes ago at the American Enterprise Institute:

Those who advocate a sudden withdraw from Iraq should answer a couple simple questions. Would the United States and other free nations be better off or worse off with Zarqawi, Bin Laden and Zawahiri in control Iraq? Would we be safer or less safe with Iraq ruled by men intent upon the destruction of our country.

This reminds me of the standard wingnut response to any criticism of the Iraq occupation, the one where you are asked if you would prefer having Saddam in power instead.

The crucial missing part in this approach to framing questions is: Compared to what, exactly? "Is the world better off without Saddam Hussein?" is not the complete question. Of course the world would be better off without Saddam if he could have been removed by just pressing the delete button on some divine computer. But the real questions should include the costs of taking Saddam out, both in lives and reputations lost and in the creation of what amounts to a civil war in Iraq.

Likewise, Cheney's new question is not a complete one, because it fails to point out that the terrorists are in Iraq to a large part because of the American occupation. They are not going to go away if the American troops stay. Not that I am necessarily advocating immediate withdrawal (a few days at least would be required for packing up...).