Saturday, August 9, 2014

Butterfly Effect

Back in 2009, our Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker observed, "The events for which the Iraq War will be remembered have not yet happened."

We are now seeing the beginning of those events for which the war will be remembered: the rise of ISIS, and the beginning of a power struggle to determine the future that part of the Middle East we now know as Iraq and Syria.

To me, the crisis in the Middle East is an example of the butterfly effect in action.  Let me explain.

We are all familiar with the term butterfly effect, named for the hypothesis that a butterfly fluttering its wings will create a tiny change in air currents, which change in turn could effect other currents, starting a potential chain with increasingly greater effects, so perhaps culminating on a typhoon on the other side of the Earth.

The poor design of the "butterfly ballot" used in Florida in the 2000 election cost Al Gore over 20,000 votes, votes that would have easily propelled him to the presidency if the voters wishing to vote for him had not (understandably) been confused by the poor design, and so improperly punched their cards so their votes went to another candidate or were just not counted.  As a result, Bush was declared the winner in Florida, and so gained the presidency.

Now consider the counterfactual if Gore had become president as the voters wished.  9/11 would probably have been averted (I'll return to explain this in a future posting), and we would certainly not have embarked on the disastrous Iraq adventure.  And our destablization  of Iraq has led to the current frightful state of affairs as ISIS gains ground.

So, as I say, the butterfly effect made real...

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