HUMINT: Hypocritical Labels

Reasons for believing in and supporting any American policy are subject to change. Indeed, change is a natural part of the human condition. There should be no shame in changing one’s mind, if the reasons for doing so are empirically defensible.

Obviously, flippant opinions on subjects as serious as American-War policy are dangerous. At the same time, American policy can be over-analyzed and mischaracterized. Such hypocritical labeling leads the public and their representatives toward erroneous conclusions and bad policy decisions.

Where consistency should not waiver though are the broad strokes. Missing the BIG picture is a serious error with serious consequences. Unfortunately, many people do miss the BIG picture. How? The BIG picture changes very slowly, almost imperceptibly.

Its slowness breeds misinterpretation. To see the BIG picture as it truly is, consider taking the long-view. Dig into history. Find the important trends. Look for successful parallels in the past. Bear witness to past failures in order to learn what NOT to believe.

The BIG picture is most discernable when juxtaposing facts sampled over long periods of time. In terms of American policy, the big picture appears to be:

1. The United States is a positive moral force in the world today and has been since 1776

2. The American Message begins with Americans, but is broadly articulated by their representatives

3. American Wars are catastrophic and wasteful events, to be avoided whenever possible

4. When the United States is at war, be it civil or otherwise, the only objective should be victory

5. Victory is defined by the elected President of the United States

These five points are empirically defensible. Labels contradicting them are taxing but welcome. A contradictory mischaracterization is ultimately a hypocritical label. Here’s why; labeling a positive force negative sustains bad policy. That’s an embodiment of hypocrisy.

Hypocritical labels deserve to be challenged. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who mischaracterizes the United States. Irrespective of where the distortion comes from; a foreign official or an American activist, every single mischaracterization deserves a rhetorical confrontation.

What will that confrontation look like? Inevitably, challenges to the BIG picture, will be conceptually deconstructed. Political discourse on the subject tends to lean toward specific policy failures or questionable military practices. That’s fine!

Those debates are an exercise in free speech [1] and precisely why the United States is a positive moral force in the world today. The freedom to accumulate and present empirical evidence virtually guarantees improvement in policy and tactics.

Broadening the scope of this essay beyond American policy; success in anything, including victory at war, is not possible without incremental improvements derived through informed debate.

Where should the debate occur? Unfortunately, that’s not a rational choice to make. The debate must occur wherever and whenever a mischaracterization is made.

Why should the debate occur? Obviously, not every confused soul is going to listen to an intellectual argument rooted in empirical evidence, but mischaracterizations shouldn’t be ignored.

However, there are priorities among the broad ecosystem of mischaracterizations. To be sure, the debate must happen when the results of an American policy or military tactic do not satisfy the BIG picture.

Engaging in debate over policy and tactics is the least an American patriot can do. Failure is not the intent of any American policy or tactic. American policy failures under public scrutiny right now cannot substitute as the BIG picture for American domestic or foreign policy. That’s substituting a distorted short-view for a more accurate long-view. Unfortunately, the substitution is made too often, causing a public opinion vortex.

When public opinion is distorted by mischaracterizations of American foreign or domestic policy, the world is burdened with a hypocritical label.


1. The painting on this post is entitled "Freedom of Speech": In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech about the "Four Freedoms" everyone should have: freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship. Norman Rockwell painted these Four Freedoms. These paintings succeeded in raising almost $133 million in war-bond purchases. Norman Rockwell said the Four Freedoms were "serious paintings which sucked the energy right out of me, leaving me dazed and thoroughly weary." Rockwell uses various techniques to draw your attention to the main character in Freedom of Speech. The speaker is in the center of the scene and he is the only one standing. Other people in the picture are looking up at him. Rockwell creates a strong sense that the speaker is really speaking and that the listeners are really listening. To illustrate listening, he slightly exaggerated the size of their ears.

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