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Lakoff writes: "You pick up a glass of water and drink it: direct causation. You bomb a hospital, destroying it and killing those inside: direct causation."

Portrait, George Lakoff. (photo: Bart Nagel)
Portrait, George Lakoff. (photo: Bart Nagel)


Systemic Causation and Syria: Obama's Framing Problem

By George Lakoff, Reader Supported News

13 September 13

 

very language in the world has a way in its grammar to express direct causation: a local application of force that has a local effect in place and time. You pick up a glass of water and drink it: direct causation. You bomb a hospital, destroying it and killing those inside: direct causation.

No language in the world has a way in its grammar to express systemic causation. You drill a lot more oil, burn a lot more gas, put a lot more CO2 in the air, the earth's atmosphere heats up, more moisture evaporates from the oceans yielding bigger storms in certain places and more droughts and fires in other places: systemic causation. The world ecology is a system -- like the world economy and the human brain.

From infanthood on we experience simple, direct causation. We see direct causation all around us: if we push a toy, it topples over; if our mother turns a knob on the oven, flames emerge. And so on. The same is not true of systemic causation. Systemic causation cannot be experienced directly. It has to be learned, its cases studied, and repeated communication is necessary before it can be widely understood.

The daily horrors in Syria are direct: shootings, bombings, gassings. When the media reports on "Syria" (as it should), it is reporting on the direct horrors. If "Syria" is the problem, the problem is the daily horrors, the 100,000 killed, the ongoing shootings and bombings, the persistent hatred and oppression. If the president is understood as addressing "Syria," and he proposes directly bombing Syria, the natural question is whether that eliminates the daily direct horrors. When he admits that it does not, when Secretary Kerry says correctly, "There are no good options in Syria," the question naturally arises, "Why bomb when it won't solve the direct problem, but might create other problems?"

To President Obama, "Syria" is not primarily about direct causation. It is about systemic causation as it affects the world as a whole. It is about preventing the proliferation of poison gas use and nuclear weapons. It is about the keeping and enforcement of treaties on these matters. That is what he meant when he said that the red line is not his, but "the world's red line," "the international community's red line." The president has a broad perspective. To him "Syria" does not just mean Syria; it means the effects of the horrors in Syria on the world. "Limited" bombing in Syria is not about directly stopping the horrors there; it is about an attempt to prevent proliferation of gas and nuclear weapons and about an attempt to move toward a peaceful resolution.

But the president has not made this clear, and he could not possibly do it in one speech, given that most people don't viscerally react to systemic causation, and many don't understand it at all. He could only do it by discussing it overtly, distinguishing what is systemic from what is direct, and repeating it over and over. Even then, it would be a hard sell for cognitive reasons -- even though he has good reasons to base his policy on it.

Then there is Russia. In his September 10 speech, Obama addressed the Russian plan to take control of the poison gas in Syria from Assad's hands, which Assad has assented to. He discussed the plan, but never mentioned why the usual rational distrust of Russia should not apply here. It shouldn't apply because taking control is in many ways in Russia's interests: there are business interests, and there are many Russian citizens in Syria working on technology or going to college or married to Syrians. An American bombing could lead to gas falling into the hands of jihadists from Chechnya and elsewhere, who could use gas in terrorist attacks on Russia. Russia has a very strong interest in taking control of Assad's poison gas and we can trust Russia to act in its interests. But the president didn't say that Russia has a real interest in a peaceful diplomatic resolution in Syria, just as we do. Why not? Given the deep suspicion of Russia in the American psyche, that is a hard sell, too.

Just as there are no easy direct options in Syria, so there are no easy direct short-run communication options for a reasonable policy based on systemic causation. The reason is that the communication of unfamiliar ideas like systemic causation is itself a systemic problem. You can't just mention it once and expect it to be widely understood. It has to be repeated over time by a lot of people in a lot of situations.

As a result, the president's logic of limited bombing is not understood: he wants to bomb to prevent the systemic effect of the use of poison gas, not to stop the direct killing via other means, which we cannot stop. Obama has two hard sells, which for cognitive reasons lie beyond his immediate control. Systemic causation is not a natural concept that is automatically learned. In the September 10 speech, these ideas were mentioned, but they were not put front and center. And moreover, there has been no communicative groundwork over the past five years that would help citizens understand the logic of systemic causation versus direct causation and how it applies to Syria and other issues of our times.

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+8 # carurosu 2013-09-13 15:25
Oh God; what a bore.!!!!
 
 
+35 # tedrey 2013-09-13 16:14
I think Lakoff is right off the tracks this time. For instance, he says that Obama is interested in "preventing the proliferation of poison gas use and nuclear weapons" and "keeping and enforcement of treaties on these matters". But actually Obama also wants to keep the attention completely off of the nuclear weapons of the United States itself, as well as the incredible track record of American invasions and subversions of autonomous governments. This makes it much harder to pitch an explanation that will sell, even in systemic terms, because one that honestly explicated the facts would have to lay bare the motives and methods of his own government.

Maybe this will make my point clearer. "In May 1991, President George H. W. Bush committed the United States to destroying all of its chemical weapons and renounced the right to chemical weapon retaliation. . . . Due to the destruction of chemical weapons, under the United States policy of Proportional Response, an attack upon the United States or its Allies would trigger a force-equivalen t counter-attack. Since the United States only maintains nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction, it is the stated policy that the United States will regard all WMD attacks (Biological, chemical, or nuclear) as a nuclear attack and will respond to such an attack with a nuclear strike."

This possession and acceptable use of OUR Weapons of Mass Destruction are official government U.S. policy. THEIRS are war crimes.
 
 
+18 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-09-13 19:55
"In May 1991, President George H. W. Bush committed the United States to destroying all of its chemical weapons...."

& how well has that progressed, 22 years later?
 
 
0 # tedrey 2013-09-17 07:05
Well, at first the government committed to finishing the job in ten years, but after 10 years, they negotiated a ten years extension, which having passed, it is now estimated that it will be completed in another . . . ten years. Do you see a pattern?
 
 
+44 # mdhome 2013-09-13 16:26
There needs to be some explaining how killing more Syrians will stop the killing of Syrians.
 
 
+7 # aaheart 2013-09-13 17:55
Tongue-in-cheek is sometimes too simple...but you're right. It's hard to persuade of an ultimate good that is particularly bad ... and wrong.
 
 
+39 # CandH 2013-09-13 16:35
All I hear (read between the lines) in this piece is, "Because Obama," and not a critical look at what this leader (CIA/JSOC/DoD/P entagon Boss) has been ACTUALLY DOING, systemically, in Syria since he took office. (Yes, the US-backed/funde d/trained "Rebels" have AND USED chemical weapons in Syria already.)

Stop funding/trainin g/arming the "Rebels," which is PRECISELY creating the systemic conditions for a "civil war" (and humanitarian disaster and nightmare for millions) to ensue. Period.

Unless, of course, the real purpose of the US funding/trainin g/arming the "Rebels" is just not cognitively appropriate to lay out to the World the real intent of all this: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/09/help-kickstart-world-war-3.html
 
 
+10 # munza1 2013-09-13 16:57
Very good simple analysis giving a clear concept, a distinction between direct causation and systemic causation. It's ironic that with Obama's oratorical skills the message is often not clear. And when the message offers promise, he compromises it away.
 
 
+12 # Rationalist 2013-09-13 19:26
I am not convinced that using jargon ("systemic causation")clar ifies anything; but if it works for you, that's great. I fear, however, that if Obama spoke in those terms, most people would be even more confused. Lakoff's explanation is otherwise clear (although I disagree with it); and maybe it contains elements that Pres. Obama could use to more effectively communicate; but please lose the jargon. And Dr. Lakoff, while I appreciate your attempt to use the terms "framing" and "systemic causation" as ways of organizing our thoughts about communication and logic, I regretfully have to say that I don't think it particularly helpful, and fear that jargon can actually take us farther away from the concepts you are seeking to clarify. You are really saying nothing more than what we already know, which is that how one says something is just as important as what one says. I have a preference for direct language, but others may disagree.
 
 
+1 # tomo 2013-09-13 22:35
Lakoff has more problems than his use of jargon. His morals are way off too.
 
 
0 # babalu 2013-09-16 05:43
Quoting Rationalist:
the terms "framing" and "systemic causation" as ways of organizing our thoughts about communication and logic

This is the methodology that the Republcans have used to be successful in communicating with the masses. 1) you have something to communicate most people won't like. 2) Pick a friendly frame into which you can fit selected points. 3) have people vote for your terrible ideas because they "fit" with the masses' views. EXAMPLE: 1) Republicans know women won't vote lockstep with them, so they want to devalue the part of the electorate that actually produces ALL of the electorate - and they run candidates who will support rich white males to the exclusion of others. 2) Call thinking women Femininazis. 3)Falsely attack female opponents of misogynist Republican candidates.
People can only understand from their viewpoints (frames). Ignoring their viewpoints (frames) limits our ability to get across our points.
Sorry, you can't step back from the news of the day to consider HOW it is being communicated.
 
 
+2 # Shanti 2013-09-16 07:04
I saw Dr. Lakoff's piece as clear explanation, not jargon. What wasn't mentioned is that the U.S. would be breaking international law by taking the proposed action. I would like to know, then, if international law hasn't already been broken by giving financial and expert support to the rebels.
 
 
+8 # fredboy 2013-09-13 17:17
The president, indeed most recent presidents, hits a major roadblock when trying to frame positions. He and his speechwriters also lack a clear understanding of the power of efficient, dynamic storytelling and the use of metaphors.

I must disagree on one point of your otherwise excellent column. You state "we cannot stop" the killing of innocent civilians in Syria by means other than poison gas.

We may not wish to stop this killing, we may be hesitant to intervene to save innocent civilians, but we CAN stop it if we truly wish to do so. Remember, we are a nation that invaded another nation, unprovoked, on false pretenses and allegations, and destroyed that nation--Iraq.

So we CAN stop the current killings. In this case, we simply don't wish to do so.
 
 
+11 # aaheart 2013-09-13 18:08
Seems you are promoting direct causation without consideration of changing our own system of causation. We've created a superior way to kill people by messing with their system so that we effectively kill a lot of their people. Since killing their people is Obama's goal, he seems to be doing very well at reaching his goal. Stopping the current killings is NOT Obama's objective; it's just a systemic device for more effective killing.
 
 
+22 # genegrab 2013-09-13 17:22
In a neo-Hegelian manner,(the voice of history, etc.), Professor Lakoff presumes to assert Obama's "red line" as the world's "red line," etc., the argument seems weak to me.

For example,if Obama were really to world-historica lly oppose chemical weapons proliferation, and nuclear weapons proliferation, he would call for an internationally enforceable U.N. treaty banning both types of weapons systems from the entire Mideast. This, of course, would mean that Israel would have to relinquish its chemical weapons, (which it does have), and sign on to the anti-chemical weapons convention--dit to for nuclear and thermonuclear arms. I suspect that that is not about to occur.

Additionally, and to show good will, Obama should kill the 'missile defense shield,' now set to quite closely ring about Russia's borders, granting first strike potential to the U.S., (read NATO).

The U.S. can also well-afford to unilaterally and publicly, "to a candid world," destroy 1000 nuclear/thermon uclear MIRV'd warheads as a real gesture to peace. (For those who want them, many warheads would be left.)

Finally,given Libya and the current CIA continuous streaming of arms to the rebels in Syria, (themselves well represented by Al Qaeda contingents), I disagree with the romantic characterizatio n of President Obama as a peace-loving, sophisticated, and brilliant diplomat, (a Scaramouche of sorts?).

On this count, I think Russia is in the lead.
 
 
+3 # tomo 2013-09-13 22:38
Yep! In his preoccupation with words, I think Lakoff has lost all touch with the history of the world in the last few decades.
 
 
+13 # Douglas Jack 2013-09-13 17:27
CAUSATION, George Lakoff doesn't pay attentions

We can be preparing a WAR-CRIMES-TRIB UNAL FOR US, Canadian, NATO, Israeli, Saudi manufacture, arming, supply, financing of foreign mercenaries (over 50% of supposed rebel forces), delivery of Sarin Nerve Gas & the media's False-Flag cover-up is criminal. This isn't the end of world drama. In a few months our corporate media will be slighting another government leader somewhere else, because western powers are presently financing & arming dissidents in over 80 nations in order to destabilize their governments for geopolitical & easy cheap resource acquisition. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/e-history/8-nuclear-war

We've a case of 'Intellectual-C owardess', for western war-economy nations, who don't know how to engage perceived enemies in equal-time, recorded & published formal dialogues.
Source Compilation for peace & both-sided solutions.
There are Dialectic ('both-sided') equal-time, recorded & published dialogue approaches which must become de rigeur in human relations as all humanity understood during our 100s of 1000s of years of 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') peace & prosperity. We need to create a culture of dialectic rights in every home, school, company, institution, law & government with processes for every person having the right to challenge events & structures through dialogue. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/structure/both-sides-now-equal-time-recorded-dialogues
 
 
+35 # fresnoman4man 2013-09-13 17:27
Lakoff is right about the US hypocritical policy of a false equivalency. The US can use "chemicals" like depleted uranium, or white phosphorous and Israel followed the US lead and used chemical weapons on the civilian population of Gaza. The US was so "outraged" by the victims getting in the way of Israeli chemical bombs that it promptly rushed more bombs to Israel. To this day the UN has not inspected the US or Israel for their caches of chemical and biological weapons. Yes, Syria, don't do as the US and Israel does, do as they tell you so we can wreck you with a genocidal fratricide that advances the imperialistic agenda of the US
 
 
+3 # hbheinze 2013-09-14 08:43
Fresno: Excellent. These were my immediate reactions to the article, but you've said it better than I could have!
 
 
+2 # tomo 2013-09-14 17:57
fresno: I'd be sympathetic to GL's article if I could find where he says what you say he says. I cannot. Instead I find a jargon-ridden exercise of apologetics on behalf of Obama.
 
 
+5 # Ja-Roz 2013-09-13 19:06
Eloquent statement of a complex thought --think about it, please
 
 
-4 # robcarter.vn 2013-09-13 19:49
My suggestion to The Americalites is that they read their own Judeo-Christian Proselytizing material, then remembering Goliath & the General message that the midget can use his marbles, or gas BART to defeat the giant like a 9/11 if they keep inviting Islamite's to "bring the battle to our turf" ~ better to appease David the womanizer, Cleopatra Style than face the midget with big guns against his small stones. Also remember that current new scientific studies suggest that small stones make for the better fathers. So says Emory University http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/130909/smaller-testicles-better-father-study-confirms. David the womanizer can most definitely defeat Goliath the terrorizer in this New World Socialist order.

But then I suggest: Of course they are playing the story for funding, good luck. But the Bible tells it so that David was a womanizes small as he was and Goliath had no tarts, he was too busy with his soldiers. Besides science tells us "Testosterone" makes hair grow and hairs roots grow testosterone more of that hormone makes bigger balls and makes whore-moans of pleasure, too busy with womanizing to play daddy. Low hormone testosterone means smaller testicles and hence less womanizing so they are better fathers. It's a simple chemical/psycho logical factor at play here. And philistines weren't circumcised like Davyboy's Jews and it's for-skins and for-lick-alls that inspires most.
 
 
+12 # lobdillj 2013-09-13 20:21
The statement: "No language in the world has a way in its grammar to express systemic causation." seems to be an admission that systemic causation cannot be defined. And that would mean it is not worth talking about. Secondly, Obama's proposed strike would, in fact, cause the deaths of many innocent people, or at least many people who cannot be proved guilty of anything. I don't care how you try to frame it, you can't get away from facts.

Is Dr. Lakoff saying that whether a strike would constitute a war crime or not depends on the language Obama uses to justify it? It seems that way. Obama can't justify it because it's a war crime. Let's stop dragging out framing as a solution to every issue. Framing is a useful concept when you're trying to convince the public and are trying to do the right thing. But if you want to do something that is wrong, no frame can make it right.
 
 
0 # babalu 2013-09-16 05:54
Lobbi, we live in a changing, expanding, more complicated world and need new words and concepts all the time - language catches up.
Lakoff is not addressing whether a strike would be a war crime - just looking for better way to state the option of NOT bombing. Many of US would like help in convincing our neighbors it is best and NEED his help.
As Bill Maher says we are the only country that goes around saying "all options are on the table" and "we are considering bombing you." The rest of the world thinks we are an evil bully. As long as we keep up those "macho" (thanks, McCain) - no abusive -statements, disaffected youth in target countries are easy to recruit for attacks.
 
 
+13 # pkrumm 2013-09-13 20:56
It is not surprising that systemic causation is not discussed in the major media. If it were, we would be treating global warming and the movement of money from the productive sector to the money sector as systemic problems. That would not do for those who want the status quo to continue.
 
 
+3 # ormondotvos 2013-09-14 10:30
Systemic causation is CONSTANTLY discussed in the media, just not the popular media. The internet is full of fascinating, heavy-duty analyses by the likes of Stiglitz, Chomsky, etc but they aren't popular because forking of results isn't simple enough for the lazy mind.

Nothing special about that; it isn't recent. All the old thinkers complain few can follow them, see supposed Einstein quote " we can't solve problems with the same kind of thinking that caused them..."
 
 
+17 # eridani 2013-09-13 21:26
Why is poison gas so much worse than depleted uranium, white phosphorous or cluster bombs?

Depleted Uranium

Used almost entirely by the US, and banned internationally .

In certain Iraqi cities, the health consequences are significantly worse than those seen in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of WWII.

White phosphorus
Modern napalm, used by the US in Fallujah and elsewhere, and by Israel in Gaza

Skin burns away to the bone but clothing remains unscathed - white phosphorus reacts with water, i.e. human skin.

"Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for."

Cluster bombs

Banned by every country but the US, they leave you alive, but permanently maimed.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/study-says-almost-all-cluster-bomb-victims-are-children-422743.html

As many as 98 per cent of victims of cluster bombs over the past three decades have been civilians, a third of them children, a report has disclosed.

The study of 24 countries and regions by the humanitarian pressure group Handicap International showed that the weapons, still being used by government forces including those of the UK, have killed or maimed 11,044 people.
 
 
+9 # tomo 2013-09-13 23:54
As you suggest, eridani, the double standards are so obvious to anyone paying attention that--whatever Obama is up to--it surely has little to do with moral outrage over the use of poison gas. On the other hand, it may have something to do with outrage that some others would allow themselves the recklessness we routinely allow ourselves.
 
 
+8 # tomo 2013-09-13 22:49
Perhaps Lakoff has overdosed on French deconstructioni sm. He'd do well to go back to the great maxim Kant has bequeathed us: "Never use a human being as a mere means." Bombing Syrians to send a message to Assad and--Lakoff would have it--the world at large would be just that. Has Lakoff suddenly come to the conclusion that the end justifies the means--or is this article a forgery?
 
 
+3 # janie1893 2013-09-14 00:01
Mr. Lakoff makes a good, logical case for his theory. Those people who cant understand what he is saying are too lazy to think.
That said, I disagree with his ideas as to outcome.
 
 
+5 # Edwina 2013-09-14 09:06
I agree with most of the comments that Lakoff is too clever by half. (As is Pres. Obama.) Logic has little to do with it; presumptions and rhetoric more. "Moyers & Co." has an excellent interview with Andrew Bacevich about Syria and U.S. policy in the Middle East. It should be noted that AIPAC, the Israeli lobbying organization in the U.S., is pushing for destruction of the Syrian government because it has been an ally of Iran. They should be careful what they wish for: if certain rebel groups gain control, they will be a nightmare, compared to Assad. But then maybe the idea is just to have the Middle East implode in civil war -- as is now happening in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
 
 
-1 # RobertMStahl 2013-09-14 09:14
While Rand Paul evades the truth of this debate, also, that Russia attacked Afghanistan because it is, still, the planetary epicenter of POPPY production which was defeating the Russian economy then, the US turned around to supply the Taliban with weapons, and the drug lords won. What follows, then, but what is continuing? It is Russia that had the initial nation-state conflict with al Qaeda and defends the free world from it now, not Obama, not even China.

If you understood Indira Singh, now missing in action at the time she began contact with Richard Andrew Grove, both with troves of court documents and more, you would see that the cover up of the money laundering, the next logical step in the massive drug trade, or worse, staged the learning curve of history turning an amazing past into catastrophic math (a bifurcation principle). What followed was how the term al Qaeda came into being, mainly via 911.

It is really a study in progressiveness versus modernism, and I'll leave it to the reader to guess what side the surveillance state falls on, the Iron Mask of Barrett Brown's gag order. In any event, al Nusra is al Qaeda, who was the Taliban.

The real question is the old guard donning the robes of the syndicates on either side, whether they be Muslim based or Christian, they are both of the origin of Abraham, where irreligious is what all of this is, gestalt, myself a self proclaimed protestant atheist who believes in religious intelligence, or inspiration.
 
 
+6 # jwb110 2013-09-14 10:03
Causation is an interesting way to look at this but the argument is framed from the POV that the American Public is just not smart enough to "get it". What the public may have "grokked" is that there is a "systemic" disease in the reasoning being use by the White House, and whoever else might benefit from an "intervention" in Syria. Underestimating the American Public has its own set of problems. It is arrogance and flys in the face of Democracy. We the People, who should be better represented by this gov't have the right to say, loud and clear, NO. There is every bit as much chance that Washington is wrong about this as the People might be. The inherent issue is Washington thinks it pays for the WAR. The People, in the face of a "New World Order" that has suck them dry in terms of employment and wages, has decided that it is tired of war and it tired of paying for it with cash and children. Washington does not know better and the People have spoken.
 
 
+3 # aaheart 2013-09-14 10:28
The old Mossad slogan is less confusing and deceptive: By deception do war is their motto according to a former katsa (case officer) in the Israeli Mossad, Victor Ostrovsky.
 
 
+2 # sphereless 2013-09-14 13:08
Well, GL is right about one thing, the process of direct causation is usually responsible for a simpler understanding of what is actually occurring in the world around us. Given that premise, I'd say this whole piece is about using the theory of "indirect causation" to manipulate the focus of the masses.

Try this for Direct Causation:

Obama and Putin are equally concerned about the ease of gassing innocents in Syria because no oil corporation will be able to get workers to go into Syria to finish the new pipeline which is set to cross Syria to go directly to the Mediterranean. This looming WWIII is strictly about insuring oil profits. A new pipeline needs to be be built and the industry requires workers willing to go there to build it. And let us not forget the newly discovered natural gas fields in the Syrian north-west.

Direct Cau$ation= A corrupt M.I.C. instigating war$ in the middle-east to directly increase the profits and power of big oil.

Kings of industry get away with murder all over the world by mass marketing propaganda via bold lies and theories of indirect/direct causation. And American tax-payers pay the bills ... American military men and women pay with their hearts, limbs and lives ... All Innocents pay ...

Big oil profits are tax-free and record breaking.

Assad brutally murdered 100,000 people - not one world leader did a thing. Yet, as soon as gas was used to kill 1,000 people, the entire world cares?

"Indirect causation", my a$$.
 
 
+4 # Sunflower 2013-09-14 13:55
Even if what Obama really wanted was to stop the use of chemical weapons, bombing would not be likely to produce that result.

So, no wonder the US people had cognitive dissonance on his plan.

I expect what Obama really wanted to do was to overthrow Assad openly, instead of through funding and arming the rebels, as the US is doing now, so that he could satisfy the Israelis, and after Syria was turned into mincemeat, he could follow up with an attack on Iran.
That would Really make Netanyahu happy.

Isn't this obvious to everyone??
 
 
+2 # eli whitney 2013-09-15 09:05
"Every language in the world has a way in its grammar to express direct causation... No language in the world has a way in its grammar to express systemic causation."

This is nonsense. English has a special case, mood, or punctuation that expresses direct causation?

"But the president has not made this clear, and he could not possibly do it in one speech, given that most people don't viscerally react to systemic causation, and many don't understand it at all."

More nonsense, but this time it's getting personal. "Prof. Obama could explain it all, but it would take a semester of lectures, and even then some of you wouldn't get it."
 
 
0 # Charles H. Winslow 2013-12-18 14:16
What is clear from many of these comments is that responders don't lack in intelligence and knowledge of the misdeeds of the world elites but that they do lack basic political sense. Politics and strategics are different. One engages in politics when strategics will not work, when B will not do the x that A wants him to do. As one commenter noted, Lakoff is explaining why it is difficult for Obama to explain why he is NOT bombing Syria in this particular situation. You have to take that nut off before you can extract the bolt and get the oil pan off, Israel's misdeeds notwithstanding . Putting the destroyers with the GLCMs in the eastern Mediterranean allowed Obama to employ a knight-fork against Putin and Assad. With Sochi as the hostage king, two up and one across (left), and Damascus the hostage rook, two up and one across (right), the knight fork is decisive. A big gas attack would mean NO Sochi winter games. No movement on getting rid of the canisters would mean a severe degradation of Damascus military assets. The knight can move either way while the Russian king is in check. Moreover, the knight can stay put, since, unlike in chess, Sochi cannot be moved. Let's see if a Geneva II can be convened before the onset of the winter games in Sochi. Lakoff is right; the strategic intricacies could not be easily explained, especially when so many want to rectify history since the time of Adam and Eve rather than solve problems and save lives.
 

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