In a review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Niall Ferguson writes in the Telegraph:
In any case, as President Bush has learned, you don't get rewarded for trying to stop bad things from happening, precisely because if you're successful they don't happen. On his watch, after all, there hasn't been another 9/11 (a classic Black Swan event). And Saddam Hussein will never invade Kuwait again. But is anybody out there grateful? Not even Bush himself can be certain that his strategy of pre-emption deserves the credit for non-events.
Although Taleb makes some interesting points in his book, Ferguson goes off the deep end in his effort to give credit to Bush. First, by treating 9-11 as a Black Swan (a highly improbable, unpreventable event), Ferguson leaves himself caught in a contradiction when he gives Bush credit for preventing another 9-11 since he has already absolved Bush of responsibility for 9-11 by declaring it an improbable, unpreventable event. But, if we ignore this apparent contradiction in Ferguson's position, we encounter other problems with his argument.
While Presidents may not get credit for things that haven’t happened during their terms of office, 9-11 did happen while Bush was President. It did not happen during the tenure of Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter or Nixon. Is Ferguson troubled by the absence of credit given to those presidents because 9-11 didn't occur during their terms? If he is troubled by this failure to give credit, he certainly doesn't tell us about it.
But, potentially more troubling in Ferguson's statement is the perpetuation of a lie that the Bush administration subtly propagated linking 9-11 to Saddam Hussein. There is an inexplicit link being drawn here between Bush's efforts in Iraq and the fact that there hasn't been a second 9-11 during his term of office, as if Saddam was somehow connected to the first 9-11.
It is highly dubious to suppose that the disastrous invasion of Iraq has even the remotest connection to the fact that there hasn't been another 9-11 in the US. Sure, Ferguson doesn't claim this explicitly, but that is the point. He makes no effort to clarify just what he means by Bush's 'efforts' to prevent bad things, while mentioning Saddam and Kuwait in the same paragraph. He goes on to insinuate that we are somehow remiss for failing to be grateful to Bush for his successful efforts to prevent a second 9-11 during his presidency. It's pretty clear that Ferguson makes a muddle of all of this to leave the impression that there is a link between the toppling of Saddam and the fact that we haven't had another 9-11.
So here we have 9-11 occurring during Bush’s term and Bush has presided over the huge mess in Iraq that has killed and maimed more Americans than 9-11. Yet, we’re supposed to give him special credit because he could have but did not preside over a second 9-11 during his terms in office?
And, while Ferguson is busy noting that we fail to give Bush credit for allegedly preventing another Saddam-led invasion of Kuwait, he might as well complain that we weren't properly grateful to Saddam for preventing mutual slaughter between Shia and Sunni's... something that occurs daily because Bush took Saddam out. I guess Saddam wasn't getting proper credit for the things that didn't happen when he was in charge.
Such a pity.
H/T: Bird Dog