Always the Same, Yet Always Getting Worse

The world of financial services offers us the familiar disclaimer, “Past performance is not an indicator of future results.” It’s a warning against excessive optimism — “irrational exuberance” — and an acknowledgment that nobody really knows what the future holds. Last year’s high-flyer might be next year’s boat anchor. Market predictions that seem brilliant in January can look idiotic in December — and vice versa.

But sometimes I think past performance is an indicator of what to expect from the future. When the past record is one of failure after failure after failure after failure, and the new plan is more of the same, it’s not very reasonable to expect success next time around.

Via Atrios, Jim Henley says the stakes go up every time we fail, but the solution remains the same:

[O]ur mission is no longer preventing “full-blown civil war,” which used to be what we had to prevent, or “increased sectarian strife,” which is what we had to prevent before that, or “increasing insurgent violence” which is what we had to prevent before that. The pattern has always been:

1. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Bad Thing from happening.

2. Bad Thing happens anyway.

3. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Worse Thing from happening.

4. Worse Thing happens anyway.

5. Reiterate sequence.

At no point does the “Sensible Center” consider that the previous failures implicate our ability to fulfill the new mission, which is always paradoxically grander in scale while being a retreat from previous ambitions.

From the Washington Post:

The administration had said the president would address the nation before Christmas but scrapped those plans as Bush grapples with a host of proposals for adjusting policy in the increasingly unpopular and costly war.

Mostly, I think it’s the speech writers who will be busy, searching for a way to make the same old policy sound like a bold new idea.