Critical Section


Fehlervorhersagefreude

Tuesday,  04/22/03  05:07 PM

As you know, I've been looking for a word which means "a malicious satisfaction in the mispredictions of others".  And here it is:

Fehlervorhersagefreude (fail-or-vor-hair-sock-froid-uh)

The derivation: schadenfreude is a German word made from two German words, schaden ("damage") and freude ("delight").  Schadenfreude means damage-delight.  After consultation with my Mom we decided to start with fehlervorhersage, which means "failure prediction".  Tacking on freude ("delight"), we get fehlervorhersagefreude, or failure-prediction-delight.  Perfect.

I was a reluctant supporter of invading Iraq; I was conflicted by the potential for disaster in not doing anything, vs. the potential for disaster in doing the wrong thing.  Once America began the process, I became a supporter; it seems like you have to pull together in these things.  And I am pleased beyond any expectation that we triumphed militarily so quickly, and at such a low cost in lives.  (H.D.Miller concludes that the war killed fewer Iraqis in a month than Saddam's regime did...)  Of course there are still many ways to fail, but so far so good.  Certainly the dire predictions of some anti-war pundits have not come to pass, and they look downright embarrassing in the rear view mirror:

I just read "Soaking the Rich", a column by Geoffrey Colvin in Fortune about what the war will cost in dollars, and how that cost will be borne.  This column was published on March 31, nine days before the fall of Baghdad, and it estimates that the war would last six months, and cost the average American $260.

Yesterday I relayed John Tabin's note about the April 5 cover of le figaro, which asks, "Iraq, the next Vietnam?"  The San Francisco Bay Guardian asked the same question on April 2.

It isn't important to rub it in (although it may be fun), but what is important is to keep a sense of perspective.  The common mistake of all mispredictions was drawing conclusions too soon.  It was entirely plausible that coalition military action in Iraq could have become a quagmire, but to declare it so after two weeks, as the San Francisco Chronicle did, was hasty.  Similarly, The Statesman has declared the peace to be a quagmire, after only a week.  (The interval for quagmire declaration seems to be diminishing...  time was, a good quagmire took several years to develop...)

I'll try to remember, as I indulge in Fehlervorhersagefreude, that history is written over decades and centuries, not weeks and months.  The mis-prognosticators could still be right.  Nah!

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