Morton’s Fork

forkIn an interview with the Washington Post, a befuddled President Bush claimed “we’re not winning and we’re not losing in Iraq.” Politicians and pundits from all shades of the political spectrum have offered “solutions” to the situation in Iraq. Bush’s latest strategy is to appear to be listening to and consulting with err… “other folks…” before deciding on his new way forward.

According to the Post,

Bush said he has not yet made a decision about a new strategy for Iraq and would wait for Gates to return from a trip there to assess the situation. “I need to talk to him when he gets back,” Bush said. “I’ve got more consultations to do with the national security team, which will be consulting with other folks. And I’m going to take my time to make sure that the policy, when it comes out, the American people will see that we . . . have got a new way forward.”

Of course, the real reason Bush is stalling is because he is faced with a classic example of Morton’s Fork. Morton’s Fork is an expression that describes a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives or two lines of reasoning that lead to the same unpleasant conclusion. The expression originated from a policy of tax collection devised by John Morton, Lord Chancellor in 1487, under the rule of Henry VII. His approach was that if the subject lived in luxury and had clearly spent a lot of money on himself, he obviously had sufficient income to spare for the king. Alternatively, if the subject lived frugally, and showed no sign of being wealthy, he must have substantial savings and could therefore afford to give it to the king. These arguments were the two prongs of the fork and regardless of whether the subject was rich or poor, he didn’t have a favourable choice.

America is impaled on the two prongs of the fork in Iraq. Whether we stay the course or withdraw, we face the same unpleasant conclusion.

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