Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Monday, June 20, 2005

Agency in Lebanon

If someone blew up my house and a piece of debris from the rec room was rocketed across the neighborhood and flew past a mugger just as he was about to rip off some old lady’s purse, and the piece distracted him just enough to allow the old lady to administer a donkey kick right to his balls, while I would be pretty mad about my house (as in, not being for blowing it up) I would have to admit that the lady got a pretty good deal. This same lady, after the fact, might not even feel too terrible about what happened to my house. This is basically how I feel about what’s going on in Lebanon. Hariri Sr.’s assassination notwithstanding, and for as much as I disagree with the rationale behind war in Iraq, I must concede that U.S. involvement in Iraq, however unjustified and harmful in itself, provided the backdrop for a positive step for democratic self-rule in Lebanon.

For those of you who are still unconvinced as to agency, consider this situation from the wonderful and magical game of baseball. A pitcher gives up a single, then the runner steals second. Now if the pitcher walks the next batter, some would be tempted to say that the steal was rendered useless, because the runner would have moved over anyway when the next guy walked. While it is impossible to prove either way, what remains true is that the pitcher had to face a batter with a man on second. This was the environment in which the second batter’s plate appearance (not an at-bat, cause he walked) took place. We cannot say definitively that it caused the walk, but the fact is that we just don’t know what would have happened if the pitcher had faced the next man with the first man still on first base. Maybe he would have thrown sinkers trying to induce a double-play grounder instead of unsuccessfully pecking at the corners for the strikeout trying to prevent the runner from advancing to third with one out. Environment counts for a lot, and, at the end of the day, it is value neutral. Every action has countless ramifications, some good and some bad. One is not forced to be “for” something when one says that it helped to cause good.

This blog is based on a true story.