The problem-solvers have been characterized as men of great self-confidence, who “seem rarely to doubt their ability to prevail,” and they worked together with the members of the military of whom “the history remarks that they were ‘men accustomed to winning.’”8 We should not forget that we owe it to the problem-solvers’ effort at impartial self-examination, rare among such people, that the actors’ attempts at hiding their role behind a screen of self-protective secrecy (at least until they have completed their memoirs—in our century the most deceitful genre of literature) were frustrated. The basic integrity of those who wrote the report is beyond doubt; they could indeed be trusted by Secretary McNamara to produce an “encyclopedic and objective” report and “to let the chips fall where they may.”9
But these moral qualities, which deserve admiration, clearly did not prevent them from participating for many years in the game of deceptions and falsehoods. Confident “of place, of education and accomplishment,”10 they lied perhaps out of a mistaken patriotism. But the point is that they lied not so much for their country—certainly not for their country’s survival, which was never at stake—as for its “image.” In spite of their undoubted intelligence—it is manifest in many memos from their pens—they also believed that politics is but a variety of public relations, and they were taken in by all the bizarre psychological premises underlying this belief.
Still, they obviously were different from the ordinary image-makers. Their distinction lies in that they were problem-solvers as well. Hence they were not just intelligent, but prided themselves on being “rational,” and they were indeed to a rather frightening degree above “sentimentality” and in love with “theory,” the world of sheer mental effort. They were eager to find formulas, preferably expressed in a pseudo-mathematical language, that would unify the most disparate phenomena with which reality presented them; that is, they were eager to discover laws by which to explain and predict political and historical facts as though they were as necessary, and thus as reliable, as the physicists once believed natural phenomena to be.
However, unlike the natural scientist, who deals with matters that, whatever their origin, are not man-made or man-enacted, and that therefore can be observed, understood, and eventually even changed only through the most meticulous loyalty to factual, given reality, the historian, as well as the politician, deals with human affairs that owe their existence to man’s capacity for action, and that means to man’s relative freedom from things as they are. Men who act, to the extent that they feel themselves to be the masters of their own futures, will forever be tempted to make themselves masters of the past, too. Insofar as they have the appetite for action and are also in love with theories, they will hardly have the natural scientist’s patience to wait until theories and hypothetical explanations are verified or denied by facts. Instead, they will be tempted to fit their reality—which, after all, was man-made to begin with and thus could have been otherwise—into their theory, thereby mentally getting rid of its disconcerting contingency.
Reason’s aversion to contingency is very strong; it was Hegel , the father of grandiose history schemes, who held that “philosophical contemplation has no other intention than to eliminate the accidental.”11 Indeed, much of the modern arsenal of political theory—the game theories and systems analyses, the scenarios written for imagined “audiences,” and the careful enumeration of, usually, three “options”—A, B, C—whereby A and C represent the opposite extremes and B the “logical” middle-of-the-road “solution” of the problem—has its source in this deep-seated aversion. The fallacy of such thinking begins with forcing the choices into mutually exclusive dilemmas; reality never presents us with anything so neat as premises for logical conclusions. The kind of thinking that presents both A and C as undesirable, therefore settles on B, hardly serves any other purpose than to divert the mind and blunt the judgment for the multitude of real possibilities. What these problem-solvers have in common with down-to-earth liars is the attempt to get rid of facts and the confidence that this should be possible because of the inherent contingency of facts.
The truth of the matter is that this can never be done by either theory or opinion manipulation—as though a fact is safely removed from the world if only enough people believe in its nonexistence. It can be done only through radical destruction—as in the case of the murderer who says that Mrs. Smith has died and then goes and kills her. In the political domain, such destruction would have to be wholesale. Needless to say, there never existed on any level of government such a will to wholesale destruction, in spite of the fearful number of war crimes committed in the course of the Vietnam war. But even where this will is present, as it was in the case of both Hitler and Stalin, the power to achieve it would have to amount to omnipotence. In order to eliminate Trotsky’s role from the history of the Russian Revolution, it is not enough to kill him and eliminate his name from all Russian records so long as one cannot kill all his contemporaries and wield power over the libraries and archives of all countries of the earth.
Os "problem-solvers" foram caracterizados como homens de grande autoconfiança, que "raramente parecem duvidar de sua capacidade de fazer prevalecer", e trabalharam junto com os militares dos quais "a história mostra que eram ’homens acostumados a vencer.’” [Documentos do Pentágono] Não devemos esquecer que devemos ao esforço dos problem-solvers de auto-exame imparcial, raro entre estas pessoas, que as tentativas dos atores de esconder seu papel atrás de uma tela de sigilo autoprotetivo (pelo menos até que tenham completado suas memórias - em nosso século, o gênero mais enganoso de literatura) foram frustradas. [...]
Ainda assim, eles obviamente eram diferentes dos criadores de imagens comuns. Sua distinção reside no fato de também serem problem-solvers. Consequentemente, eles não eram apenas inteligentes, mas se orgulhavam de ser “racionais” e, na verdade, estavam em um grau bastante assustador acima do “sentimentalismo” e apaixonados pela “teoria”, o mundo do puro esforço mental. Estavam ávidos por encontrar fórmulas, de preferência expressas em linguagem pseudo-matemática, que unificassem os fenômenos mais díspares com que a realidade os apresentava; isto é, eles estavam ansiosos para descobrir leis pelas quais explicassem e predissessem fatos políticos e históricos como se fossem tão necessários e, portanto, tão confiáveis quanto os físicos uma vez acreditaram que os fenômenos naturais fossem.
No entanto, ao contrário do cientista natural, que lida com assuntos que, seja qual for sua origem, não são artificiais ou encenados pelo homem e que, portanto, podem ser observados, compreendidos e, eventualmente, até mesmo alterados apenas através da mais meticulosa lealdade à dada realidade factual, o historiador, assim como o político , lida com assuntos humanos que devem sua existência à capacidade de ação do homem, e isso significa a relativa liberdade do homem das coisas como elas são. Os homens que agem, na medida em que se sentem donos de seu próprio futuro, serão para sempre tentados a se tornar donos do passado também. Na medida em que têm apetite para a ação e também são apaixonados por teorias, dificilmente terão a paciência do cientista natural para esperar até que teorias e explicações hipotéticas sejam verificadas ou negadas pelos fatos. Em vez disto, eles serão tentados a encaixar sua realidade - que, afinal de contas, foi feita pelo homem para começar e, portanto, poderia ter sido de outra forma - em sua teoria, livrando-se mentalmente de sua contingência desconcertante.