Here it comes

Jane Galt has exactly the right comment on the announcement that we’re pulling the Security Council Resolution: “Alea jacta est.”

That seems perfectly apposite to me, in two ways.

First, “alea,” a die, gives us the word “aleatoric,” chancy or random. The basic fact about going to war is that you don’t know what happens next.

Second, even once you know what happens next, you still don’t know what the result is going to be.

Caesar must have thought that his die had come up favorably when he was able to return to Rome fairly peacefully and win his election for consul. Five years later, he was dead, and Rome was in the grip of a series of civil wars that lasted fifteen years. And Caesar’s election as consul was the last actual election Rome ever had; the Republic was over.

“If you cross the river Halys,” the oracle told Croesus, king of Lydia, naming the border between Lydia and the Parthian Empire, “you will destroy a mighty empire.” So he did, and the oracle proved correct. Croesus neglected to ask, “Which empire?”

This isn’t a gamble of that size for us, but it’s a gamble nonetheless. Prepare to be surprised.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: