Thursday, August 29, 2013

Department of impenetrable logic
Duncan Black calls attention to some ... interesting verbiage on Syria. Specifically, if we do take some military action, how much should it be. The source he cites gives the following edifying parameters:
One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity "just muscular enough not to get mocked" but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.
"They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic," he said.
In his trademark style, Black just leaves it at that. But it occurs to me that the passage he quotes has reached a kind of perfection.

When you're calibrating your action so that it is "just enough to be more than symbolic," whatever action that you end up choosing will have been chosen not for what it does but for what it means. In other words, whatever action you choose will be inherently a symbol itself--a symbol that you want to do something that's more than symbolic.

Ouroboros: it's not just for medieval alchemists anymore.