Dumb Idea No. 5: A bad idea is better than no idea
Dumb ideas come along for many reasons. Sometimes they result from bad analysis, imperfect policy options, or desperation. They can also arise from wishful thinking or from an obsession with fixing things.
It's a variation of that last notion that represents the dumbest idea of all: that action -- any action, no matter how harebrained and ill-advised -- is better than no action. This idea is quintessentially American and results from the unique blend of idealism and pragmatism that cuts to the core of who Americans are as a people and how they see the world.
The fact is, Americans can't help themselves. America isn't a potted plant. Americans believe they can always make a bad situation better. This fix-it mentality is in our DNA. If it's harnessed and rigorously controlled, the United States can actually accomplish some things, particularly if it actually thinks through a strategy. But if not, it leads to what my friend Gamal Helal, an Arabic-language interpreter and confidant of presidents and secretaries of state, calls the United States' rush toward disaster. America is headed that way on Syria, I'm afraid.
My fondest hope would be to avoid dumb ideas altogether. This may not be possible. The need to act is just too strong. Perhaps we can at least limit the damage. But based on a couple of decades or so of government experience, I'm not holding my breath.