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Jamaat and the sunk cost fallacy - Part 1

  • Published at 01:31 am August 16th, 2016
  • Last updated at 06:27 pm August 23rd, 2016
Jamaat and the sunk cost fallacy - Part 1
John Ralston Saul in his seminal book Voltaire’s Bastards portrayed an unflattering picture of the supposed rationality of Western bureaucracy that gives rise to a self-serving machinery. The ruling elites, in the name of reason have developed a bureaucratic system that lacks ethical framework and breeds only sanctioned ideas. Rather than solving real problems, the system endorses a set of popular ideas championed by the powerful that ultimately fractures the society. In particular, diplomacy is one area where facts and realities often take a backseat, because there is a structured set of policies that needs to be propagated and implemented. BNP basically wants to reach out to these establishments and convince us that there is no democracy in the country, that the AL is ravaging the national interest, and that the rise of terrorism is directly related to total breakdown of rule of law and state institutions. These are all valid points, and such, outreach programs are often comforting too. We get that, but, more often than not, the hue and cry is destined for deaf ears. Let us not forget, behind every policy disaster there are scores of bureaucrats feeding their superiors the 11-course degustation meal of analysis and information -- exactly the way the establishment demanded it to be.

In foreign policy, facts are not like a jigsaw puzzle where you try to solve a problem based on evidence, it’s more like PlayDoh, where malleability of modelling clay allows it be presented in a way that suits the maker’s taste

Now, this young man hiding behind a desktop in Washington, London, or Brussels may well be aware of 50 Shades of Green, but that is his academic curiosity. In real life, for practical purposes, there are just three kinds of Muslims in the world: Muslims who a. will, b. be likely to, and c. will never blow off. Yes, it is that simple, and keeping it simple as such makes life a lot easier -- sadly, only in Washington or Brussels. That guy may know very well that Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh is not a terrorist organisation and in some respect they fare better than AL or BNP as far democratic decision-making is concerned. But will he risk writing a favourable opinion of an Islamist organisation in a decision-making process or policy paper? Of course not. In fact, to be safe, he will probably remain 100 pages away from anything that comes even close to that radioactive outfit. The culmination of these notes, minutes, briefings, and expert opinions is what we loosely call “foreign policy.” In foreign policy, facts are not like a jigsaw puzzle where you try to solve a problem based on evidence, it’s more like PlayDoh, where malleability of modelling clay allows it to be presented in a way that suits the maker’s taste. Solving problems or helping the deserving has never been the primary function of bureaucratic organisations -- it is to support their dogma. BNP has set out to convey these establishments a set of following core messages (but not limited to), which, in the light of current geo-political reality, seem rather audacious:
  1. Jamaat is not a terrorist organisation. It is a regular democratic party.
  2. BNP’s alliance with Jamaat is strictly an electoral one (so this particular Islamic brand of politics has got nothing to do with BNP.
  3. They should persuade India that a democratic election in Bangladesh is actually in the interest of Bangladesh, which, if it supersedes Indian interest in Bangladesh, should be accepted gracefully by the regional superpower.
In all fairness, this commentator is confident that he has a better chance convincing Donald Trump that Mexican Muslims are at least semi-human beings while some might have really big hands -- bigger than his. Some people, after ordering a large sized Big Mac, devour the meal even if they were satisfied half-way through it. They think: “Since I have paid for it I might as well finish it.” In psychology, falling into the trap of this thinking error is known as “sunk cost fallacy.” If you are having a meal to satisfy your hunger, logically speaking, it does not matter how much you have paid earlier or how much food is left in the plate after you have had enough. The BNP’s alliance with Jamaat is a classic example of sunk cost fallacy. The party is continuing a meaningless (and fruitless) alliance because it thinks “since we have invested so much, it makes sense to carry on for the sake of credibility.”