How do we explain really bad decisions?

Last week was one for dire decisions. To name just two:

• Caving in to the letter of our misbegotten extradition treaty with the US in the case of Christopher Tappin conveys absolutely no credit on the Home Secretary, the Government as a whole, British judges or the wretched European Court of Human Rights
• Did the Syrian regime have a shred of legitimacy left before the decision to shell the temporary press centre in Homs where Marie Colvin met her untimely end? Probably not. But they are now well and truly damned, with President Assad facing at least as grim a future as his oppressed people

How are we supposed to react to decisions like these? Is rational analysis possible? Or are we better to rely on gut feel to condemn them out of hand?

Using a slightly broader perspective….

Mr Tappin is alleged to have been involved in selling batteries for missiles to Iran. Whether he has a case to answer is a mystery. The extradition treaty does not require evidence to be presented in the UK. So Mr Tappin is presumed guilty, flown under guard to the US and remanded in a high security jail. Not a great decision by David Blunkett who was Home Secretary at the time the treaty was “negotiated”. Not a great decision by this Government to submit meekly to the American demand. For my money the decision traps involved are:
• Lack of frame control by the Labour Government when they gave in to the US: failing to define the problem properly, and being unduly influenced by the frame of the US government. Also lack of foresight. They surely wouldn’t have agreed to the legislation if they had envisaged the kind of cases that would arise
• This Government and the judges? Overconfidence in their own judgement

As for the Syrian regime, it is not really worth arguing about which decision traps they have fallen into. Plunging in? Sunk cost? Failing to learn?

All we need is gut feel for this one. We are back to a phenomenon we have visited before in this blog: the removal of the veneer of civilisation. Assad and company were beyond the pale before they decided to shell the messengers. Now? Surely just a question of time before deliverance for the suffering country and retribution for the butchers.