This article also asserts that the war has killed at least , Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number without counting security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers. Worse still, it estimates that such claims will exceed the billion dollar mark at the end of the second decade. These estimates indicate a huge monetary and humanitarian cost with practically no benefits as the ISI would not have existed if Saddam Hussein had stayed in power.
As US firms left the area because of increased insecurity, Iraq started selling a sizable and growing percentage of its oil production to China which is providing drilling technology and capital investments to the country. The Iraq war was not the first to cost trillions of dollars. Ironically, to fight the fundamentalists that the USA and Saudi Arabia had trained and financed to combat the Soviets who had invaded Afghanistan in December The USA was obliged, like the British and the Soviets before them, to leave Afghanistan 13 years later, at the end of , after having paid a huge price both monetarily and in human suffering.
The longest overseas history war has cost the USA alone, one trillion dollars and it would require spending several hundred billion dollars extra in the future for the 10, soldiers remaining in the country and medical and disability expenses for war veterans. These costs do not include interest payments for the increased debt caused by the Afghan war or the extra pension expenses of the military associated with this war.
The human cost of the war has been more than 20, dead soldiers and contractors, almost , injured and with medical problems and , disability claims. Sadly, no one, even the strongest supporters of the war, has claimed any benefits. The war in Vietnam is another sad story with an extraordinary cost, the illusion of great benefits and no actual ones. At the time the loss of South Vietnam to the communist North was feared by US policy makers that it would create a domino effect for other countries like Laos and Cambodia but then also Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and even Indonesia to fall next under communist domination.
Most ironically, it is communism that has totally collapsed and countries like China and Russia that were supporting Vietnam in its war with the USA have abandoned communism and seen the greatest increase in their number of billionaires. US involvement in Vietnam started in the s, not long after the French left the region. It was increased in the early s and was elevated when regular US combat units were deployed in Alpha History, n. It was expanded into Laos and Cambodia and was peaked in when North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive that failed in its goal of overthrowing the South Vietnamese government but convinced a large segment of the US population that winning the war was illusory despite the massive US spending and the heavy losses in dead and injured.
There is also huge human suffering. It is estimated that almost 60, US troops were killed, more than , were wounded, 23, suffered total disability and 2, were missing. A worse statistic was the number of 70,—, Vietnam Veterans who committed suicide and another , veterans who suffered psychological trauma because of the atrocities of war they experienced.
The illusion of underestimating the real factors surrounding a war and the optimistic assessment that the situation can be controlled involves an immense cost and no benefits, at least in the three wars covered in this section. Yet, intelligent and well-meaning people believe otherwise causing grave suffering and wasting a large amount of money that could have been used to improve the lives of a great number of people in their country.
It has shown that accepting uncertainty and avoiding illusions encompasses substantial benefits and ensues in huge reductions in monetary costs and harm in general, although there could be some undeniable benefits from some positive illusions. What we must do is exploit the benefits of positive illusions while avoiding their costly, negative consequences even though psychologically this is difficult.
Positive Illusions History and Background
Ideally, we should be able to strike a balance between the benefits and costs by estimating them for each case as accurately as possible. We live in an uncertain world and we must accept living with the ensuing uncertainty. It is clear that uncertainty creates anxiety and involves risks. Some uncertainties are easy to deal with.
Whether or not it will rain tomorrow can be dealt with by being dressed appropriately and having an umbrella, thus eliminating the risk of getting wet. If it does not rain, the cost of being prepared is small and acceptable weather forecasters overestimate the chance of rain on purpose for this reason. The uncertainty of investing in the stock market and the risk of losing money is more serious but not investing could include a significant opportunity cost if the market goes up. It is possible, however, to balance the two risks investing and the market goes down and not investing and it goes up if the right type of investment strategies are followed although investments can never be risk free.
The possibility of becoming seriously ill is another uncertainty with much more serious consequences as the risk in such case is huge and may even lead to death. Ironically the best strategy in this situation is to avoid preventive medical screening and not even go close to a doctor unless feeling sick. Even though such strategy seems counter intuitive, it must be followed as the harm of preventive screening is much greater than all their possible benefits.
The challenge is, therefore, to be able to figure out the benefits and costs objectively and quantify them where possible, instead of illusory believing that preventive medicine can reduce our chance of disease and increase that of our life expectancy. He writes:. But being risk savvy is more than being well-informed. It requires courage to face an uncertain future as well as to stand up to authority and ask critical questions.
Introduction to Positive Illusions
Avoiding the illusion of certainty and not falling victim to the huge cost associated with positive illusions would require the following:. Avoiding the bias to believe that chance events can be controlled and attribute our success to our own skills while blaming bad luck for our failures.
This can be best achieved by attempting to figure out uncertainties correctly in the form of probabilities and accurately assessing their long term impact. Understanding that when playing in casinos and using preventive medicine there is no way that the benefits will be greater than the costs on average and in the long run.
When investing in the stock markets of advanced countries, on the other hand, the long term is associated with profits, at least until now. When considering the gains and losses of new firms or startups we need to investigate them on two levels: that of individuals and that at the aggregate, social level. At the aggregate level, however, there are great benefits, even if few firms survive and thrive.
This may not be a comfort for the individuals who have been ruined financially but it adds to societal progress and benefits humanity as a whole. This is not true as many studies have shown. Experts cannot outperform well-informed individuals or predict better than them. This is also true in the domain of medicine where doctors cannot improve your chances of a healthier or longer life by preventive measures. The SRH studies have come to two extremely important conclusions.
First, that doctors cannot predict more accurately than us how long we will live and secondly, the most important factor for a long life is our own disposition today. Exploiting the benefits of positive illusions to improve our positive thinking and our psychological mood is critical in many situations and can lead us to be better motivated and persevere when dealing with hardship. Some additional actions are shown in a footnote at the end of this paper 1. Future research must follow four directions. First, more work is needed to be able to quantify the cost of various illusions in more areas than the five covered in this paper.
This can be done by providing incentives, in the form of research grants, by government agencies as well as non-profit organizations and even medical insurance firms. Doing so could substantially reduce the costs of medical care by making evident the cost of illusions. It is not enough to write academic articles and books.
Great effort on effective advertising will be needed to do so, even though there will be extensive opposition from well-organized and thoroughly funded lobbies. Third, it would be important to devise and communicate practical strategies of how people can avoid falling victims to positive illusions while also exploring their benefits. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
The authors would like to thank professor Marios Argyridis for his helpful comments and suggestions as well as the two referees for their useful comments and their insightful suggestions for improving this paper. Some of these independent sources for each of the five areas being considered in this paper are the following: a Gambling and casinos: there are two types of gambling those that depend on pure chance and those that involve a combination of chance and skills.
Undoubtedly, it is easier to know the cost of losing in the first case than in the second. However, in some of these games psychology, personality and memory may be as important as knowing the probabilities. Preventive medicine: the pursuit of self-serving interests by pharmaceutical firms and doctors providing the advice is not objective. The following is a list of websites from where independent, objective information can be found most have been taken from Gigerenzer, :.
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National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Jun Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article was submitted to Quantitative Psychology and Measurement, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
The costs and benefits of positive illusions
Received Mar 12; Accepted Jun The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Positive Illusions People view themselves more positively compared to how they judge others.
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