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A recent survey about U.S. policy toward Ukraine found that the more geographically illiterate a respondent was, the more prone they were to endorse the hawkish position.

Naturally, this finding has offended those who favor the hawkish position. Charles Lane (via Larison) insists that ignorance shouldn't stand in the way of making potentially history-shaping decisions.

"Foreign policy is not only about knowledge but also judgment; not only smarts but also wisdom," Lane wrote. Earlier, Lane celebrated the fact that while he never even heard of the Falkland Islands before the 1982 war, he nonetheless decided on the spot that Britain was right to reclaim them by force.

I think we've had altogether too much of this attitude among our elected officials and their supporters in the press. Frankly, I find it sad that we need to be inventing baroque rationales for why ignorance is okay rather than demanding better of ourselves and our leaders. 

Generally, when the stakes are high (as they are in foreign policy decisions) we expect that people demonstrate knowledge and proficiency before entrusting them with responsibilities. Heart surgeons can't have an intuitive "wisdom" about the heart, they need exacting, specific knowledge. Pilots can't have a gut sense of how to fly a plane. They need to know concretely how the plane operates.

Understanding a subject deeply is certainly no guarantee that you'll make the correct decisions. Planes crash. People die on operating tables all the time. And being ignorant of a given subject (or country, in this case) doesn't mean you won't get it right once and a while (it's called luck). But over the long term, it strikes me as far better to empower decision-makers that actually know what they're talking about rather than those who pantomime right-sounding principles as a substitute for genuine understanding.