I'm just starting to understand what is and is not on-topic here and what is close-able, should be closed, leave-open-able and should be left open, so I'm hoping answers here will give me some more insight and possibly help a bit further to elucidate a consensus view on the differential applicability of "primarily opinion-based" close reason (e.g. what a country "thinks" versus what a specific, articulate person thinks)

I have a hunch that both I know it when I see it and duck typing1 are in widespread use and when time is short, people are busy humans make great use of these helpful techniques.

I've referenced my currently closed question How does US Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (ret) get to a "Look, you're attacking NATO... and we're going to consider our options to attack" scenario? not because I'm trying to start a conversation about that question here (I've done that here instead and there's already one good answer) but just as an example that triggered me to try to articulate this aspect of Politics SE that so far confounds me.

Question: Why are most "Why did country X...?" & "Why does country X think...?" left open yet if it's an individual it's closed (we can't get into their head)?


Since I've referenced about a thousand questions and probably several thousand answers here, it's quite a challenge with out a lot of SEDE-fu and natural language understanding expertise to compare questions about what a country thinks and what an individual expert thinks.

But How does US Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (ret) get to a "Look, you're attacking NATO... and we're going to consider our options to attack" scenario? asks about a retired US major general's reference to an (apparently Russian) naval mine field deployed in the Black Sea blockading NATO members' access.

Why are so many questions that have multiple disparate yet well received answers that sometimes even disagree with each other are not considered closable and not likely to receive answers that are primarily opinion-based, and yet mine was?

How are answer authors here in Politics SE be so consistently able to see past public statements by governments of "We did it because" or in many cases a lack thereof and come up with explanations that clearly the community doesn't see as opinions, and yet a question about a major general with both education and battlefield experience's statement about an act of war is closed because it can't be answered without primarily opinion-based answers?

1e.g. In this case I'm using "duck typing" (if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it's a duck) "This looks like, or has similar phrases in the title than that other question that was closed, therefore this should be closed too and I don't need to read further"

2 Answers 2


Don't get me wrong: I don't consider most "why did country do X" questions particularly good questions either, because they invite speculation and opinion. But they are still not as bad as "why did person do X" questions.

Governments are not one person, they are many people who speak to each other and come to a consensus. Public statements are not given in the heat of the moment, they are deliberately crafted by a press staff. That means:

  • Decisions of governments tend to be rational and deliberate, and not impulsive and spontaneous. That makes them a lot easier to explain.
  • There will probably be some primary source which provides the official explanation by the government themselves. The question can often be answered by tracking down and quoting that source. (Then we could of course debate if what they say are actually their true motives, but that's more of a topic for a discussion-oriented website)
  • When there is not, then secondary sources are available in form of experts who understand how the government in question operates and what their priorities are, which allows them to come to a good guess what might motivate their actions. Individual people are much harder to analyze like that.

And then there is the ethical question of analyzing the motivations of a specific person. Such analysis can often get personal. People come to the conclusion that the individual in question is just stupid, corrupt, hateful, selfish and/or incompetent. And making such statements about an individual person is just disrespectful. Especially when the author has no idea what actually goes on in their head or what personal circumstances drive their words and actions.


TL;DR: By the rules of this site, the questions of the type "why did country do X" and "why did person do X" (and their answers) are suitable for this site if and only if they conform to all the Help center rules and the Meta consensus. This decision should be considered on an individual basis for each question.

Sometimes there are facts, sources and references that can be found by experts on this site. You may or may not be that expert. The fact that you don't think facts could be found on this topic does not mean that an expert cannot find them. You will be surprised (I am, at least) by how wide and deep some people's knowledge is - on this site. We are here to learn, with facts (I know that I am), and most definitely not to label some unfamiliar questions as unlikely to be explored with facts.

  1. The fact that someone personally cannot find relevant facts, references and sources themselves is not a sufficient reason for that individual to close the question. Yet, the question is frequently closed as opinion-based simply because of the opinions of the close voters, and their insufficient knowledge of facts.

  2. Another factor in closing the questions is something which I hesitate to even label, but which looks like this. A question already has at least one fact-based answer, but it still gets closed as opinion-based. Not only that this is just plain wrong, but it gives off the (perhaps incorrect) impression that the vote-to-close (VTC) folks did not scroll to the answer, or have not read the answer, or have not understood the answer, or just plain VTC-ed the question anyway even after realizing that it can be answered with facts. This is not as frequent a case as (1) above, simply because the it is faster to close (with just a few clicks and zero facts) the question than to answer it (with facts, and with much more typing than just a few clicks).


Help center: https://politics.stackexchange.com/help
Politics Meta Stack exchange: https://politics.meta.stackexchange.com/

  • 1
    Any meta answer that suggests users sometimes practice anything less than 100% mindfulness and due diligence when down voting will attract some of the same downvoting it proposes exists. Thank you for your thoughtful answer!
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 23:23

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