Proof of Principle: When Political Scientists Outsmart Themselves

Re-reading Andrew Sullivan’s blogging from the run-up to ousting Saddam reveals how credulous even an admirer of Orwell could be.  We are all vulnerable to deceptions from “madmen in authority” [Keynes], so my point is not that Mr. Sullivan got duped.  Rather, I invite us to consider how advanced education prepared Dr. Sullivan [PhD. Harvard] to complete his own duping with erudition.

I excerpt the following  from

CONNECTING THE DOTS: This is not the same as making stuff up. It’s simply recognizing the nature of the information available. Here’s a sample of what you get:

In interviews with senior officials, the following picture emerged: American intelligence believes that Al Qaeda and Saddam reached a non-aggression agreement in 1993, and that the relationship deepened further in the mid-nineteen-nineties, when an Al Qaeda operative � a native-born Iraqi who goes by the name Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi�was dispatched by bin Laden to ask the Iraqis for help in poison-gas training. Al-Iraqi’s mission was successful, and an unknown number of trainers from an Iraqi secret-police organization called Unit 999 were dispatched to camps in Afghanistan to instruct Al Qaeda terrorists. (Training in hijacking techniques was also provided to foreign Islamist radicals inside Iraq, according to two Iraqi defectors quoted in a report in the Times in November of 2001.) Another Al Qaeda operative, the Iraqi-born Mamdouh Salim, who goes by the name Abu Hajer al-Iraqi, also served as a liaison in the mid-nineteen-nineties to Iraqi intelligence. Salim, according to a recent book, “The Age of Sacred Terror,” by the former N.S.C. officials Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, was bin Laden’s chief procurer of weapons of mass destruction, and was involved in the early nineties in chemical-weapons development in Sudan. Salim was arrested in Germany in 1998 and was extradited to the United States.

This is what is called a proof of principle. It has happened; therefore it can happen. If the consequence of that is a biological or chemical attack on the West, then Western governments have a duty to act sooner rather than later. Given the new risks, containment isn’t an option.

Connecting dots is not necessarily the same thing as making things up, but making things up to suit a rhetorical purpose often involves connecting dots.  Ask Glenn Beck.  Ask your friendly neighborhood post-modernist.

Invoking “a proof of principle” may make sense, but one must realize that such rhetorical arts are known to deceivers more than even to graduate students.

Politicos know how we think and what we think.  They anticipate what we might believe, then give it to us.

Since just about every form of deception, duplicity, and doubletalk has happened, it can happen.


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