Tuesday, February 03, 2004

David Brooks reveals today that the CIA is wrong to attempt a scientific approach to intelligence, because scientific analysis of human behavior is impossible. Evidently, scientists are unable to assess, say, whether the story some Iraqi defector is telling about a weapons program even makes any technical sense, because weapons programs are human behavior, and scientific analysis of human behavior is impossible. This was the flaw of the IAEA weapons inspections.

He goes on to propose that the tricky business of assessing intelligence from murky, unreliable sources in foreign cultures with their own, perhaps unknown private agendas is best left to political party hacks. These are folks whose lives are defined by their own partisan agendas, but faced with a task of this importance, they'd surely put them aside. And to prove he's the kind of deep thinker who is capable of transcending party lines, he goes out of his way to say that James Carville would be as qualified to assess the debatable debriefings of Khidir Hamza as, to pick a name out of a hat, Grover Norquist.

Of course, as many bloggers have noted, the party hacks, particularly from the Republican side of the aisle, have a major advantage over more scientific schools of analysis: when they're wrong, they don't have the kind of professional ethics which keeps them from lying about their own past claims. The CIA's professional analysts used to be wrong because they were blind to the manifest threat of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction -- but now that we've scoured the country and found none, they were wrong because they supposedly claimed that such a threat existed in the first place. The party hacks are always right, and the CIA's "scientistic" analysis is wrong because it doesn't always agree with the party hacks. Ain't that neat?

Oh, one other thing about party hacks. They'll never bother a pseudointellectual like Brooks with technical jargon that goes over his head. And while they may, from time to time, be wrong, they are never uncertain. That all makes them so much more comfortable to deal with...

Note: a few paragraphs added here after first post...


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