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Scholasticism

- February 4, 2011

“Dan Drezner”:http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/04/the_continued_hostility_to_political_science is annoyed again at Apoorvah Shah. “Shah writes”:http://blog.american.com/?p=26189

bq. First of all, I’m not blaming what happened in Egypt on political scientists, as the title of his blog post implies. Rather, I’m saying that the methods with which the political scientists in our academy study the world are so rigid that policy makers imbued in such scholasticism did not appropriately react and make immediate policy decisions when our foreign policy was on the line. Simply put, our administration equivocated. I think they were too confused by all the “variables” involved in Egypt: the protesters themselves, Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hosni Mubarak, etc. In other words, their mental multiple variable regressions failed to produce statistical significance, so they sent mixed messages instead.

Unlike Dan, I think there’s a kind of perverse pleasure to be gotten from pieces like this. There’s a very black joke about two German Jews who are in a coffeehouse in the 1930s, both reading newspapers. Suddenly, one of them realizes that the other is reading _Der Sturmer._ He asks, horrified, why his friend is reading such anti-Semitic garbage. His friend replies, ‘Well, when I read the Yiddish newspaper, it’s this story and that story about how the Jews are being beaten up, driven out, robbed and dispossessed. But this, it tells me every day about how we rule the world. ‘

Obviously, there is a vast gap between myths about Jews controlling the world and silly articles about the foreign policy decision making brainlock imposed by political science and its horrid ‘multiple variable regressions.’ But the underlying logic of the joke still travels.