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When Ken Pollack Speaks, the Discipline of Political Science Cries…

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Early in their graduate careers, most political scientists learn the value of specificity and clarity in the definition of terms. Ken Pollack was apparently sick that day…

In longer discussions on the subject, Mr. McCain often goes into greater specificity about the entities jockeying for control in Iraq. Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Right… because “Al Qaeda” is a term of mainly academic usage, unknown to the greater public and certainly not relevant in a policy context. Indeed, I’m inclined to think that in issues of war, peace, life, and death, we should be extra cautious with our definitions. But then I guess I’m not serious.

Also see Matt.

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  • Jason Crowell

    By “Early in their graduate careers” you mean something like ninth-grade, correct?

  • Jason Crowell

    By “Early in their graduate careers” you mean something like ninth-grade, correct?

  • Jason Crowell

    By “Early in their graduate careers” you mean something like ninth-grade, correct?

  • To be fair, it’s not like IR doesn’t have problems along this line already. It’s a discipline that has actually paid attention to Krauthammer, for heaven’s sake, and the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.

  • To be fair, it’s not like IR doesn’t have problems along this line already. It’s a discipline that has actually paid attention to Krauthammer, for heaven’s sake, and the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.

  • To be fair, it’s not like IR doesn’t have problems along this line already. It’s a discipline that has actually paid attention to Krauthammer, for heaven’s sake, and the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.

  • Oh, sure. If you want to insist on the kind of nitpicking definitions they demand for scholarly essays in The Al-Qaeda Quarterly Review, go ahead. But the American people aren’t going to fall for your elitist tenured shenanigans this time.

  • Oh, sure. If you want to insist on the kind of nitpicking definitions they demand for scholarly essays in The Al-Qaeda Quarterly Review, go ahead. But the American people aren’t going to fall for your elitist tenured shenanigans this time.

  • Oh, sure. If you want to insist on the kind of nitpicking definitions they demand for scholarly essays in The Al-Qaeda Quarterly Review, go ahead. But the American people aren’t going to fall for your elitist tenured shenanigans this time.

  • strategichamlet

    “They say he is using a iperfectly reasonable catchall phrasei ”
    Ha. That would be like calling the NVA, Viet Cong, etc. the “Chinese”

  • strategichamlet

    “They say he is using a iperfectly reasonable catchall phrasei ”
    Ha. That would be like calling the NVA, Viet Cong, etc. the “Chinese”

  • strategichamlet

    “They say he is using a iperfectly reasonable catchall phrasei ”
    Ha. That would be like calling the NVA, Viet Cong, etc. the “Chinese”

  • Wait a minute, I thought “Islamofascist” was the preferred catchall phrase?
    Krauthammer…the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.
    To be fair, he’s also been specific and clear about nukin’ them Iranians.

  • Wait a minute, I thought “Islamofascist” was the preferred catchall phrase?
    Krauthammer…the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.
    To be fair, he’s also been specific and clear about nukin’ them Iranians.

  • Wait a minute, I thought “Islamofascist” was the preferred catchall phrase?
    Krauthammer…the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.
    To be fair, he’s also been specific and clear about nukin’ them Iranians.

  • FireWarrior

    Is it propaganda yet?

  • FireWarrior

    Is it propaganda yet?

  • FireWarrior

    Is it propaganda yet?

  • Psh. Obviously you don’t remember the 45-year cold war we fought against the Nazis.

  • Psh. Obviously you don’t remember the 45-year cold war we fought against the Nazis.

  • Psh. Obviously you don’t remember the 45-year cold war we fought against the Nazis.

  • -asx-

    Robert:
    Off topic, please forgive me. Have you seen the Wikipedia article about The Confederate States of America? It contains a graphic (animated) showing the progressive secession of southern states from the Union in 1861.
    The problem is that the graphics says four things which are untrue:
    “Missouri secedes, October 31, 1861”
    “Kentucky secedes, November 21, 1861”
    “Missouri joins Confederacy, November 28, 1861”
    “Kentucky join Confederacy, December 10, 1861”
    I have tried to have this fixed, but I’m not a civil war expert and I am but one person and it usually takes 2-3 to override another editor.
    Since you are a history professor, is there any way you could intervene, or perhaps use your contacts to recruit some folks who could descend on this graphic and correct it?
    Historical revisionism promoting white supremacy really bugs me. Especially since Wikipedia is such an important learning tool for school children. Every child in America studies the Civil War, and a great many of them are going to get bad information when they visit that page.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:CSA_states_evolution.gif
    PS. I’m going to re-post this on one of D’s threads, because I know D is another LGM blogger with an interest in this subject….
    Thanks!

  • -asx-

    Robert:
    Off topic, please forgive me. Have you seen the Wikipedia article about The Confederate States of America? It contains a graphic (animated) showing the progressive secession of southern states from the Union in 1861.
    The problem is that the graphics says four things which are untrue:
    “Missouri secedes, October 31, 1861”
    “Kentucky secedes, November 21, 1861”
    “Missouri joins Confederacy, November 28, 1861”
    “Kentucky join Confederacy, December 10, 1861”
    I have tried to have this fixed, but I’m not a civil war expert and I am but one person and it usually takes 2-3 to override another editor.
    Since you are a history professor, is there any way you could intervene, or perhaps use your contacts to recruit some folks who could descend on this graphic and correct it?
    Historical revisionism promoting white supremacy really bugs me. Especially since Wikipedia is such an important learning tool for school children. Every child in America studies the Civil War, and a great many of them are going to get bad information when they visit that page.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:CSA_states_evolution.gif
    PS. I’m going to re-post this on one of D’s threads, because I know D is another LGM blogger with an interest in this subject….
    Thanks!

  • -asx-

    Robert:
    Off topic, please forgive me. Have you seen the Wikipedia article about The Confederate States of America? It contains a graphic (animated) showing the progressive secession of southern states from the Union in 1861.
    The problem is that the graphics says four things which are untrue:
    “Missouri secedes, October 31, 1861”
    “Kentucky secedes, November 21, 1861”
    “Missouri joins Confederacy, November 28, 1861”
    “Kentucky join Confederacy, December 10, 1861”
    I have tried to have this fixed, but I’m not a civil war expert and I am but one person and it usually takes 2-3 to override another editor.
    Since you are a history professor, is there any way you could intervene, or perhaps use your contacts to recruit some folks who could descend on this graphic and correct it?
    Historical revisionism promoting white supremacy really bugs me. Especially since Wikipedia is such an important learning tool for school children. Every child in America studies the Civil War, and a great many of them are going to get bad information when they visit that page.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:CSA_states_evolution.gif
    PS. I’m going to re-post this on one of D’s threads, because I know D is another LGM blogger with an interest in this subject….
    Thanks!

  • RepubAnon

    Wait a minute, I thought “Islamofascist” was the preferred catchall phrase?
    “Krauthammer…the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.”
    To be fair, he’s also been specific and clear about nukin’ them Iranians.
    Matt Duss | Homepage | 04.20.08 – 2:21 pm | #

    Hey, Matt – learn some history: everyone who takes Krauthammer seriously knows the Iranian mullahs are really godless communists! ;)
    On a side note – this is yet another example of the media swallowing whole the latest “public relations spin” (aka propaganda/lies) put out by their (Republican) owners. As noted above, a Vietnam War analogy would be to lump the Kymer Rouge, the Pathet Lao, the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army, and the Chinese all into a single catch-phrase: “Russians” (or “Rooskies”). After all, the Soviets were who we were really fighting in Vietnam – right?
    Here’s a possibly relevant quote from the NYT story as well:

    Days later, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memorandum distilling their collective guidance into bullet points. Two were underlined:
    iFocus on the Global War on Terror o not simply Iraq. The wider war o the long war.i
    iLink Iraq to Iran. Iran is the concern. If we fail in Iraq or Afghanistan, it will help Iran.i(emphasis added)

    Notice how well grouping all the various factions into the catch-phrase “Al Qaeda” serves these points?

  • RepubAnon

    Wait a minute, I thought “Islamofascist” was the preferred catchall phrase?
    “Krauthammer…the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.”
    To be fair, he’s also been specific and clear about nukin’ them Iranians.
    Matt Duss | Homepage | 04.20.08 – 2:21 pm | #

    Hey, Matt – learn some history: everyone who takes Krauthammer seriously knows the Iranian mullahs are really godless communists! ;)
    On a side note – this is yet another example of the media swallowing whole the latest “public relations spin” (aka propaganda/lies) put out by their (Republican) owners. As noted above, a Vietnam War analogy would be to lump the Kymer Rouge, the Pathet Lao, the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army, and the Chinese all into a single catch-phrase: “Russians” (or “Rooskies”). After all, the Soviets were who we were really fighting in Vietnam – right?
    Here’s a possibly relevant quote from the NYT story as well:

    Days later, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memorandum distilling their collective guidance into bullet points. Two were underlined:
    iFocus on the Global War on Terror o not simply Iraq. The wider war o the long war.i
    iLink Iraq to Iran. Iran is the concern. If we fail in Iraq or Afghanistan, it will help Iran.i(emphasis added)

    Notice how well grouping all the various factions into the catch-phrase “Al Qaeda” serves these points?

  • RepubAnon

    Wait a minute, I thought “Islamofascist” was the preferred catchall phrase?
    “Krauthammer…the only thing he’s ever been specific and clear about is his cheerleading for nukin’ them commies.”
    To be fair, he’s also been specific and clear about nukin’ them Iranians.
    Matt Duss | Homepage | 04.20.08 – 2:21 pm | #

    Hey, Matt – learn some history: everyone who takes Krauthammer seriously knows the Iranian mullahs are really godless communists! ;)
    On a side note – this is yet another example of the media swallowing whole the latest “public relations spin” (aka propaganda/lies) put out by their (Republican) owners. As noted above, a Vietnam War analogy would be to lump the Kymer Rouge, the Pathet Lao, the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army, and the Chinese all into a single catch-phrase: “Russians” (or “Rooskies”). After all, the Soviets were who we were really fighting in Vietnam – right?
    Here’s a possibly relevant quote from the NYT story as well:

    Days later, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memorandum distilling their collective guidance into bullet points. Two were underlined:
    iFocus on the Global War on Terror o not simply Iraq. The wider war o the long war.i
    iLink Iraq to Iran. Iran is the concern. If we fail in Iraq or Afghanistan, it will help Iran.i(emphasis added)

    Notice how well grouping all the various factions into the catch-phrase “Al Qaeda” serves these points?

  • Barry Freed

    the kind of nitpicking definitions they demand for scholarly essays in The Al-Qaeda Quarterly Review
    Hey now, don’t knock it. At least it’s peer-reviewed.

  • Barry Freed

    the kind of nitpicking definitions they demand for scholarly essays in The Al-Qaeda Quarterly Review
    Hey now, don’t knock it. At least it’s peer-reviewed.

  • Barry Freed

    the kind of nitpicking definitions they demand for scholarly essays in The Al-Qaeda Quarterly Review
    Hey now, don’t knock it. At least it’s peer-reviewed.

  • Hogan

    As noted above, a Vietnam War analogy would be to lump the Kymer Rouge, the Pathet Lao, the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army, and the Chinese all into a single catch-phrase: “Russians” (or “Rooskies”). After all, the Soviets were who we were really fighting in Vietnam – right?
    Actually it would be more like lumping all of those into the single catchphrase “the Albanians.” Not entirely irrelevant, but utterly peripheral to the main issues and powers in the region.

  • Hogan

    As noted above, a Vietnam War analogy would be to lump the Kymer Rouge, the Pathet Lao, the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army, and the Chinese all into a single catch-phrase: “Russians” (or “Rooskies”). After all, the Soviets were who we were really fighting in Vietnam – right?
    Actually it would be more like lumping all of those into the single catchphrase “the Albanians.” Not entirely irrelevant, but utterly peripheral to the main issues and powers in the region.

  • Hogan

    As noted above, a Vietnam War analogy would be to lump the Kymer Rouge, the Pathet Lao, the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army, and the Chinese all into a single catch-phrase: “Russians” (or “Rooskies”). After all, the Soviets were who we were really fighting in Vietnam – right?
    Actually it would be more like lumping all of those into the single catchphrase “the Albanians.” Not entirely irrelevant, but utterly peripheral to the main issues and powers in the region.

  • In effect, this whole strategy is an attempt to create a 4-set Venn diagram. The first circle represents the Sunni Al Qaida that perpetrated 9/11 and has its base in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The second circle is Al Qaida in Iraq, which didn’t exist until after the invasion. The third circle is Muslim radicalism in general, including Hamas. The fourth is Iran. (There may be others, but I don’t want to totally run this into the ground.)
    The goal is to create a perception that the circles overlap as much as possible, to the point where the separate parts are muddled together as “Islamofacism” or “Al Qaida.”
    And the strategy seems to be working quite nicely so far. For example, McCain’s campaign has helpfully pointed out that Hamas supports Obama for president, since he wants to “surrender in Iraq” (presumably to Al Qaida).
    On a related topic: at least one BBC commentator has now taken to referring to the Democrat party.

  • In effect, this whole strategy is an attempt to create a 4-set Venn diagram. The first circle represents the Sunni Al Qaida that perpetrated 9/11 and has its base in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The second circle is Al Qaida in Iraq, which didn’t exist until after the invasion. The third circle is Muslim radicalism in general, including Hamas. The fourth is Iran. (There may be others, but I don’t want to totally run this into the ground.)
    The goal is to create a perception that the circles overlap as much as possible, to the point where the separate parts are muddled together as “Islamofacism” or “Al Qaida.”
    And the strategy seems to be working quite nicely so far. For example, McCain’s campaign has helpfully pointed out that Hamas supports Obama for president, since he wants to “surrender in Iraq” (presumably to Al Qaida).
    On a related topic: at least one BBC commentator has now taken to referring to the Democrat party.

  • In effect, this whole strategy is an attempt to create a 4-set Venn diagram. The first circle represents the Sunni Al Qaida that perpetrated 9/11 and has its base in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The second circle is Al Qaida in Iraq, which didn’t exist until after the invasion. The third circle is Muslim radicalism in general, including Hamas. The fourth is Iran. (There may be others, but I don’t want to totally run this into the ground.)
    The goal is to create a perception that the circles overlap as much as possible, to the point where the separate parts are muddled together as “Islamofacism” or “Al Qaida.”
    And the strategy seems to be working quite nicely so far. For example, McCain’s campaign has helpfully pointed out that Hamas supports Obama for president, since he wants to “surrender in Iraq” (presumably to Al Qaida).
    On a related topic: at least one BBC commentator has now taken to referring to the Democrat party.

  • Mike

    “Missouri” and “Kentucky” are perfectly reasonable catchall phrases for North and South Carolina.

  • Mike

    “Missouri” and “Kentucky” are perfectly reasonable catchall phrases for North and South Carolina.

  • Mike

    “Missouri” and “Kentucky” are perfectly reasonable catchall phrases for North and South Carolina.

  • rea

    Wouldn’t it be simpler just to call them all commies?

  • rea

    Wouldn’t it be simpler just to call them all commies?

  • rea

    Wouldn’t it be simpler just to call them all commies?

  • Peter Principle

    a place that idoes not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,i said Kenneth M. Pollack
    Translation: Voters are stupid and so it’s OK for us enlightened, God-like rulers to lie to them.
    Typical neocon stuff. Move along, folks. There’s nothing to see here.

  • Peter Principle

    a place that idoes not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,i said Kenneth M. Pollack
    Translation: Voters are stupid and so it’s OK for us enlightened, God-like rulers to lie to them.
    Typical neocon stuff. Move along, folks. There’s nothing to see here.

  • Peter Principle

    a place that idoes not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,i said Kenneth M. Pollack
    Translation: Voters are stupid and so it’s OK for us enlightened, God-like rulers to lie to them.
    Typical neocon stuff. Move along, folks. There’s nothing to see here.

  • mparker

    “It’s THEM”
    (point towards them)

  • mparker

    “It’s THEM”
    (point towards them)

  • mparker

    “It’s THEM”
    (point towards them)

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