Logic

It appears that even noted professors at Hahvihd with fancy vocabulary are not immune from logical errors.

Prof. Stephen Rosen is worried about Ahmadinejad's recent rhetorical escalation against Israel. He was worried that it might be a precursor to a chemical/biological weapons attack by Iran against Israel. So he checked some of his old research and found that, sure enough, when states use bio/chem weapons against their adversaries, it's preceded by dehumanization and rhetorical escalation!

In other words, he saw X and worried it might lead to Y. Sure enough, all instances of Y are preceded by X! Which of course says nothing about whether a) X causes Y, or b) whether or not there are 1000 Xs for every Y.

Ironically "silent evidence" is a key theme in Nassim Taleb's "The Black Swan", originally recommended to me by a former (current?) colleague in the Office of Net Assessment of Dr. Rosen's.

It would be interesting (and tedious and exhausting) to examine all instances of rhetorical escalation by states/armed groups, and see how often it actually leads to war crimes or the use of bio/chem weapons.

For what it's worth, I think Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is due to a) the assassination of Hezbollah's operations chief Imad Mughniyah, and b) his falling domestic approval ratings.

5 comments:

Muslims Against Sharia said...

Muslims Against Sharia congratulate the organization responsible for elimination of terrorist Imad Mugniyeh on a job well done!

http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2008/02/targeted-killing-of-imad-mugniyeh.html

Anonymous said...

Some bloggers can't read. Rosen writes: "Many references to enemies as less than human are not associated with biological attacks or other unconventional mass killings. Some streams of discourse are chronically laden with dehumanizing rhetoric. Detecting meaningful shifts requires close study of the discourse of interest over time, and I have not done this with regard to Iran and Israel." He is just asking a question, he isn't answering it.

Adrian said...

Anonymous - pot, kettle, black.

In fact if you read down to his third paragraph, he says that it would be "prudent" for Israel to "issue specific deterrent threats of retaliation." i.e., after Iran says Israel is a dirty microbe, Israel should threaten nuclear war. Would Rosen think that prudent unless he had already come to the conclusion that Iran's rhetoric was an indicator of their willingness to use CBRN?

Rosen frames his post as a question, but in fact it seems to me that he's come to a conclusion already and is asking other people to convince him it's wrong.

subadei said...

I'm thoroughly frustrated with the inability to divide the blustering of a mere political mouthpiece from the realistic intentions of a nation. If the ruling "theocarcy" of Iran sought obliteration (martyrdom) they'd have launched an amassed effort across their border against the American military. As I've said before, the nihilism of Iran's ruling class isn't at all what it's cracked up to be. Ahm's howls are just that, howls. So long as Iran has a "Great Satan" to focus the limelight on, the domestic disillusion is tossed onto the back burner.

If anything, it would be prudent for Israel (a much more powerful military which maintains a semblance of MDS and a "suspected" nuclear arsenal) to allow Ahmadinijad to exhaust his regime and not act in a hasty manner.

Adrian said...

In fact it looks to me like the "Great Satan" trick isn't working so well for Ahmadinejad - he will probably be tossed out in the next elections.

Nobody can take everything a leader says thoroughly. If so, Belarus would have prepared for our invasion after Bush's 2005 inauguration speech promising to bring democracy to the whole world.