Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Knowing Human Intent

Almost nothing in human affairs is more difficult than knowing another person's intentions. Indeed, the reason why the social sciences are so much more difficult than the so-called "hard" sciences is precisely that: you can gather all the data you want, but you can never account for a person's ability to conceal (even from himself) or change his mind. Yet after acknowledging that "there is so much that we do not know about Iran," Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence stated in an interview:

We know (WM: my emphasis) they are committed to developing a nuclear weapon. We do know (WM: my emphasis) they are intent on developing the capability to deliver a nuclear weapon.... The third thing we know (WM: my emphasis) is that they pose a threat to the stability in the Middle East...

The Representative evidently "knows" what all the leaders in Iran's extraordinarily factionalized government intend to do, "knows" how the endless factional strife will turn out, "knows" that nothing the rest of the world can do will alter their stance, and "knows" that it is Iran (rather than countries like the U.S. and Israel that have actually started several wars in the region) that poses a threat to the stability of the Mideast.

I stand in awe before the brilliance of the Representative. He has evidently solved the most challenging problem facing us poor, ignorant social scientists: knowing what goes on in the minds of men.

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