If academia’s taught me anything taught me, it’s that the real world is flawed, not theory, and that facts should change for me, not the other way around. As Marxists would say, ‘future is certain; it’s the past that keeps changing,’ and Orwell famously quipped that academics would love to get their hands on the lash to force the world fit theory. (I guess Heinlein agreed; check the vid.) So I am pleased to say that the world meet its obligations to abstraction this week a little: Japan and Korea edged a little closer toward a defense agreement (here and here). A little more of this, and I can safely ignore – whoops, I mean  ‘bracket’ – any real case knowledge…

Last week I argued that Korea and Japan seem like they’d be allies according to IR theory, but weren’t. I wrote, “Koreans stubbornly refuse to do what social science tells them;” obviously they don’t realize that abstraction overrules their sovereignty. I thought this was fairly puzzling, but I got an earful from the Korea/Asia studies crowd about how I was living in the clouds of theory. I also learned that area studies folks don’t really like it when you throw stuff like ‘exogenous’ and ‘epiphenomenal’ at them. Once they figure what ‘nomothetic’ actually means, they think you’re conning them. D’oh!

So for those of you argued I didn’t know anything about Korea or Japan (a fair point) but was just blathering on about theory that had no necessary time-space application to this case, I thought I’d put up this bit from Starship Troopers. It’s hysterical – when PhDs rule the world, apparently the military has to step in to prevent us from running it over a cliff. Didn’t Buckley once say he’d rather the first 2000 names of the Boston phone book run the US government than the faculty of Harvard?

Cross-posted at Asian Security Blog.

  • anonymous

    One of the easy things to think about, historically, is how many political scientists have been president of the US? The one person who was both president and did POS was Woodrow Wilson.

  • Tim Phan

    Instead of land, religion, or ideologies…I suspect political scientists would just battle over methodology and epistemology if they ruled the world. Not bad.

  • Tyranny of social of social science as Simpsons ‘Mensa’ episode! https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701272/.

    We would force everyone to adopt metric clocks :)

  • If I could nerdify this a bit, I would point out (based solely on recollection) that Heinlein mentioned that there was a coup d’etat or revolt of the scientists which preceded the intervention of veterans’ groups before the Federation was created.  I think his point was merely a didactic lesson that the most intelligent cannot be trusted to rule because intelligence is not correlated with virtue. I assume it was Paul Verhoeven who brilliantly changed “scientists” to “social scientists” in that scene…. Okay, I will shut up now…

  • I’ll see your nerd quotient and raise you a further obscure reference: When the teacher continues, ‘we talked about the veternans; how they took control, and imposed the stability that lasted for generations,’ I think Heinlein/Verhoeven was thinking of WWI vets in  Weimar Germany (the Freikaempfer, Hindenburg, Ludendorf), who claimed they were bringing order where flimsy politicians had permitted communist disorder on the streets. That’s not actually true of course, but Heinlein was a such a creepy militarist, I don’t think he cared, and for Verhoeven, neo-fascism is the dark humor of the film.

  • Mark Duckenfield

    I use that clip in the class instructional period on civil-military relations at the Air War College.  It goes over well.

  • I imagine. Do they concur that we will need them to head-off a dictatorship of the eggheads bearing metric clocks? :)

    I’ve read that Starship Troopers is used for discussions of civ-mil relations in general in the military. Is that correct? If so, I would be curious you use it. Do tell, please.

    When I finally read the book a few years ago, I was pretty disturbed. It is the closest thing I can think of to an endorsement of military oligarchy by a major American intellectual. I still have the sense that Heinlein admired the Weimar Freikorps.