Of Polygraphs and Other Things 

Of Polygraphs and Other Things

From the Corner, duly linked by Instapundit:

"So Newsweek is reporting that Mary McCarthy denies being the leaker. This despite stories in the press saying that she failed a polygraph and admitted to it."

Somebody needs to do a full study of methods, tools, programs, etc., that only Americans could possibly believe in. For starters:

Polygraph tests--many good studies show there are lots of false results
IQ tests
SAT tests
5 stages of grief
Virtually any 3, 5, 7, 10, or 12-step plan, including the famous 12 steps
Method acting

How does this naive faith keep erupting? First, a more or less honest admission of not knowing something important--like what another person is actually thinking, or is actually capable of. Second a determination to be decisive, to get on with things, to have hope for a better future. Not, above all, to be indecisive, nuanced, or a hand-wringer. Third, a determination to believe--to kid oneself--that some fairly simple tool, ready to hand, will actually plumb the depths of the mystery in question. Problem solved, dust off one's fingers, have a beer.

Maybe one would have to add to this list: military intervention to change hearts and minds. True, it worked in Japan and Germany in World War II--massive bombing of civilians, so that the survivors believed they had no hope at all other than to work with the bombers. There is an argument that it hasn't worked since--possibly because there was no willingness to kill on such a massive scale. Generally speaking, whatever the U.S. did in the Third World during the Cold War turned people away from the U.S., not toward it.

Oh, and let's not forget torture. Maybe the Israelis haven't given up on it completely, but there is some evidence they don't believe it works. As for other countries that practice it, other than the U.S., they probably just think they need some sadists on their side, and they need to provide them with an outlet. Only the Americans would have a moralistic-scientific rationale to the effect that torture will make the world a better place.

UPDATE: As a faithful reader of Hit and Run, I should mention the War on Drugs. Also, in the light of eulogies of Jane Jacobs: urban planning.

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