Political Science at War

Condoleezza Rice is now offering the strange claim that her status as a political scientist bolsters her feeling that invading Iraq was a good idea:

And I’m especially, as a political scientist, not as Secretary of State, not as National Security Advisor, but as somebody who knows that structurally it matters that a geostrategically important country like Iraq is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

My colleague Ryan Powers reminds us that, in fact, many of the leading lights of the international relations subfield of political science tried to warn the country against the invasion of Iraq. There was also this interesting article that surveyed opinion among IR scholars in Foreign Policy magazine several years ago:

The American public has only recently soured on the war in Iraq, but the great majority of international relations scholars have always
opposed it. A comparison of scholarly opinion with U.S. public opinion (as reported by a Pew poll in August 2004) reveals huge gaps between the professors and the people. Nearly 80 percent of scholars opposed the U.S. decision to go to war. More than 87 percent of these scholars believe that the war in Iraq has harmed or will harm U.S. security. These numbers contrast dramatically with the beliefs of likely voters, where roughly half believed the war in Iraq was the “right choice.” left of center. But political orientation doesn’t explain everything. Conservative scholars supported the war in much lower proportions than conservative America.


One of the most annoying habits of the press and the DC conventional wisdom more generally has been a persistent habit of ignoring these facts in favor of the rhetoric of “seriousness” that casts war opponents as a much of ignorant hippies and foul-mouthed bloggers who, at best, were right about Iraq by accident or something. But the vast majority of credentialed experts in Middle East regional studies, and the vast majority of credentialed experts in international relations have always been extremely skeptical of the adventure in Iraq. The main supporters of the war have been politicians, magazine and newspaper pundits, and a smallish group of heavily politicized think tank-based experts and “experts” who, for whatever reason, are granted privileged access to the media over people in a better position to offer genuinely independent analysis. I think many political observers watching the debate unfold in 2002-2003 would have gotten the impression that most experts were more-or-less backing the president on Iraq. But while it’s certainly true that most op-ed columnist and most Brookings fellows were behind Bush, the broader group of political scientists who specialize in these issues has always taken the opposite view.