Phil wrote, in part:
...I think you're being a bit unfair here, LFC. I can't speak for Sullivan, but myself, I would never give policy advice based on analogies. Nor would I ever assume that my simplifying model (be it statistical or theoretical) has captured all the relevant details, thus obviating the need for any appreciation of the specifics of any given case when deciding how to handle that case....I think you're turning statistical modelers into a caricature.My post speculated about whether a scholar's epistemological and/or methodological orientation (or 'standpoint of inquiry') might affect how he or she would give advice to a policymaker. I wrote: "...if you are a scholar with a more nomothetic mindset (e.g. Sullivan), if a policymaker called you and asked you what to do, you might start thinking in terms of historical analogies, because you are used to homogenizing historical cases.... (emphasis added)."
Phil says he would never give advice based on analogies. OK. But I never said anyone would give such advice. I said might, not would. Maybe the modeler would just say to the policymaker: "Here's what my model suggests are the relevant considerations. How you weigh these considerations is up to you and to others who may know more about the specifics of this particular case or issue than I do." Maybe the modeler would say: "Sorry, I don't give policy advice. Goodbye." I don't know. I was speculating. Nonetheless, despite my explicitly tentative language, it was probably a mistake to bring Sullivan's name into this aspect of the post. I'll concede that much. As to whether I caricatured modelers, readers can make up their own minds on that.
Kindred wrote in his first comment (and Phil agreed with this):
We always approach new cases with reference to old ones. I don't think there's any way around it, and if there were I'm not sure the "on its own" approach would outperform the "look for similarities with past events and act accordingly". I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that we use mental models (i.e. heuristics) all the time anyway, so trying to create better models is better than relying on worse ones.I don't think there is much real disagreement among us here, though there is probably some difference in emphasis. Do we always approach new cases with reference to old ones? Yes, probably at some level, but "approaching new cases with reference to old ones" can mean different things in operation, depending on one's particular bent. In any event I am not disparaging models if they are used as one tool or method. They are suited for answering or exploring some questions more than others. It's useful to know that the nature of the stronger state's objective in an asymmetric conflict affects, or may affect, the likelihood of its success (per Sullivan). But if you all had was the general proposition that the more coercive (i.e. less 'brute-force') the objective the lower the likelihood of success, that, standing alone, would not equip you either to analyze adequately a particular case or to give policy advice about any given situation. I think we probably agree on that. Which in turn raises the question whether this (i.e., our discussion) has all been a waste of time. Again, I'll let readers judge that.
1. This phrase comes from a just-published article by Christopher Meckstroth in the August 2012 issue of APSR. More on that later.