Beware fields of endeavor with the surname “science” tacked on to their names. Astronomy, for instance, has done very well for itself without being called “astronomic science,” as have mathematics, chemistry, zoology. Even philosophy and psychology – and yes, even that bastion of grasping mountebanks, sociology – have managed to get along fine with just their Christian names. On the other hand, I remember my shock at university when, as a college freshman, I opened the course catalogue to find a whole academic department of “political science.” Thou insisteth overmuch, methought.
The surname “science,” adopted for their pitiful racket by modern-day shamans who predict the future of nations by reading pigeon entrails, the New York Times, and one another, is pure wishful thinking. Like a retired postman who buys himself a Lord of the Manor title, “political scientists” want to boast of the one quality of their discipline that it does not possess, namely, its predictive ability. Which is precisely the quality that sets all genuine science apart from shamanism, charlatanry, and fraud.
There are exceptions, though the talking heads that represent them usually call themselves observers, rather than “political scientists,” and are called “pundits,” rather than prophets, by others. One such exception is a man by the name of Andrei Illarionov, whose analysis of all matters Russian I have been following for some time.
Look him up. It was Illarionov, for instance, who had described in graphic detail – with the accuracy of an astronomer predicting a solar eclipse – the impending annexation of the Crimea and the present Ukrainian conflict many moons before any of these events actually took shape.
Illarionov’s position from 2000 to 2005 was senior economic adviser to the Russian presidential administration, which he scandalously resigned, declaring that “it is one thing to work in a country that is partly free, and another to work in a Russia that is free no longer.” Whereupon he moved his family to the US and accepted an appointment with the Cato Institute in Washington. It goes without saying that the Kremlin propaganda machine went into overdrive, and that Russian political blogs that do not now refer to him as a CIA stooge are few and far between.
To which I reply, so what? The CIA, since its very inception, has been a haven for incompetent bumblers, arrogant ignoramuses, inveterate liars, and, not infrequently, ordinary thieves. I know from personal experience that “Russia analysts,” at Langley as at the Pentagon and at the Department of State, make elementary spelling mistakes in ordinary Russian words (remember the goofy button, presented by Hillary Clinton to Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov, with the Russian for “overload” instead of “reset”?) So if a scientist – I confer this title upon Illarionov in view of his predictive ability – should fall among them, is that not a cause for jubilation?
I don’t care who pays the piper – or, for that matter, the pundit. When a political observer is capable of supporting his systematic analysis of world events by accurately predicting them, he merits the title of scientist even if, like Werner von Braun, he builds rockets for the Nazis.
Andrei Navrozov, born in Moscow, lives in Palermo and is European editor for Chronicles. The former publisher of the Yale Lit, he is a widely published author and translator. His Italian Carousel: Scenes of Internal Exile was published by Peter Owen Publishers.