February 24, 2011

Stay classy, Michael Hastings!

One of the ugliest sentences you will ever read in a piece of journalism:

Caldwell seemed more eager to advance his own career than to defeat the

That is not a quote from someone else -- those words belong to the journalist himself. Classy. I would recommend reading Michael Hastings' dispatches for Rolling Stone not as sober journalism but as particularly poorly sourced policy papers. Essentially Michael Hastings is doing bad think tank policy analysis with a little character assassination thrown in for extra measure.

When policy analysis is done well, it starts with a research question and then constructs methodology and accumulates data to test an initial hypothesis. When policy analysis is done poorly, the researcher just cherry-picks data to support his desired argument and doesn't ask basic epistemological questions that might call into question the researcher's assumptions or conclusions. Michael Hastings is doing the latter. He obviously has a desired policy preference, and he is cherry-picking the sources that would support that preference. He's obviously not above taking a grotesque cheap shot at a respected senior officer, either.

[In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that Joe Buche, who is one of the officers mentioned in the cited article, is a friend of mine. Also, I once met with LTG Caldwell at CNAS before he took command of NTM-A. But the number of times I have met LTG Caldwell at CNAS is equal to the number of times I have met Michael Hastings at CNAS.]