Military quackery

When doctors tell a patient he’s dying, the quacks move in, offering “hope” and hoping to fleece the victim and his family. The Bush surge-ulation is military laetrile.

We’re hearing from the junta and its friends that, while GWB’s plan for victory is far-fetched, Democrats have no plan for victory at all. That’s true. Victory isn’t one of the possible outcomes, for any reasonable meaning of the world “victory.” So the Democrats are merely refusing to promise the impossible. The country is supposed to rally to the Republicans because some hope is always better than no hope, and the Republicans are prepared to promise victory even though they haven’t the foggiest notion of how to deliver it.

What does this remind you of?

Yes, that’s right. A quack offering laetrile or “energetic healing” or laying on of hands or a macrobiotic diet to a cancer patient whose physicians have told him that his case is hopeless and that he’d better make his will, or to that patient’s family. The doctors are called arrogant and heartless. The family member who says “this cure can’t possibly work” is silenced by being asked whether he really wants Dad to die. Dad dies, the family feels good because it “did everything to save him,” and the quack buys another Cadillac.


Amazingly, the marks don’t seem to be falling for the scam. In addition to the historic achievement of losing two wars at once, GWB may have finally succeeded in overestimating the gullibility of the American electorate: the first time that feat has ever been accomplished.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: