If you aren’t reading Paul Pillar…

…you should be.

With far more clarity and deftness than I can muster up, he manages to discuss and raise a number of worthwhile questions about our (American) assassination program, entrenchment of institutional interests and inertia, and the (perhaps unintentional) use of language to convey subtle messages.  On that last point, allow my to butcher a passage of his (please read it in full) about the naming of the counter-terrorism manual a ‘playbook’.

In football, a playbook is a very tactical manual that organizes the quick thinking that coaches and players have to do on each play….But the playbook doesn’t provide any help in bigger decisions with larger and longer term consequences, such as whether to leave your injured star quarterback in the game…By routinizing and institutionalizing a case-by-case set of criteria, there is even the hazard that officials will give less consideration than they otherwise would have to such larger considerations because they have the comfort and reassurance of following a manual.

This sort of analysis can go too far at times.  As the saying goes, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes words reflect poor word choice, limited vocabulary, or some other factor.  But, at times, it can provide some extra insight.





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