The “One Percent Doctrine” is the title of a new book by Ron Suskind about the so-called “strategic thinking” of our current presidential administration. In case you are still wondering why we attacked Iraq, and you don’t buy any of the president’s ever-changing explanations, you might want to check out Mr. Suskind’s book.
In the interests of full disclosure, let me state that I haven’t read the book yet, but Mr. Suskind’s previous books have been excellent, and this one got positive reviews in The New York Times and The Washington Post. My interest in this post is just to examine the phrase itself. More disclosure: I’m a PhD statistician and sometimes amuse myself by picking statistical-sounding phrases out of the news media.
As cited in Ruskin, and quoted in the NYT, shortly after 9/11 Dick Cheney said: “if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction—and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time—the United States must now act as if it were a certainty.” What I would like to know is:
- Can I see the calculations that produced the “1 percent” estimate?
- What is the confidence interval of this estimate?
- What are the effect sizes for improving port security versus torturing innocent people of Middle Eastern heritage?
- How often do you recalculate this estimate? What was it in the week before 9/11?
- Since there’s a “small probability” of almost anything happening, including President Bush taking up the study of Mathematical Statistics, exactly how low does that probability need to be to prevent the United States from attacking sovereign nations?