What Would Yoda Do?


A story in Sunday's New York Times offers a balanced assessment of amphetamine use in the military, prompted by the case in which two U.S. pilots claim that "go pills" contributed to their mistaken bombing of Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Among other things, the story suggests that sleep deprivation is a far more plausible culprit than the stimulants taken to compensate for it.

Although remarkably calm for a story about the nonmedical use of psychoactive substances, the article does include some quotations that nicely illustrate the prohibitionist mentality. Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, who banned the use of amphetamines when he was the Air Force chief of staff, explains:

"I was a fighter pilot for 37 years, and I had been issued `go pills' on occasion for long, over-water flights and so on….I always just threw them away. Most of the guys I knew just threw them away."

General McPeak said his decision to ban the pills was prompted by personal experience, and not based on any formal research. "I have absolutely no science in back of that," he said. "It was entirely subjective. It just didn't match my style. Jedi Knights don't need them."

Here we have two principles that, writ large, go a long way toward explaining the war on drugs:

1. If I don't use a drug, no one should.

2. Subjective judgments trump scientific evidence.

Also, it's hard to believe that Yoda wasn't on something, given the way he was leaping around in Episode II.

NEXT: S.O.S., T.I.A.

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  1. “It just didn’t match my style. Jedi Knights don’t need them.”

    Whoa… has anyone in the Pentagon considered having General McPeak examined? Sounds like delusional ideation to me, regardless of how teetotal he makes himself out to be. Maybe he needs drugs…

  2. After the end of the Vietnam War, the US armed forces tried to analyze just why and how they lost the war. One of the problems they uncovered was that warfighting skills (the Operational Art) had been neglected.

    One of the solutions was a series of programs to reintroduce these skills. These programs included smaller-unit tactics simulations with the MILES system (the Army version of “laser tag”) to develop a greater degree of realism as well as reintroducing wargaming.

    In the late ’80s the graduates of these programs were (partially tounge in cheek) referred to as “Jedi Knights.”

    Are there any other questions? 🙂

  3. And we told Kermit at least one thousand times NOT to give Yoda those little magic happy pills.

    this calls for an immediate government program!


  4. Not to worry…Gen McPeak retired several years ago…1995ish, if memory serves.

  5. Quite a few units refer to themselves as Jedi.

    The idea of Yoda as a pothead, however, is priceless:

    “Remember I a time, when a dime bag actually cost a dime.”

    “Have you ever reached out with your feelings? Have you ever reached out with your feelings… on weed?”

  6. On the whole “Yoda” thing, it’s interesting that several neocon reviewers of Episode 2 have sympathized with the Empire against the Old Republic–
    Apparently, as Thomas Friedman would have it, as the kind of visible hand of imperial power on which the invisible hand of “democratic capitalism” (neocon version) depends.

    Maybe “Imperial Storm Troopers” would be more accurate than Jedi.

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