“If the U.S. merely doubled its annual aid [to Pakistan] from $700 million to $1.5 billion, America’s influence in the country would significantly jump, while the militants’ would drop drastically. Why? Because with that sort of financial flow, corrupt rural officials would suddenly profit more from helping the U.S. than from helping the Taliban.”

So says the computer model that predicted Khamenei’s rise to power and the timing of Pervez Musharraf’s fall.

This from yesterday’s NYTimes expose on political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, who helped popularize the application of game theory to political and economic decision-making, and who in addition to scholarly publishing consults with firms like British Aerospace and Marconi Electonics, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency.

The article, sort of an advertisement for Bueno de Mesquita’s new book The Predictioneer’s Game is good press not only for Bueno de Mesquita but for the political science profession. Accordingly, it was important that the article did not equate political science with game theoretic models, and in fact (as both Dan Drezner and some of the commenters at the Monkey Cage note) demonstrated that qualitative methods – interviewing, interpretation, and coding – are key to the number-crunching for which Bueno de Mesquita is famous.