This morning I was reading George Will's Washington Post article, "The Triumph of Unrealism." His article mentioned the intellectual contortions that the current administration is having to accept in order to justify that the war in Iraq is the central front on terrorism.
Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior administration official,"...
"The law enforcement approach doesn't work."
This started me to thinking. Obviously someone was denying the obvious because from all that I've heard it was the "law enforcement approach" that did work. Nothing that is happening in Iraq helped to stop the terror plot. You could probably argue that events in Iraq might have been the instigating cause in the plot, but we don't even know that for a fact.
Will actually used a word to describe the comments of the "senior administration official" that I had to look up.
This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional.
"Farrago" actually means, "A mass composed of various materials confusedly mixed; a medley; a mixture."
I'm long past wanting to discuss this administration and their "policies." I am, however, very interested in the whole idea that you can construct your own reality. Most of us probably do that every day. Fortunately we aren't doing foreign policy. Actually I take that back, we couldn't be much worse off if a reasonably intelligent person off the street made the decisions on our foreign policy, but that is off track on the point of my post.
We all take what we hear and plug it in to our opinions and life experience. When I read this morning of a spill on the Washington Beltway which stopped traffic, I'm able to relate fairly well to that because I've lived and worked in the Washington area. I know how bad it can be if something happens on the Beltway.
Also I was traveling to North Carolina last Friday when traffic on southbound Interstate 81 came to halt about eight miles before the Intersection with Interstate 77. I spent nearly an hour moving a couple of miles. I finally got off and with the help of my GPS found a back way to Interstate 77. Thus news of a traffic jam in Washington was something that I could relate to easily.
Yet much of our experience these days is based on what we see on television. I don't personally know anyone who has been to serve in Iraq
I've never been in a real war zone. The closest I've ever been to the military is four years in military school carrying a M1.
I do know some military people. The ones I've talked to aren't very pleased with events in Iraq. They know a lot more about what a military force can and can't do than I do.
Yet I'm willing to bet that there are plenty of military opinions to contradict what my friends think. In fact it doesn't matter what field you look at these days, experts are a dime a dozen. But I don't think that is the real problem.
The problem is that real experience isn't valued. We've become a society where with a few Internet searches and a couple of briefings, anyone in theory can become an expert on anything.
One thing that I've learned in life is that just about everything is harder than it appears. The second thing would be that the school of hard knocks is a much more able teacher than Powerpoint slides.
In fact Stephen, a friend who is ex-military, sent me a link to this post, "Death by PowerPoint."
In the business world, the phrase "death by PowerPoint" refers to a professional presentation during which the speaker numbs the audience with far too many PowerPoint slides, often crammed with far too much detail. In the US military, particularly after the Iraq war, "death by PowerPoint" may acquire a much different connotation.
Regularly, I've made the argument here at Arms and Influence that the US military has absorbed some bad habits from American business culture. While other parts of the national security community are equally guilty of making these mistakes, the military usually pays an especially terrible, bloody cost for these errors. .
However inappropriate PowerPoint may be for drafting and communicating battle plans, that's exactly how top military and civilian leaders used it in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
I used to marvel at the Apple Executives that I dealt with in Cupertino. They would throw up a Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentation that had been created by someone deep in the bowels of Cupertino. The common characteristic of all the presentations was that the "reality" being presented bore no relationship to anything actually happening out in the field. Yet because the executives chose to believe it, we had to go out and try to execute a plan that was doomed to failure.
Another friend who is also ex-military sent me a very appropriate email on "Corporate Ingenuity." I have been unable to find the source, so until I do I have posted it on one of my websites for reference. It's a great story of ignoring the obvious.
Perhaps that's what we all do, we go around as self-appointed experts, ignoring the obvious. We've become a country where we're all trying to be in the driver's seat. In the process of doing that, we're not willing to listen to anyone else, so we end up ignoring the obvious.
While there are some things that I understand well enough to feel like I can offer some reasonable advice to people, there are a whole lot of things that I would like to hand off to the experts. The problem is identifying the real experts. Maybe our biggest problem is that instead of just electing politicians, we need to license them to practice.
That might even work for Corporate CEOs, but I'm not talking about letting them get their MBAs and then run rampant over the countryside. Look what happened when we did that with this administration.
When I look at the ethical trouble that Apple has gotten into recently, I suspect that the company would have been a very different place if some of those executives had gone through a few ethics courses or gotten their jobs because they had real skills instead of just Powerpoint ones.
I have tremendous respect for CEOs and executives who have worked their up through their organizations and know how to do almost every role in the organization. Their organizations are often better run just because of that experience. The experience has to come from talking to customers and understanding customer needs. Once they are divorced from customers, a downhill slide is inevitable.
The same thing happens when a government only wants to meet with the people that agree with it. There are no policy options when you don't listen to the other points of view. The only thing you can do is keep doing what you've been doing.
I know that a lot of folks look for easy answers to hard questions. Just because they come up with an easy answer doesn't mean that it is going to work.
The real experts often come up with very detailed, hard to implement tough solutions for tough problems. The biggest difference is that they haven't over-simplified the problem.
This all reminds me of the most recent public opinion polls where Virginians have basically stated their preference for having their transportation problems fixed without spending any money.
I guess they're living in their own bubble of unreality. They've come up with a simple solution to a complex problem. The challenge is finding someone willing to tell the electorate that their solution isn't a solution to any known problem other than making sure that taxes don't go up and our road problems don't get fixed.