October 7, 2003

I've been saying the same thing myself, but...

...for some odd reason Jonathan Rauch is able to phrase things better than me...

....Planning bias. Again and again, critics charge the government with having no plan or strategy. Whenever the Pentagon or administration changes course, they charge it with having planned poorly. Headlines speak of events "out of control" in Iraq.

More than just hindsight bias is at work here. Many people, particularly the sophisticated sort, hate messiness. They like to know that smart managers are in charge, figuring out everything. Surprises are defeats.

In truth, the planning mind-set is exactly wrong for Iraq. Anything might have happened after the war: a flood of refugees, a cholera pandemic, a civil war--or, for that matter, the discovery of an advanced nuclear program. The fact that the Bush administration keeps adjusting its course, often contravening its own plans or preferences, is a hopeful sign.... (Via Virginia P)

The "planning mindset" is exactly wrong for a lot of things in our fast-changing world. But especially war. You've probably read how the combat superiority of American (and British, Australian, Israeli...) forces is partly due to empowering junior officers to make decisions. What's that phrase? "An American sergeant has more authority than a colonel in any Arab army." Well, that's the opposite of the "planning mindset."

Of course a lot of the "planning" criticism is by people who are pathetically desperate to find reasons to bash Bush, whatever the merits. The same people will be happy to excoriate the Administration's "inability to improvise and adapt" if they see an opening for it...

Posted by John Weidner at October 7, 2003 1:48 PM
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