Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Fog of War

This looks to be a great documentary.
Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias quotes Robert McNamara

What makes us omniscient? Have we a record of omniscience? We are the strongest nation in the world today. I do not believe that we should ever apply that economic, political, and military power unilaterally. If we had followed that rule in Vietnam, we wouldn't have been there. None of our allies supported us. Not Japan, not Germany, not Britain or France. If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning.

The New York Times review.
In his book "Choice and Consequence", Thomas Schelling quotes a passage from Richard Neustadt's book Presidential Power. The same passage can be read here

IN THE EARLY summer of 1952, before the heat of the campaign, President [Harry] Truman used to contemplate the problems of the general-become-President should [Dwight David] Eisenhower win the forthcoming election. "He'll sit here," Truman would remark (tapping his desk for emphasis), "and he'll say, 'Do this! Do that!' And nothing will happen. Poor Ike-it won't be a bit like the Army. He'll find it very frustrating."

Eisenhower evidently found it so. "In the face of the continuing dissidence and disunity, the President sometimes simply exploded with exasperation," wrote Robert Donovan in comment on the early months of Eisenhower's first term. "What was the use, he demanded to know, of his trying to lead the Republican Party. ..... And this reaction was not limited to early months alone, or to his party only. "The President still feels," an Eisenhower aide remarked to me in 1958, "that when he's decided something, that ought to be the end of it ... and when it bounces back undone or done wrong, he tends to react with shocked surprise."

Given that each individual in a large organization has limited information as to what is going on, and limited cognitive powers, and that even Presidents of the United States have limited powers over their subordinates, who often wish to mislead them as to the actual situation, what is the role of leadership?

1 comment:

samaresh said...


Get over it ......