Wasp Class Stinger

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Danger of Ignoring Opinions Which Challenge Your World View

It's probably absurd for a small time blogger like me to link to the mighty Instapundit, but this Ed Driscoll post is important "Sharyl Atkisson: Obama Won't Read Intelligence on Groups He Doesn't Consider Terrorists" is important because of what it reveals about the problems that can be caused by not occasionally taking a look at things you might find disagreeable (and probably much more about the ego which, once committed to a cause or course, cannot be swayed by evidence that might challenge the correctness of that path). No I won't quote the post here, but you really should read the whole thing.

One really good aspect of military planning is that, if done properly, it requires the commander to sort through a problem and carefully weigh risks and possible outcomes before committing to a course of action.

A key element of this planning process is gaining - to the extent possible - a good understanding of the current situation - an "assessment." The function of this process is to make sure that "what is" is not overtaken by "what I wish it was." or, as set out in the following manual:
First, assessment must determine “where we are.” The assessment process must examine the data received and determine, in relation to the desired effects, the current status of the operation and the operational environment. This is the most basic and fundamental question that assessment must answer. The second fundamental issue that assessment must address is “so what and why” (i.e., what does the data mean and what is its significance)? To answer this question, the assessment team will examine the measure of effectiveness indicators, both individually and in relation to each other. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, assessment must begin to address the “what’s next?” Assessment must combine the analysis of the “where we are”and the “so what” and develop thoughtful, logical guidance for the command’s planning efforts.
 "Data received" includes intelligence about the enemy force, the human terrain, the physical terrain and one's own personnel and equipment availability and status.

Now, it is entirely possible for the Commander in Chief to determine that he or she is perfectly satisfied with the state of things as they are and not see a need to commit any assets to changing the status quo or to affect a change in direction.

If based on a thorough understanding of the risks of that path (and recognizing that the "law of unintended consequences" is always in play), then the executive can be held to account for his or her choices. "What happens if I do nothing?" "What happens if if I withdraw troops?" "What happens if I add more troops?" are legitimate questions.

Most field commanders are not in a position to pose questions about the political ramifications of such choices - although one can hope that even political leadership can ask "What is the right thing to do?" without political overtones - but with careful weighing of national security interests.

What happens when an executive is not inclined to look at realistic assessments of "how things are" or "how this coud turn out" or if those in the assessment chain begin to shade the information that they are sending up? What happens if you ignore intelligence reports that you have decided in advance you don't agree with?

Probably not much good.

That being said here's a guide for commnders:


The focus of this publication generally is on-going operations and the progress made to achieving a desired end state. Lack of clarity of what that end state should be can lead to a lot of waste in people, equipment and other tools of implementing national policy.

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