Thursday, June 30, 2022

How disasters become catastrophes: Seeds of destruction

When analyzing the grotesque failures of our COVID response, I think it is useful to keep this quote from Sir Michael Howard in mind:

This is an aspect of military science which needs to be studied above all others in the Armed Forces: the capacity to adapt oneself to the utterly unpredictable, the entirely unknown. I am tempted indeed to declare that whatever doctrine the Armed Forces are working on now, they have got it wrong. I am tempted also to declare that it does not matter that they have got it wrong. What does matter is their capacity to get it right quickly when the moment arrives.

Michael Howard, "Military Science in the Age of Peace"
One can forgive early mistakes when confronting a novel threat. What matters is how quickly an organization can recognize its mistakes and make corrections. This is where Fauci and Co. failed and failed grievously. As the mistakes piled up, they insisted that they had all the answers and were well nigh infallible.

This is a recipe for catatrophe.

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition
Americans used to be good at learning on the fly when the balloon went up:

Despite the shock of Pearl Harbor, which crippled the battleship fleet and rendered the existing warplans obsolete, the Navy moved swiftly and with strategic focus.
We fumbled and we failed but we learned:

Bernard Lewis:

One was that they were unteachable. When America entered the war, we in Britian had been at war for more than two years. We had made many mistakes, and had learned something from them We tried to pass these lessons on to our new allies and save them from paying again the price that we had paid in blood and toil. But they wouldn't listen -- their ways were not our ways, and they would do things their way, not ours. And so they went ahead and made mistakes -- some repeating ours, some new and original. What was really new and original -- and this is my second point lastiing impression -- was the speed with which they recognized these mistakes, and devised and applied the means to correct them. This was beyond anything in my experience.
Our most successful organizations consciously tried to learn from failure:

Every action-report included a section of analysis and recommendations, and those nuggets of hard-won knowledge were absorbed into future command decisions, doctrine, planning, and training throughout the service.

Ian Toll, Pacific Crucible
We also understood the need to clear the decks by removing failed or compromised leaders.

We did none of these things with COVID.

Kaus-Reynolds with a vengence*
We are paying a high price for these failures. When the general public understands that it did not have to be this way, the fallout may be earth-shattering.


When do disasters become catastrophes?

Why bureaucracies fail (II): Can experts admit to mistakes?

Why bureaucracies fail: Politics and enforced solidarity

The hubris of the learned and the perils of technocracy

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Watergate: A legend turns 50

50 Years Later, the Motive Behind Watergate Remains Clouded

Despite the abundance of transcripts, FBI reports, and memoirs from those involved, we still know more about the cover-up than we do about the infamous political scandal.

One strange thing about Watergate, the scandal that led Richard Nixon to resign as president, is that 50 years later we still don't know who ordered the core crime or why.

Watergate as legend and myth is too important to be researched or scrutinized. So the MSM repeats the same old (discredited) cliches.

Watergate and history

Americans Aren’t Getting The Real Watergate Story From John Dean And CNN