Strategic and Operational Thinking Illustrated
from: A Learning Organization - Doctrine, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Power is the ability to achieve a purpose. Whether or not it is good or bad depends upon the purpose.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon has been quoted as saying, "Short term thinking drives out long term strategy, every time." A more measured way to say this same thing is: tactical considerations tend to trump strategy. This the way Bill Bradley phrased the notion in an March 30, 2005 op-ed in the New York Times called A Party Inverted.
A conflict is growing within the Democratic Party between Howard Dean’s long-term 50-state strategy and the short-term requirements of winning the 2006 midterm elections. It is essentially a conflict between the campaign strategy for this fall and a strategy for rebuilding the Democratic Party over many years, if not decades to come.
"They can say what they want, but we've been doing it the old way for a while and it's time for a change," Dean said in an interview. "To find out if the 50-state strategy is going to be successful, you'll have to wait for a couple of presidential cycles. It won't be deemed a failure, because I'm going to keep doing it."In contrast, Emanuel, along with many Democrats, is increasingly worried that they will not have enough money to compete with Republicans on the ground, especially in close elections. By definition, the imperatives of an electoral strategy are short-term and center on the allocation of scarce resources (emphases added):
"We're going to be in 10 states on behalf of the Senate and we're going to be in 38 to 40 House races," Dean said in the interview, disclosing such numbers for the first time. "We're going to devote significant resources, but we're going to do it in the context of preparing ourselves for '08 and beyond."
Those who support Dean's strategy of boosting Democratic performance in all corners of America - even in Republican "red states" - say the burden for winning midterm races rests with congressional leaders. They say Dean's vision to strengthen the party is a long-term approach that, in the end, could be more important than winning a few House or Senate seats this year.
"It's a difference in mission," said Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. "If we're going to become competitive again in the national elections, we need to have a national strategy to make states more competitive."
Those close to Dean say he pays little attention to assessments from the party establishment. Since being elected 18 months ago, he has reveled in being labeled an outsider.
His most loyal admirers are far from the capital and he visits them often, traveling places seldom listed on a political leader's itinerary. On a recent day, he flew to the Virgin Islands, where locals declared him the first chairman of either national party to make an official visit.
"Will we have the resources to run an effective ground campaign for this election?" Emanuel asked. "This is not a contest between the 50-state strategy and the midterm election. It's a question of whether we are going to have the money for the midterm election."The NDN’s Simon Rosenberg predicts that Dean will necessarily be judged by the outcome of the elections, whether he likes it or not:
Disagreements among Democrats over campaign strategy - particularly regarding the allocation of money - are hardly new. But relations between Dean and other party leaders have reached hostile levels, according to interviews with more than two dozen well-placed Democrats. And some fear the tensions could give Republicans an advantage in on-the-ground mechanics and money for the midterm election.
Beyond state party officials, though, many Democrats wonder whether the 50-state strategy is another chapter of Dean's failed White House bid in 2004, which raised a record $50 million yet failed to win a single contest outside his native Vermont. These Democrats worry that the national party will be out of money and unable to compete with Republicans in the final weeks of the campaign.
"It's an audacious and bold redefinition of the party," said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the progressive New Democrat Network, who challenged Dean for party chairman. "But at the end of the day he will be evaluated more by what happens in the elections than how much money the state parties have. Regardless of whether that's fair or not, that's what the judgment will be."Is there stil time to find a compromise between the requirements of these two very different types of strategy? The outcome of the elections and the future of Dean and his strategy will tell.
The Bush administration’s ‘incompetence,’ frequently invoked by its critics, actually misses the real issue. For in fact, as evidenced by the long list of its significant achievements, the conservative leadership is very successful and hence competent at executing a conservative philosophy. Thus, the problem is not the failure but precisely the success of conservative ideology. At least this is George Lakoff’s thesis, published in AlterNet on July 3, 2006, under the title, Bush Is Not Incompetent.
conservative philosophy has three fundamental tenets: individual initiative, that is, government's positive role in people's lives outside of the military and police should be minimized; the President is the moral authority; and free markets are enough to foster freedom and opportunity.He gives three examples to illustrate how the Bush administration advanced its conservative vision beneath the veil of ‘incompetence:’ the mushrooming budget deficit, the Iraq fiasco, and the disastrous non-response to hurricane Katrina.
One of the goals of Conservatives is to keep people from relying on the federal government. Under Bush, FEMA was reorganized to no longer be a first responder in major natural disasters, but to provide support for local agencies. This led to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. Now citizens, as well as local and state governments, have become distrustful of the federal government's capacity to help ordinary citizens. Though Bush's popularity may have suffered, enhancing the perception of federal government as inept turned out to be a conservative victory.Lakoff's conclusion is worth reading carefully, especially for its strategic and long-term implications:
The mantra of incompetence has been an unfortunate one. The incompetence frame assumes that there was a sound plan, and that the trouble has been in the execution. It turns public debate into a referendum on Bush's management capabilities, and deflects a critique of the impact of his guiding philosophy. It also leaves open the possibility that voters will opt for another radically conservative president in 2008, so long as he or she can manage better. Bush will not be running again, so thinking, talking and joking about him being incompetent offers no lessons to draw from his presidency.It is important that Lakoff insists on the success of conservative ideology not in spite of unintentional but precisely because of intentional conservative incompetence. However, it should be pointed out that ideology of course does not succeed in and of itself. It can succeed in controlling politics and policies only if it is supported by governing power, supplemented by a strong sociopolitical infrastructure.
Incompetence obscures the real issue. Bush's conservative philosophy is what has damaged this country and it is his philosophy of conservatism that must be rejected, whoever endorses it.
Conservatism itself is the villain that is harming our people, destroying our environment, and weakening our nation. Conservatives are undermining American values through legislation almost every day. This message applies to every conservative bill proposed to Congress. The issue that arises every day is which philosophy of governing should shape our country. It is the issue of our times. Unless conservative philosophy itself is discredited, Conservatives will continue their domination of public discourse, and with it, will continue their domination of politics. (emphases added)