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How to Win the War in Iraq

What do you do When you find out you are wrong? Not just wrong about one thing, or a little bit wrong. What do you do when you find out you are very wrong, and consistently wrong, and there are really big consequences? President Bush, after three years, seems to finally realize he has been wrong. Well, not really. But he has finally acknowledged the big consequences part. Part of the problem has been that he has only gotten advice from those willing to tell him what he wants to hear. So the formation of the Iraq Study Group was a good thing, right? Finally, some independent experts would weight in, and tell the President some things he wouldn't like to hear. Except they weren't really experts. And their advice has little to do with Iraq. And Bush isn't really listening anyway. So how do we win the war in Iraq? Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't hurt to ask the real experts - the military people actually in Iraq. In fact, one of our troops has given us a PowerPoint presentation. That's right, it's even in the preferred format of upper management everywhere. Seriously, go there right now and watch the presentation, it's only 18 slides. It's a revelation. Not because this one soldier, Capt. Travis Patriquin, is a military genius, or that his ideas are a silver bullet that will magically solve all problems. It's amazing because Patriquin's presentation actually talks about the reality on the ground. He presents actual ideas, grounded in reality, that could actually be tried. This is a amazing. Think about it - this administration has spent years propping up non-ideas (like staying the course) as if they were ideas. They have spent more time and effort denying reality than dealing with it. I had almost forgotten what ideas taste like. It has been so long. Unfortunately, this presentation is the last insight we will get from Capt. Patriquin. He was killed last week. His "How to Win the War in Al Anbar" may go down in history as the first PowerPoint presentation to make a positive change in the world. Or maybe it will be ignored. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but based on 6 years of the Bush administration, my guess is it will be the latter. You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of every large company or organization I've ever worked for or dealt with. The people at the top are so disconnected from the people at the bottom that they begin to congratulate themselves for the disconnect. "I don't need to know how widget X works, in fact I shouldn't know at all. I need to think about strategic business decisions." We don't want to waste the chief executive's time with tactics, he has strategy to strategize about. We can lay off engineers, they just have domain knowledge, they don't contribute to the bottom line like sales. We need programmers with 5 years of Java and J2EE, don't worry about anything else, it's just business logic. We can outsource our call centers to India or Kansas or where ever - all they need is a script to work from, hire a consultant to develop the script. We need professional project managers, certified experts in the art of scheduling and tracking--they don't have to understand the project they're managing, what are you daft? Tactics matter. Actual information that reflects reality matters. They say it's not what you know, but who you know. That might be true in job hunting and getting political appointments, but apparently it doesn't win wars.

Are politicians and CEOs sociopaths?

I was reading something on Slashdot about HP dumping Board member George Keyworth for leaking things to the press. The issue wasn't that he was dumped, it was that pretexting was used to get his phone records. This being Slashdot, the idea that all CEOs and politicians are sociopaths quickly came up. This is how it supposedly works: no normal human being would be willing to cut jobs, sell out their colleagues, keep saying what people want to hear with no guilt from lying, and otherwise do the things that lands you on top of the corporate ladder or in Congress. In order to be successful at those things, you have to lack empathy with others – hence, you're a sociopath. Very intelligent sociopaths can be surprisingly charismatic – they learn can learn, and exploit, social graces even if they don't feel bound to them. Is there any evidence to back this up? There's a book called The Sociopath Next Door, written by a clinical psychologist, but I haven't read it. A search of the literature doesn't show much, although I have to admit I'm not familiar with the technical terms to use in searching academic journals. I did find one piece of related evidence. A magazine was able to run a Voight-Kampff test on the candidates for mayor of San Franscisco. They determined that the majority were replicants, and not human beings at all. What do you think? Are politicians and CEOs really amoral enough to be called sociopaths, or do these jobs select for sociopathic tendencies? Or is it just an intelligent way of saying their jerks and we're jealous of them?