Any course requires competent navigation

As the administration’s united front on “staying the course” in Iraq anagrams into the untied one, and exploded fragments of the Republican machine fly around inflicting shrapnel wounds on the players, we’re going to be offered a new course to victory, or to something palatable.

Do not stay aboard even for the in-port sailing party of this new course, because the Iraqi disaster was not just a matter of choosing the wrong course, or staying on it too long. The venal, incompetent, corrupt, cynical, deaf-and-dumb management of the mission, from the bridge down to the bilges, would have doomed the enterprise in any case, and the same crew of ideologues, and opportunists will put the new one on the rocks in short order. The problem this administration, and its congressional enablers, cannot escape (even if Rumsfeld is shooed along the plank), is that it is incapable of managing any business it undertakes except sinking its political capital into electoral success. That business has no similarity to extrication from Iraq, and anyway it is in liquidation, with the looters and scavengers already skulking around the works picking up the odd bit of salvage goods.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

6 thoughts on “Any course requires competent navigation”

  1. If this is, in fact, the fall of the Bush machine, will any of the current players wait in the wings to support the next GOP power structure? Not that I am excited about the prospect, but there will be another Republican administration. Who of our current friends would we expect to see fill the cabinet in 2012 (or, godforbid, 2008)?
    Will the fall be so complete as to taint everyone? Who gets to walk away from this unsullied to fight another day?

  2. Well, the Nixon regime and Watergate wasn't enough to taint much. I expect a list of the top 50 people in the Bush II administration will cover a large chunk of the top 25 in the next Republican administration.

  3. I'm with Matt Yglesias on this one. It's true that the war was badly run. But it was a BAD IDEA. Not just a failure of management, a BAD IDEA. The badosity of the execution shouldn't distract from the badaciousness of the idea in the first place.

  4. Hmm, this is a mental gymnastics exercise: can you hold two distinct ideas, that are in no way contradictory or inconsistent, in your mind at the same time, in such a balanced way that noting one does not imply negation or dissing of the other?
    Here are some practice exercises:
    peanut butter + jelly
    hugs + kisses
    bad taste + bad smell
    and now for the test:
    bad war + bad execution thereof

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