Thursday, December 01, 2005

Government: National Strategy for Victory in Iraq

Following his big speech, the Bush Administration has put out its National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. I read it, and I was not impressed.

Virtually all of the document is written in bullet points and short, unconnected paragraphs. What is up with this administration and bullet points? I've blogged about this before as it pertains to PowerPoint. For some reason there is an intense desire to boil down complex information into simple platitudes, eliminating any nuance, art, or meaning in the process.

Sermon on the Mount PowerPoint Presentation
Before today, I assumed it was limited to my office (where they are overused to the point of absurdity) and to press releases (where they belong). But now I realize that it is administration wide.

My guess is that the President insists that everything be written in bullet point format, and that in an attempt to please/mimic him, it has trickled down to all of the other officials and political appointees, and then down to the individual offices and division heads.

I believe that the President does this because he sees everything through the lens of his business management education and experience, where substance is secondary and unimportant compared to the bottom line (winning and making money). The bottom line is that the President wanted to invade Iraq, he created a bullet point rational to get us there, used it to sell the American public, and now we're there. He was told we'd be "greeted with sweets and flowers" but we weren't, and now he has no clue what to do. He doesn't understand the actual substance of what is going on, and can't craft the complex strategy necessary to succeed.

He gets the big picture "vision thing" that his dad lacked (Freedom, War on Terror, Tax Cuts). He knows how to sell his vision in a format people can understand - PowerPoint, bullets, slogans, repetition of message. But I have yet to encounter a single piece of Bush administration policy that has a well thought out, evidenced-based rationale with a deliberate strategy for achieving substantive goals. In the entire National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, the word "evidence" appears in any iteration only once, in this set of bullet points:

  • Some of the most important metrics we track are:

  • - Political: The political benchmarks set forth in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 and the Transitional Administrative Law; the number of Iraqis from all areas willing to participate in the political process as evidenced by voter registration and turnout.

    - Security: The quantity and quality of Iraqi units; the number of actionable intelligence tips received from Iraqis; the percentage of operations conducted by Iraqis alone or with minor Coalition assistance; the number of car bombs intercepted and defused; offensive operations conducted by Iraqi and Coalition forces; and the number of contacts initiated by Coalition forces, as opposed to the enemy.

    - Economic: GDP; per capita GDP; inflation; electricity generated and delivered; barrels of oil produced and exported; and numbers of businesses opened.

  • Other indicators are also important to success, but less subject to precise measurement, such as the extent to which principles of transparency, trust in government institutions, and acceptance of the rule of law are taking hold amongst a population that has never known them.

  • We've been at war or planning for it for more then three years, and this is all the administration can come up with as metrics for success? Voter registration and occasional elections are just the mechanisms for representative democracy, not the preconditions, process, or results. The number of car bombs intercepted or defused does not measure American casualties or Iraqi safety. And GDP/inflation/infrastructure and other economic measures were better under Saddam then they are now. This is the best you can come up with? This is the plan to get my brother home safely from this endless war? Pathetic.

    I think that bullet points are the perfect metaphor for why so few Americans take this administration seriously anymore. We've seen the same high pressure "buy our time-share condos now" sales pitch again and again, and we know that's its a scam. Too bad Bush is President, and not a salesman we can walk away from after getting our free coupon.


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