Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The media coverage and politicking over the 9/11 panel is making me a little crazy. I think very few of our elected officials actually care about discovering the truth. Probably the only people who are really committed to finding out what actually happened are the families of the victims. We’re developed a very well entrenched politics of blame in this country. The main objective is to pin the blame for the problem of the day on your opponents and use it for personal political gain. Here’s what I think the Republicans and Democrats would like to see come out of the commission:

Republicans – Clinton was so incompetent (or soft) in the area of national defense that he passed up the opportunity to kill Bin Laden and shut down 9/11 before it happened. The Clinton administration so bungled the intelligence gathering and the response to other terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda that there was no way the Bush administration could have stopped 9/11.

Democrats – Bush and his “neo-con” cronies were so focused on ousting Hussein that they ignored the quality intelligence gathered by the Clinton administration and let 9/11 happen through sheer indifference to the threat. Bush has compounded this failure by going to war in Iraq thus diverting crucial resources from the fight against Al Qaeda.

What’s the real answer? Who knows…? What I do know is that neither Bush nor Kerry has any interest in the truth. All they care about is getting elected.

If you read management literature, one of the characteristics of successful organizations is that they can learn from both their successes and failures. One of the very important components of being able to learn is to avoid the blame game. While individuals and organizations do need to accept responsibility for failure, the point of reflecting (on policy decisions, management decisions, etc.) isn’t primarily to assess blame. It is to understand why certain things happened, or why particular actions had particular results, and to understand what might result from future actions. Once the emphasis is on blame and punishment, any potential learning benefit goes out the window.

The politics of blame that pervades public life in the US is destructive. It prevents us from learning from our mistakes and doing things better. We’ll never be perfect, but we should at least strive for better.



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