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August 31, 2013

Praying for 9/15: Syria, the Guns of August, and the Vacation Schedule

Paraphrasing and extending an earlier post on the circadian rhythms of organizations and nations:
All the experienced-and-smart top-dog people take vacation in August. All the next-senior people take leave in July. On a rotating basis from July15 to Sept1, we lose the judgment and effectiveness of a portion of our most experienced people, and organizational performance suffers because of it.

The nation of France, which does a good job of recognizing and accomodating reality (which is saner than claiming mythic exceptionalism), just closes down most activity in August and they do not seem to suffer from this practice.

  • The cascading confusion that led to WW1 was in late July 1914. Barbara Tuchman's book title? The Guns of August
  • WW2 started Sept 1, 1939, just as the senior people were coming back from vacation. I've got to imagine that they looked around and said, You did what? Can you stop it?

And so we find ourselves at the very end of August, about to use our military forces to intervene in a Middle East civil war. Where are the people who would say, you break it, you bought it? Where are the people who would say, I remember - we only put a few advisors into VietNam.

James Fallows, quite rightly, is calling for Congressional debate and approval - which means reconvening Congress, which means bringing people back from vacation. It's a statement of our FUBAR status when we think that reconvening Congress is going to make things smarter.

Personally, I'm hoping that bureaucratic inertia and a self-interested DOD delay US action for another two weeks, until 9/15. Let the grownups come back from vacation. Let the rookies sit through some 9/11 memorials and have a chance to think, what happens when we manage to piss off both sides in a Middle East civil war?

Thanks, respect and kudos to Don Brown for reminding me.


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