Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Process Matters

Very interesting piece at the Financial Times on the Obama foreign policy-making process.  Pretty fair discussion, it seems, noting the strengths and weaknesses.
“If you look for the 2002 or 2003 meeting where the decision to go to war in Iraq was taken, you cannot find it,” says the senior official. “By getting the process right, we are improving the quality of decisions.
You could hardly do worse.

And the sidebar is fun--State and DoD vs. White House.  A big change from my time when it was everyone vs. OSD.  That is, everyone vs. Rumsfeld.  I would go to meetings where the department reps would be lined up with State, NSC and Joint Staff on one side of the table, literally, and the folks under Rumsfeld (OSD) on the other.

Words of wisdom:
But the very diligence of the process crowded out Mr Obama’s time to focus on other crises – of which there are many. “Time is the most precious commodity a president has,” says a for­mer national security ad­viser. “On average he is only going to have 45 minutes a day for foreign policy, so you want to make sure it is well spent.”
 And the conclusion seems pretty good:
“At the end of each meeting, the president summarises what everyone has said and the arguments each has made with a real lawyer’s clarity,” says a participant to the NSC principals meeting, which includes Mr Gates and Mrs Clinton. “When the president finally makes a decision, it is with the full facts and usually shows a high calibre of judgment.” 

Despite the snarky add-on:  "When Mr Obama makes a decision, that is."

HT to Drezner tweet.

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