Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beta Bush and a Rudderless Ship

Admittedly, I have alot of contempt for George W. Bush. Much of that contempt has to do with the fact that he has had trouble telling the truth, had difficulty discerning fact from fiction, and mostly, because he has shown a complete lack of basic morality. However, I also have contempt for him because of his lack of leadership. The more I've studied Bush, the more I've concluded that he is a simpleton, who is easily manipulated by powerful subordinates. That Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and other alpha males were able to dominate him is beyond reasonable doubt. While Rice and Powell were working crosswise with the DOD and Rumsfeld, there is no evidence that Bush ever had the juevos to call them in and make sure they were on the same page, and to solidly define American foreign policy goals.

The results of Bush's lack of leadership are not all bad. Bush's failure to put together coherent domestic policies and to market those policies is actually a good thing for those of us who disagree with most of Bush's objectives. His tax cuts aside, Bush has failed in many of his objectives such as "faith-based initiatives", a reworking of social security, drilling wilderness areas in Alaska, etc.

However, in the foreign policy arena, an area that will cement Bush's legacy, it is apparent in retrospect that Bush allowed others their turn at the steering wheel. Instead of carefully weighing options and listening to countervailing evidence and opinion, Bush allowed his subordinates wrap the evidence around their own policies, with disasterous results. You see one disaster after another, not just in the decision to invade Iraq, but in the prosecution of the war and what should have been a highly coordinated reconstruction of Iraq. This legacy just isn't about making some bad decisions, it is also about an inability to clearly define objectives and put a plan in place to accomplish those objectives.

Beta Bush, was clearly over his head as a chief executive. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Bush's failure to ask difficult questions of his subordinates and to lay out concrete objectives is striking. The alphas of his administration defined the objectives but because they could not coordinate with the other players to acheive them, the Bush administration failed even by standards they should have sought themselves. After the dust has settled and hopefully a new competent chief executive replaces this weak and incompetent President, business schools and public administration programs will examine the lessons learned from the Bush administration.

Also, in the study of personality types, the internal dynamics of the Bush Administration shows the difficulties organizations have when a beta male finds himself with a slew of alpha subordinates. This is a lesson learned the hard way in other historical contexts, such as the weak English King Henry VI being controlled and dominated by his great uncle Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Suffolk. A rudderless ship finds itself run aground very easily. Henry VI lost the hundred years war, the wars of the roses and ultimately his crown. Bush has certainly set us up for failure if we don't right the ship quickly.

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