December 12, 2004

Basketball and State

Lawrence Kaplan applauds the White House's decision to purge the State Department of all dissenters and troublemakers:
Rice, after all, would be well within her rights to "clean out" the State Department. ... There's no reason it shouldn't function more like the military establishment, whose professional ethos depends on the principle of strict subordination to political control--disagreements may exist, but once the president arrives at a decision, the matter has been settled. Needless to say, no such ethos animates the ranks of the diplomatic corps...

In 1966, then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk asked Yale Professor Chris Argyris to conduct a study explaining what ailed the Foreign Service. His report described an "inbred club" whose members resist outside direction and "focu[s] more on protecting [their] department than on making effective decisions." In 2001, the bipartisan Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security portrayed the State Department as a "dysfunctional" institution whose Foreign Service officers could use a "needed reminder that this group of people does not serve the interest of foreign states, but is a pillar of U.S. national security."
We hear the same complaints about the CIA—it's too hidebound, too wrapped up in its own interests, too rebellious. But the thing is, these all sound like structural problems -- in need of a structural solution, rather than simply firing all personnel every four years. Consider this: If you're in charge of an NBA team, and nobody's scoring, you purge your roster and get new players. But if you're in charge of an NBA league and nobody's scoring, you change up the rules.
-- Brad Plumer 8:46 PM || ||