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Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)
Military leader

Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

A retired U.S. Army General, Montgomery Meigs has commanded U.S. and NATO forces overseas and is now President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security.

Surviving "Enemy Contact"

On a complex and emotional issue like health care, President Obama and his advisers take the proper path by not initially putting their cards on the table.

The military has a saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Yet most military leaders are fanatics about thorough planning. They see it as a way to gain as much knowledge as possible about the environment, opposition and likely future twists and turns of fortune, because events force changes to any plan.

Thorough planning that develops a realistic assessment of one's vulnerabilities minimizes surprise and confusion when changes become immediately necessary. Better to do the homework and be ready for the likelihood of being forced into new directions than to place all one's chips on a highly developed but subjective outcome and then play catch up when the inevitable unexpected develops. Plus, military campaign planning ensures that the objectives and concept of execution are well understood within the command. But one attempts to force the enemy to discover them the hard way, and hopefully too late at that.

The same concept applies to the political process. The administration understands the realities of coaxing through the legislature a program as large, vulnerable, and linked to constituent interest as universal health care. They realize the tremendous pressure lobbyists for vested interests will generate on key legislators. A variety of committees in the Senate and House and then a conference committee pose tremendous uncertainty in calculating specific outcomes. As with the stimulus package, the Administration's planners know that at every turn, to bring critical votes on board, they will make compromises to get a bill to signature.

A heuristic approach - an iterative one where at each point of contention they attempt to improve their position - offers the best way to deal with an uncertain process. At this point, why telegraph one's game plan and hard points? At the start at least, why not keep the game open, better early on to see the lines of resistance of the opposition?

By Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

 |  March 2, 2009; 4:22 PM ET
Category:  Public policy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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