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Mickey Edwards
Political leader

Mickey Edwards

Former U.S. Congressman, Mickey Edwards is vice president of the Aspen Institute, where he directs the Institute's Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership.

Don't just defer to experts

Q: Bob Woodward's new book on the Obama White House portrays a president so frustrated with top military advisers for their refusal to provide what he considered a reasonable exit strategy from Afghanistan that he devised one himself. How should leaders reconcile the laudable instinct to rely on the advice of experts with the sometimes urgent need to force them to think outside the box?

One assumes a leadership position for the purpose of providing leadership, which is quite different from seeking consensus. It is always valuable to seek expert advice, but "expertise" is limited by the expert's range of focus and experience and is almost invariably too narrow to provide the entire range of information and perspective that is required for a sound decision. It is the job of the "leader" to accumulate as many inputs as possible, decide how much weight to give to each view, consider what data points or perspectives are missing, and then come to a decision based on his or her own evaluation of the viable options to be considered. To simply defer to experts is to abdicate the responsibilities of leadership.

By Mickey Edwards

 |  September 27, 2010; 2:47 PM ET
Category:  Government leadership , Making mistakes , Military Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I have read all the comments provided and must first note that the President's question was not addressed: he asked for a "reasonable exit strategy". It leaves me to wonder if he first resolved the question that he should have first asked and answered: "What is your strategy to meet my 'commander's intent'? Once the strategy to fight the war was agreed upon and the President provided his military leadership with the go ahead he could then ask the question "reasonable exit strategy" which would really have been a logistics question because the war would have been won or the intent met and the Generals and Admirals could then explain how they planned to withdraw the troops. Right now, after over 26 years of military experience it appears to me that the President has no clue as to what a war strategy is and I certaily have never heard an Army of any Nation given the task of an "exit strategy". I am afraid that I have to agree with the Generals. Obama provide no leadership he just wants out and out is easy. The flag officers simply ask the President when he wants to bring the troops home and they will plan a withdrawal strategy that includes providing covering forces as the majority leave and when the majority has left they will provide the necessary supporting cover fire while the covering forces are withdrawn. This is, in my opinion, a discussion of the wrong issue. The discussion should be a better discussion of what in hell is the President's intent in Afghanistan. It appears to stay there until August next year without regard for making any military advancement and then "exiting". I think the entire idea of this discussion misses the real issue.

Posted by: staterighter | October 1, 2010 4:10 PM
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