mr. zilla goes to town

Thursday, August 18, 2005

on government

Governments, in the main, are enormous, sprawling, multidimensional entities. They exist because of the enormous amount of work by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or in the case of leviathans like the United States, literally millions of civilian and military federal employees. The point of telling you this deafeningly obvious fact is to remind us all that any government worth its salt, can and should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Indeed the much more difficult problem for behemoth bureaucracies that constitute the modern state to figure out is not how to do both simultaneously, but how to develop a knowledge within the legs – focussed intently upon their measurable, budgeted objective of walking just as far, fast, efficiently and effectively as they can – that there exists this other section/division/agency/portfolio called the jaw, which is similarly intent upon its mastication metrics.

The very idea that the two of them, engaged from their particular parochial perspectives might wish to coordinate their activity can seem laughably alien. “We are the Ministry of Silly Walks! You want us to waste how many FTE supporting the secretariat of the interdepartmental committee on Walking and Chewing Gum? Do you realise how much time we would spend in Estimates Committee dealing with that? Preposterous!”

While these schizophrenic bureaucracies can certainly hold more than one idea in their head, the dozen or so cabinet members sitting atop the hive are far less likely to be able to do so. And once you account for the 94% of strategic thinking and cognitive conniving that these beings are capable of which is taken up by the pavlovian reflex to the flashing lights, bells and cocaine-laced dog food that surrounds the perpetually blinking neon priority to GET RE-ELECTED!!!, I think it becomes clear that even the most powerful government on earth can struggle to overcome its own inertia, diffusion, complexity, limitations (and strengths), to zero in like a laser on a world-shaping task ten thousand miles away and accomplish it at the highest levels of competence.

Like, say, rooting out every last vestige of the supporting networks and culture for transnational terror in Afghanistan and bringing home the head of its murderous mastermind on a pike. Or a plate. Perhaps with some fresh greens and a nice salad.

So why the fuck did the US State Department begin to set wheels in motion to assess what was required for a post-Saddam Iraq in OCTOBER 2001, when the dust had barely settled over lower Manhattan?

It boggles the mind that the lidless eye of power was already shifting away from the battle for Afghanistan and search for Osama before it began, and that with even more planning lead-time than previously known, the Bush administration still managed to turn its efforts in Iraq into the mother of all cock-ups.

It’s moments like these you need Minties. So long as you wash them down with a valium or two.


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