Monday, November 20, 2006

The "Goldilocks" Options in Iraq

I've been reading "Dereliction of Duty, Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam". (It's good, but I've not completed it yet.).

The author says after the Nov. 1964 election the administration set up a committee to develop options. It came up with three. From page 182:
Momentum formed behind Option C. George Ball observed that the committee had developed options on the 'Goldilocks principle'. Option A was 'too soft,' Option B was 'too hard,' and Option C was 'just right'.
Monday's Post has a lead article by Thomas Ricks beginning:
"The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials.

Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said."

One of the three authors of the review Ricks discusses: Col. H. R. McMasters, the author of "Dereliction of Duty". (As a captain, McMasters led an armored cavalry troop in a significant early battle of the Gulf war. He then went off to study and teach history at West Point, writing his book as a major. In the current war, he commanded armored cavalry at Tall Afar, and briefed in January on the results of his operation (Secretary Rice was promoting this as a model operation.)

Of course, the Goldilocks principle is well accepted in bureaucracy. When developing an options paper, you always include options more extreme than the one you favor. Option C in the Vietnam War was not a wise course; hopefully "Go Long" will be a better choice.

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