If I Were Secretary of Defense...
The devil is in the bureaucratic details
There are a lot of things I’d do differently if I were Secretary of Defense (SecDef). There’s obviously zero chance of it happening. It’s not something I want. It’s not something anyone wants me to do, as far as I know. And so many things would have to happen to the planet for it to become possible…just no.
But once upon a time, I wrote a book proposal for how to transform the Pentagon, written in the mode of The Prince but for modern day. It was going to catalog everything that needed to happen at an in-the-weeds level, advising on the how of bridling, reforming, and selectively exploiting the pointy end of US power.
I ended up shelving it without ever sending it out because a friend came back saying he didn’t like the idea (he worked at RAND). Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have deterred me in the least, but at the time, I was in the middle of writing what became Pacific Power Paradox, and had begun sketching out the book to follow (Grand Strategies of the Left…more on that coming soon). And frankly, I wasn’t sure the book idea was one that I could fully execute.
I mention all this because that pitch for bridling the Pentagon dealt with all the bureaucratic ninja shit necessary to make policy change in an institution resistant to it. I had compiled a litany of tactics for imposing institutional change. None were a silver bullet.
But one specific change—totally within the power of the SecDef—had the biggest bang for the buck…