A Machine Too Smart to Stop

Washington is seemingly incapable of learning productively from its mistakes


Philip Giraldi is a smart person, and he deserves credit for keeping The American Conservative flush with good foreign policy pieces. The piece comes out of his attendance at a conference held in New York, hosting lots of folks who have learned little of their time in Washington other than to embrace what brought them there.

The conference website has plenty of video to watch, and you can get a good sense of how things in Washington operate: lots of words, lots of pragmatism, little wisdom. It’s a sad thing to look out at such a large mess of very intelligent people trying their best to make America a better place, who are incapable of calling a timeout to reconcile how America’s policies have become a giant, placing chains on itself, swatting at flies.

When I see this kind of stuff in action, I’m reminded of what it takes to get ahead in any environment of hierarchies and stuffy orthodoxy: submission to hierarchies and acceptance of stuffy orthodoxy. Washington itself runs on just that, so does the military, and basically every institution that is large and difficult to manage is going to want to revert to precisely that behavior. It’s natural: the status quo is safe, even if at time morally undesirable. What’s unnerving is that it doesn’t have to be this way for these folks who go from “employee” to “outsider”… and it maybe would be, save for the prime dangling meat of consulting gigs that seem to prevent even outside criticism from being incorporated into the ongoing management of the Behemoth of the federal government.

Author: S Peter Cordner

I’m an upper-middle class white male with an education and a raft of luck and an inability to keep too many thoughts to myself. I read RSS feeds like they keep me alive and need intellectual stimulation like mice need cheese. Politically I'm progressive conservative; inside America this is probably a confusing phrase, but most of Europe gets it. I'm also a practicing student of zen and consider myself a pantheist though it pretty much never comes up in discussion. :)

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