“Our Leader Has Taken Leave of Reality”
Henry Kissinger’s comment on hearing of President Richard Nixon’s decision to fly to China captures what happens when intuition and impulsiveness drive policy, leaving advisors to devise a strategy in their wake. The options discussed above would improve decisionmaking, help the government keep abreast of presidential choices, or, at a minimum, be better prepared for impulsive choices.
In his retirement, Johnson is reported to have said that he wished he’d fired the lot of his Vietnam advisers. Apocryphal or not, every president makes choices that in retrospect would have benefited from more deliberation, deeper knowledge, or second thoughts. Any president interested in their legacy should consider some form of institutional backstopping to common human shortcomings in how we make decisions. In the case of individuals who have made it to the top of the electoral system, the imperative is doubly important.
John Garofano is a professor in the Strategy and Policy Department of the U.S. Naval War College. He is currently a Fulbright Fellow at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy. The views expressed are his own.